1. Webmail – also called online or website email,Webmail means you access your email and contacts/address book etc on a website – you do not download email onto your own computer.
This method is becoming more popular but not all email providers provide webmail access – if yours doesn’t then you have no option but to use the second option ‘Using an Email Program’ below. The advantages of Webmail are numerous:
- There is no set up or configuration required.
- You can access your email from any computer with internet access, even abroad.
- Your inbox, sent items and contacts/address book etc are all stored on the website, not your computer, so you will not lose them even if your computer dies/is stolen.
- There is no email software to install or go wrong.
There are also some disadvantages compared to traditional email programs:
- You are stuck with the functionality and layout of the webmail site (they vary considerably from quite good to poor).
- The features are often limited compared with the advanced features found in most email programs.
- If you have no internet access you cannot log into the webmail site so you cannot read existing emails or create new ones as drafts.
- Options for things like spell-checking and attaching files (e.g. pictures) may be harder to use or more limited than in email programs.
- Depending on the speed of your internet and the speed of your computer, working with emails (editing or adding attachments etc) may be slower in webmail than in an email program.
2. Email Programs – Using an email program means that your email is downloaded from the internet onto your computer (into the email program). Examples of popular email programs are Outlook Express (XP), Windows Mail (Vista), Thunderbird and Windows Live Mail – the latter 2 can be used on any XP, Vista or Windows 7 computer. Advantages include:
- You can choose from a large number of email programs (like those above which are all free) so it is likely you will find one that has the perfect layout and functionality for you.
- Email programs have more advanced features than most webmail sites.
- If you have no internet access you can still read your existing emails or create new ones as drafts.
- Options for things like spell-checking and attaching files (e.g. pictures) are generally better than webmail sites.
There are also some disadvantages compared to webmail:
- Before it can be used, a new email account must be properly set up in an email program (although this only needs to be done once).
- Because email is downloaded into your own computer you cannot access (read) it from anywhere else.
- Your inbox, sent items and contacts/address book etc are all stored on your computer, so you will lose them if your computer dies/is stolen (unless you had backed them up).
- Email software very rarely goes wrong but it is possible that it could become corrupted – possibly enough for you to lose your emails (unless you had backed them up).
Could You Use Both? Yes – for example, you could use an email program at home but use webmail when on holiday. If you plan to do this, remember the following:
1. Any emails you send via webmail will go into your ‘Sent’ box on the webmail site, not the ‘Sent’ box in your email program – and vice versa.
2. If you receive (download) new emails into your email program they will not also appear in the ‘Inbox’ of your webmail site (unless you have specifically configured the program to leave a copy of the email on the mail server (hidden in the settings and not enabled by default).