Posts Tagged ‘Mail’

Mail Clients

Thursday, September 17th, 2009

If you ask someone on the street what mail client they use on their computer, you’ll probably get a blank stare.  “Mail client?  What’s what?  I mean, I use GMail for my e-mail if that’s what you’re asking.”  Sadly, the concept of the mail client–a computer program that is used to manage e-mail–seems to have gone out of vogue.  Still, I believe that there are many benefits to using a mail client over a html-based mail interface.

First, mail clients are usually fast.  Since they are actual code that runs on your computer, and not a fancy web page, they don’t need to download and run code in some kind of interpreter.  They are inherently flexible and they are not tied to a specific e-mail account or e-mail service provider.  Finally, they store mail data on your computer (even when using an IMAP mail server), so that you can access your mail offline no matter where you are.

The benefits of a mail client don’t stop here through.  Mail clients are designed to handle multiple, separate e-mail accounts independently–that is, you don’t need to forward your mail to one central account as you do with GMail and other web-based solutions.  This prevents you from cross-pollenating your mail, which is important when using a work or school e-mail account (it is important to maintain a separation between personal e-mail and work/school e-mail, often for legal reasons).  Mail clients also let you archive your mail off of a mail server, to your local disk.

Unfortunately, the selection of mail clients that are widely available all come up short in some respect.  Thunderbird, the client from the Mozilla Foundation, has not seen significant work in years.  While sleek and clean, it lacks features such as advanced search and often feels slightly clunky.  Apple’s mail client, Mail, works very well but often suffers from bugs relating to connecting to some IMAP servers and can also behave slowly after storing a large quantity of messages (on the order of 10^5+ messages).  Mail’s search capabilities could also stand to see improvement–searching by specific headers or in multiple folders at once without having to “pre-set” by clicking on those folders would be nice.  Mail is also inflexible in terms of the order and display of certain folders in the folder list.

At this point, I’m stuck with Mail–but I would gladly jump ship if a new mail client appeared that fixed all of these issues (and remained truly Mac-native).