If you are having trouble with your email account or you just moved to Windows 7 and found that there is no email program in Windows 7, it may be time to look at moving to a web-based email program. The popular web-based email services include Google's Gmail, Microsoft's Live Hotmail (formerly just Hotmail), and Yahoo!'s Yahoo Mail. All are free.
Using one of these services means that your mail is stored on the web and that you can access it from any Internet-connected computer. It's a boon to those who use more than one computer at home or who want to access their mail from different locations like home and work or home and school.
These services have been around for several years and all have improved with age. In fact, they are now easier to use and easier to setup than ever before. They all try to keep up with each other. So, for instance, when Gmail announced that they would offer more online storage space, both Yahoo Mail and Hotmail also increased their storage space. They now all offer more free online space than most users will ever need.
In the past, some people shied away from moving to an online account because they didn't want to have to notify all of their friends about their email address change. But with today's web-based email accounts, this is no longer a concern for most users. You can simply add your old email POP account to you web-based service and any email that people send to your old address will wind up in the inbox of your new mail account. This is true no matter what service you now use as long as you have a POP account. A POP email account is simply a type of email account. Most services like Road Runner, Embarq, etc. use POP accounts.
A few years ago, setting up a webmail account to grab your POP mail was either impossible or very difficult to do. Now, however, it is quite easy. Most of these email services have a wizard that will walk you through the process. For the most part all you need to know is the email address and password for the email service that you are currently using. Once you have setup you new email web service with your current account information, any new mail that is sent to your old address will show up in your new web-based mail inbox. You do not have to make any changes to your old account. You keep your service from Embarq, Road Runner, etc. just as it was.
So now that you won't have to change your email address to use these web-based email services, the biggest decision may be which service to use. No matter which you choose, the interface will be a bit different from what you are used to if you are using Outlook Express, Outlook or some other PC-based email program.
However all three are easy to use. I have used all three services and find that Yahoo Mail has the most features. Hotmail is the most customizable. Gmail is the fastest. All of them are quite useable, but they each have different features, different placement of buttons, and different ways of doing things. If you have the time and the inclination, you can set up an account at all three to see which one you like.
The online email programs from these three top services, Yahoo!, Gmail, and Hotmail all integrate with their other programs. So if you already use the Google calendar, Google Docs, or other Google services, you may want to go with Gmail. If you are already using the Yahoo! Calendar and other Yahoo! Services, you may want to stick with Yahoo Mail. If you don't have allegiance to any particular service and don't want to invest the time to check them all out, just pick one and use it. All three are good.
While I have an account at each of these services, the one that I use on a consistent basis is my Gmail account. Gmail is actually a little more difficult to get used to because it uses a system of labels rather than the more traditional folder-type of filing system. However, Gmail offers encryption that makes using Gmail more secure. While some other services will encrypt your login, which secures your user name and password, Gmail encrypts all the communication in transit between Google's servers and your computer. This is a great feature if you travel or use a Wi-Fi connection at a local McDonalds or Starbucks. Gmail also supports another type of email called IMAP. While most of you are not using IMAP, I am. Also Gmail lets you get your Gmail in other non-web based clients. So I can use get my Gmail in my Outlook program, if I choose to do so. In order to get these features, I had to give up something. You see, Gmail has no reading pane. This is a feature that allows you to see contents of the email right in the inbox, and it is a feature that I really like. It happens to be available in both Yahoo Mail and Hotmail, but not in Gmail.
There are also several smaller online email services like MSN, Lycos, AOL, and Netscape. All of these are free, so if you energetic, you may want to check them out as well.