email interfacesAfter an email account has been established with an ISP, a Web-based email service or the corporate mail server, there are two software approaches for actually sending and receiving messages.
The first method is to use the email program already installed in your computer or one that you install yourself, and the second way is to use a Web browser on any computer. Very often, mail can be sent and received on the same service via both methods as summarized below.
Method 1 - Installed Program - Tied to a Computer
The use of an email program installed in the user's computer, such as Windows Mail, Mac Mail or Outlook, is the legacy approach, but one which generally offers the most advanced features. Called an "email client," the disadvantage is that the email interface a person becomes familiar with is tied to the machine the software is installed in. To send and retrieve mail from a different computer using that same application, one has to install and configure the mail settings in that computer, as well as import the address book, mailboxes, boilerplate and signatures from the first computer.
Method 2 - Webmail - From Anywhere
Also called "online email" or "cloud mail," Webmail is a Web-based email service from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and other providers that is accessible via the Web. The distinct advantage is that after the account is set up, messages can be sent and retrieved from any Web browser in any computer or mobile device by logging into the Webmail site with username and password. Even if you prefer to use the mail client in your computer, having Webmail as an option enables access from any computing venue.
Free May Have Limitations
Free Web-based email services are supported by advertising and may have limits such as a cap on the number of messages you can save or the size of attachments. Paid versions with greater storage and fewer restrictions may be an option.
Keep Your Email Address Forever!
If you change your Web-based email provider, you have a change-of-address problem and have to notify everyone you wish to stay in contact with. The way to solve that for good is to register your own domain name and have an Internet service provider (ISP) host your mail service so that firstname.lastname@example.org is yours permanently even if you switch to another ISP. To access your mail, you would use your favorite email client program, the Web-based mail offered by the ISP or both. See email service, email domain, POP3 and IMAP4.