When I ask some of my clients how they get to their email, a typical response is “AOL” or “hotmail” or “Google.” Or they might say “email@example.com” or “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Well, that’s not what I’m trying to understand.
Knowing their preferred service company or email address is a start, but I’m more interested in whether they get to their messages on a desktop or notebook computer or on a smartphone or tablet (or all of those devices). And if on a desktop or notebook computer, whether they use a special purpose program (like Microsoft’s Outlook, Apple’s Mail, Mozilla’s Thunderbird) or a general purpose program — a Web Browser like Microsoft’s Edge, Google’s Chrome, Apple’s Safari, Mozilla’s Firefox, etc.
There are pros and cons to each option. When a Web Browser is used to access your email on a service provider’s Web site, this method is called Webmail. One advantage to this is that you visit other sites (web pages) using your browser and so webmail is just visiting a special type of site. And you can do this anytime and anywhere you have a device with an Internet connection and a browser. No special programs need to be installed and configured. You do not even need to use your own computer.
Webmail can be tedious, however, when you have many email addresses (and accounts with several email service providers) — going to separate sites to check each one.
A special purpose email program, however, can typically manage multiple accounts and Inboxes, which makes checking those accounts more convenient. A special purpose program also may in general be easier to use (a friendlier graphical user interface). That’s why many pepople still use the AOL Desktop program.
On smartphones you’ll generally want to use a special purpose app, like Apple’s Mail or Google’s Gmail app.
Here’s a drawing intended to clarify these email options (link to pdf version below).