What's the Point of Email Applications?

So, like Outlook. It needs internet access to get your emails, right? Why not just use a browser and access your email directly? I’m thinking for the average personal user here.

  1. I can access several email accounts in one place.
  2. Filters

Outlook can store all your messages on your local machine, so you have personal copies of everything. You can work offline as well.

So for the average person I’m dealing with here at this public library who doesn’t understand what the internet is and how it works (e.g., they’re completely thrown for a loop if their browser doesn’t open to some specific homepage they’re used to), the answer is “there is no point”.

Those applications are a holdover from The Time Before GMail.

Web-based mail systems (such as Hotmail and Yahoo) have existed since the 1990s, of course, but they didn’t have the flexibility or friendliness of a modern GMail (or equivalent) running in a modern browser. So a mail program like Eudora or Outlook was necessary if you wanted goodies like real-time spell checking, integration with your calendar, etc. Also, home Internet connections were often intermittent, dial-up affairs, so being able to read your e-mail without being connected was a plus.

With a local e-mail application your e-mail is more secure in that you don’t lose it even briefly if your GMail/Hotmail/whatever gets hacked or The Powers That Be decide you are Not Nice and suspend your account, or if something goes wrong with your Internet connection. Under those circumstances you (obviously) can’t send/receive new e-mail but you still can read your existing e-mail and (in some cases more importantly) your address book. In addition, someone hacking your e-mail account can’t read your e-mails because they would need to have to access your own computer to do so.

Outlook can be used with an Exchange server which is similar to the concept of using GMail and friends to access it (in particular it can be set up to be able to access e-mails over the Internet), but it’s usually businesses that set it up that way rather than individuals.

That assumes that you’ve set your application to download the e-mails off the server so it can’t be accessed by the web-based interface. Do all e-mail systems have that capacity?

ETA to the OP: why do you think that the kind of person you’re talking about at the library is the “average personal user”?

Pretty much. If a user’s entire “computer world” exists through a browser, there’s no reason for any local apps at all, including an email client.

I remember being on dial up, and detested webmail - it went open webmail, click on email you want to read, go get a fresh water or something while waiting for it to open. Literally it would take 5 minutes to get an email opened and ready to read. If I did the down load bit, I could download while I was at work, then putz around with all my email and upload the responses and go to bed, and have it download while I was asleep.

I also used to do research with a bot, I would set it up and go to bed, or off to work and come back to a list of hits to go through.

I don’t. To wit (emphasis mine):

Am I the only one to mention speed? I deal with emails all the time, opening multiple ones, moving attachments around, copying from one to others, etc.

Yes, this CAN be done in something like Gmail, it is just slower (especially with our company’s internet connection). If all the emails are there on my computer, then opening them, sorting them, moving between them, responding to them, and opening attachments is SO much quicker and easier.

This. I currently have three email accounts that I use frequently - one work account and two personal accounts. All three are available via either a web browser or via Outlook.

I suppose I could wander through three separate browser applications to see if I have any emails pending, but it’s a lot easier to just open up my Outlook application. (Or do as my wife does, and just keep her Outlook application open all of the time.)

My cell phone and my tablet both came with an “email” app that also accesses all three accounts.

No idea if they all do, but I would consider a web-only e-mail provider a piece of crap. Any providers that I have used allow downloading messages to a local e-mail program.

I was referring to your question in the OP. If you didn’t mean the same group of people in the OP and in post 4, then it might be worth it to clarify which you were “actually” talking about.

I find clients like Outlook or Thunderbird far more pleasant to use than web interfaces, personally.

Gmail, which is where I keep my personal email, has the best webmail interface I’ve seen, but that’s damning with faint praise. It’s nice to be able to access my mail through gmail.com when I’m not on either one of my home PC’s or my phone, but I only do that when I need to. For day-to-day use I access my mail through Mozilla Thunderbird.

I have multiple email accounts, and using an app allows me to check them all at once, while still maintaining the advantages of web-based mail, since the emails still reside on the web-based server.

In other words, I can check all of my emails from my phone or computers at the same time, or I can use someone else’s computer if mine is not available.

I would only use a descrete application. Plus I always set the accounts as old-fashioned POP rather tham IMAP, since that downloads the email to my machine and clears it off any servers beyond my control.

There’s no way I want to go back to using web-browsers to access emails, it is slower; soon clogs up with hundreds of unread emails — I’m looking at you, Yahoo! Mail; and deleting emails either one by one or by selection of ticking little boxes is onorous.

Seamonkey is quick to download mail, but has some annoying quirks: all applications do.

Nobody’s mentioned the fact that downloading the messages to a local client drastically reduces the storage requirements of the email server, and probably drops the actual load as well.

Local email applications seem faster and easier, but Comcast was disinterested in helping me configure Outlook Express or whatever it’s called now, so I use their terrible Xfinity webmail. Back in the day their were a number of other standalone applications: a Pinger to keep your connection from timing out, IRC (although now there’s Skype), FTP, Weather, etc.

It’s called “Windows Live Mail” and in spite of having the same name a the noxious Windows webmail, in fact, it is virtually identical to Outlook Express.