Do you need a desktop email client? If you’re the average computer user with an always-on internet connection (rather than dial-up), the answer is likely, no. But after spending 16 years using an email client, I wasn’t sure if I could make the break to entirely web-based email like all my friends were doing.
If you don’t know what an email client is, think Microsoft Outlook. I use Mozilla Thunderbird. Grew up with Eudora and then Outlook Express. Now there’s Windows Live Mail and all the Mac equivalents (about which I’m clueless). A desktop email client is basically a software program that allows you to download your emails to your laptop or desktop so that you can read and reply to them offline. And that was great back in 1998 when all of us had dial-up internet, because we could read and reply to emails offline.
But when we started checking email at home and at work and having 24/7 internet access, we switched to webmail accounts like Yahoo and Hotmail and Gmail. They are great because you can access your email anywhere there’s a computer with an internet connection. You can use your sister’s computer or the library’s and just log on, read your emails, and log off again.
The only problem with webmail is that it’s not so handy for those of us who have to keep track of half a dozen email inboxes at any given time. Many web-based clients allow you to bring in emails from other accounts, but I needed to keep my inboxes separate, yet check them frequently and all at once. After using numerous clients, I’ve grown to really appreciate Thunderbird’s speed and flexibility: no logging in and out or switching browsers, just all my email inboxes at a glance.
Why I Switched to IMAP
But as I, like the rest of the world, started collecting phones and tablets and more devices than I had hands, I realized I still had one issue: I was downloading my emails to my client via POP3. POP is a one-time download and dump deal, with no synchronization between devices. And the inbox on my email client didn’t synchronize with the inbox on my devices or the one I saw when I logged into webmail. Because every time I got back on webmail, all those emails I’d already dealt with in my email client were still sitting there cluttering up the inbox online or on my phone.
I had avoided IMAP like the plague because it took longer to update my email folders on my anything but speedy internet connection. But when I started using multiple devices to access my email, I realized its beauty. With IMAP, your inbox looks the same at any given moment anywhere you look at it. The folders are synchronized, everywhere. If you archive an email at home in Thunderbird, it’s archived at the library in Gmail. If you delete an email when you’re reading it on your phone, you won’t have to delete it again when you get home.
Once I switched to IMAP I haven’t looked back. Even when I have to wait a few seconds more for Thunderbird to synchronize because the ‘net is a bit slow. My time is more than made up for in the fact that I only ever have to process an email once, and then I’m done.
Already using POP and want to make the switch?
Maybe now is a good time to declare inbox bankruptcy and start over with your inbox at zero.
- Disable POP Account: You’ll want to either disable POP within Gmail or set your email client to stop checking the POP3 account. (While you’re in Gmail, make sure IMAP is enabled.)
- Add New IMAP Account: Add a new IMAP account to your client and wait patiently for it to update all your folders. (You can set each folder to retain emails from different lengths of time if you want to speed up the process, otherwise just let it download everything as long as you have a good connection without limits.)
- Move Folders to Local Folders: Drag any old folders from your POP acccount to folders to your “Local Folders” or “Storage Folders”area under your IMAP account. That won’t sync them with your server, but they’ll be available within your email program once you’ve deleted your POP account. If you have Gmail, those emails are probably already going to be there in your new IMAP folders, but if you’re worried, drag all your folders–and any messages in your Inbox or Sent Items–into your local storage folders just in case.
- Delete POP Account: Once you’ve moved anything from your POP account folders into Local Folders, go into your Accounts and completely Delete the account so you won’t accidentally check messages via both methods.