Saturday, April 20, 2013

Some thoughts of desktop email clients

I've came across an Geary funds raising campaign on IndieGoGo today. IndieGogo if you don't know, is a crowd-fund site that allows projects to raise funds, just like Kickstarter. But I'm not here to talk about that. I'm here to talk about  Geary and Thunderbird, and Outlook,  and email clients in general.

Geary is an e-mail client. You know. The thing you used to read email in before everyone moved to Gmail. Some application that sits in your computer as opposed to running from your browser.

I've been using Thunderbird for years, with a slight break towards Gmail (though I'm back to ThunderBird now). And now I use to handle multiple work and personal email accounts. Here are some thoughts I have about the pros and cons of using a desktop email client:

  • Your e-mail is available anytime, even without internet connection or when the site is down.
  • You have a local backup of all email ever sent, in case someone hacks your account or locks you out, they can't delete your local copy.
  • Desktop clients seem to handle multiple accounts a lot better then web clients. You can organize your view so you don't get confused between different accounts.
  • Nobody can just decide one day that your client is no longer supported and change how it looks. If you don't want the change you don't have to upgrade.
  • They can integrate with your desktop (i.e. notification)

  • Updates are slower since applications are less flexible than websites.
  • Desktop applications use more local resources than websites. Whether it is hard-drive space which is consumed by the local copy of the files (can be GB), memory required by the app to run(although Gmail is a huge memory hog) or CPU to do searches which on websites would have been done on the server.
  • If you ever switch an application metadata you have in one might not be consistent with the other (like tags).
 If you are considering using a desktop client, I highly recommend you check Thunderbird or Geary.
Thunderbird is mature (old), it has been around for years. It is very stable, has tons of features, addons and abilities.

Geary is new, slick and looks promising. They have a lot of great ideas that Thunderbird could definitely benefit from but are hard to implement due to legacy code. And Yorba (the company making Geary) makes some other great apps. Shotwell is my #1 alternative to Picasa now that I've moved to linux.


  1. If you run Windows try :D

    In beta now. Check out reviews on TechCrunch, Lifehacker, The Verge, and PC World.

    1. Thanks!
      I'll definitely give it a go on my windows machine.

  2. Thanks for sharing!

    I think though, that an important disadvantage of a desktop client is missing: a desktop client is local, meaning it's not available for you on other machines than your own.
    This, many times, is a key motive for one to switch to a cloud email client don't you think?

    1. I think that was the case a few years ago, before the age of smartphones. Back then server space was scarce and almost everything was POP3 so if you downloaded your email at home you didn't have it at anywhere else.

      These days most applications connect via IMAP, keeping everything on the server. So you can connect at home & work. Sure, you wouldn't install an application on a friends house just to check your email, but because of smartphones you don't have to. If you get an email you can read it on your phone and in most cases reply.