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E-Mail, Business Lifeline!

Some people can't live with it, and some can't live without it

This may sound odd, but what do you want from your E-Mail software? Most people only want to read, compose, send and file their mail efficiently. There are many good to great E-Mail clients available. In most cases, various versions of Outlook are on the good to poor end of the scale and some of the others are on the good to great end. If all you want from your E-Mail is to do E-Mail easily and well, skip Outlook. Strong statement, but true. Many people use Outlook because it came with Windows or with their Office Suite and many of those people aren't aware there are alternative E-Mail clients, really!

Here is another strong statement. If everyone in the world stopped using Outlook tomorrow, within a week, virus style infections would decrease 90%. In defense of Outlook it's the 800 pound gorilla and that makes it a huge target. In a few weeks some other program would be targeted, but there are some serious issues with the way Outlook works. Of the dozens of E-Mail clients in widespread use today Outlook is the only client that handles attachments the way it does. Fully patched security in Outlook will put limits on the types of attachments you are able to receive. Those patches are what Microsoft uses to circumvent basic flaws in Outlooks functions. Not having the ability to receive some of those files or even to know they were sent to you has caused more than one customer to get pretty frustrated.

Outlook, (not Outlook Express) has several other faults. Every folder and all the E-Mail stored in Outlook is in one primary file. If that file gets corrupted you have no E-Mail at all. Since many of us live and die by E-Mail for business that's not a good thing, especially if you don't have a backup.

There are companies that limit the amount of E-Mail an employee can store in Outlook to less than 1.5 gigabytes. At 2 gigabytes the file may self destruct. It's a flaw that has existed through several versions of the software. While 2 gigabytes may sound like a lot, Outlook natively stores all the attachments you receive and send in that same "one" file. We have one customer using Outlook that we have a constant battle with to keep the file at a manageable size. If you send and receive lots of attachments you too could be heading for a problem. There are plenty of computer WEB sites available that back these statements up.

The absolute worst E-Mail is AOL mail. AOL has looked at making major changes to the functionality of AOL mail but those changes have never seen the light of day. When you receive a forwarded E-Mail and it has dozens and dozens of E-Mail addresses you have to wade through before you actually get to what the message was about it's frequently because it passed through the hands of at least one AOL mail user. All those E-Mail addresses of previous and current recipients are fodder for worms and Trojan-horses that use computers to send out SPAM, (or the worm itself), to dozens of other computer users. This is particularly true if any one of those recipients uses Outlook on an infected system. Many if not most of the infections that spread throughout the Internet are spread because they know how to read the addresses and address book in Outlook. Before you claim I'm simply bashing Outlook, if everyone started using some other E-Mail software the people who design these malicious attacks would find a way to attack the other program, but Outlook is unique, the 800 pound gorilla and easier to hack..

On another page on this site, (performance), I discuss getting all the software off your computer that you don't really need. I also discuss some of the software people have installed that slows their systems to a crawl. Many of these "other" programs are ways to help with Outlook, like SPAM killers

Here is one easy solution. Switch to Thunderbird! from Here are just a few good reasons. Almost every review in the major computer publications that compared E-Mail clients had Thunderbird at or near the top. (A link from PC World and one from Channel Insider are 2 examples). It would take another page to list the links that talk about problems with Outlook but here is a good one from PC World. There are hundreds of add-on programs to help Outlook users but most of them are at least partially active in your system even when you are not using your E-Mail. That contributes to poor system performance. For most people Outlook is simply bloated and the more you store in it the slower and more bloated it gets.

What can Thunderbird do? Built in junk mail, (SPAM), controls considered to be among the best type of SPAM control in the industry. All folders are separate files which makes management and selective backup much simpler. Phishing attack warnings built-in. Intuitive operation and extraordinarily easy to use. Protection from Visual Basic Scripting attacks. Total control over the way Thunderbird acts and reacts to the end user. On the fly spell checking. Auto patching of security problems, (more on this below). Switching to Thunderbird is a 10 minute process and being totally comfortable with its operation is another 10 minutes.

Thunderbird is extensible. That means that other users are constantly developing little extensions to make Thunderbird do some pretty fancy tricks and adds even more functionality. These extensions become a part of the program and they're very small so you can eliminate some other software you might otherwise have installed, like SPAM blockers. (Also see this page on Firefox to eliminate even more software from your system). Thunderbird has the ability to easily save attachments anywhere and detach the attachments from the message while still keeping the message body, it's small and easy to transport from system to system, it even has a version that totally resides on a flash drive so you can take it on the road. Enough rant :-)

It just works, it's inherently safer than Outlook, it can automatically get small patches to fix security holes and it's not the 800 pound gorilla.

What are your other alternatives? Here is a SHORT list: Pegasus, Poco Mail, The BAT, Eudora (a long time favorite of computer magazine editors and professional writers), Incredimail, Mozilla Mail, Bloomba and others.

One of the best things about Thunderbird. It will import your Outlook mail, address books and configuration and have you back in business in under 10 minutes with close to a zero learning curve.

Get Thunderbird!

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