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Definition: email program


Software in the user's computer, tablet or smartphone that accesses the mail servers in a local or remote network. Also known as an "email client," "mail client," "mail program," and "mail reader," it provides the ability to send and receive email messages and file attachments. Examples of email programs for personal computers are Outlook, Mail (Mac), Eudora and Thunderbird.

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Email programs are local applications that years ago had more features than Web-based email, which uses the Web browser as the interface. As Web mail interfaces improved, there were fewer advantages of the stand-alone email client, except in smartphones where viewing a Web page is cumbersome. Smartphone mail programs are designed for small screens.

In addition, before mail can be retrieved, email programs must be installed in the computer, and mail server addresses and protocols must be configured. Although smartphone mail clients are pre-installed, they still require configuration.

In contrast, users can log into their Web-based email from any computer in the world with username and password. Nevertheless, people get used to software, and it only takes one or two features in an email client program to make it preferable to the Web browser interface. See email interfaces, messaging system, universal client, POP3 and IMAP4.