The goal of this series is to prevent – once and for all – e-mail misery and woe. Your e-mail experience will be vastly better when you understand of the type of e-mail server you have (“POP” or “IMAP”) and how it is designed to behave.
E-mail messages are not sent from computer to computer. They are sent from one person’s computer to an e-mail server. That e-mail server sends the message to the recipient’s e-mail server. Then the recipient receives the e-mail.
So all of your e-mail is first sent to your e-mail provider’s server, which you can think of as your e-mail server.
E-MAIL SERVER AND IN BOXES
E-mail servers come in two flavors. The first is “POP”. The second is “IMAP”.
(Want to know what “POP” and “IMAP” stand for? Who cares? It doesn’t matter. Seriously.)
A POP e-mail server is a temporary place for e-mail to be stored. When you are at your computer and receive a new e-mail message, that message downloads to your computer’s IN BOX, which is it’s permanent storage place.
In contrast, an IMAP e-mail server itself is designed to be the permanent place to keep all of your e-mail. Your IN BOX is on the e-mail server. When you are at your computer and get a new e-mail message, you are merely looking at your IN BOX (which is on your e-mail server).
So to review the differences,
- with POP, your e-mail server is a temporary place for e-mail
- with IMAP, your e-mail server is the permanent place for your e-mail
- with POP, your IN BOX is on your computer
- with IMAP, your IN BOX is on your e-mail server (aka in the cloud)
THE CONCEPT OF A HUB
Before we continue, let’s think for a moment about all of our e-mail activities; receiving, composing, replying, sending, deleting, and managing.
In POP, the hub of all these activities is your computer. In IMAP, the hub of all these activities is your e-mail server. (Some lightbulbs may be illuminating at this point.)
So let’s review these activities for POP.
COMPOSING OR REPLYING, THEN SENDING E-MAIL WITH POP.
When you compose or reply to an e-mail in POP, you create a “Draft”, which is saved to your DRAFTS folder. When you send the e-mail, the draft e-mail, now final, is moved to your SENT folder.
DELETING AND MAINTAINING ORDER WITH POP.
If you are like most people, you have hundreds or thousands of e-mails in your IN BOX. If you want to maintain some order, you have two choices. You can “delete”, which moves an e-mail message to a TRASH folder. You can also create a new folder and then move e-mail from your IN BOX to a FOLDER.
Question: Wait – so deleted mail doesn’t actually delete? It merely moves to the TRASH?
Question: Then what?
Answer: It stays in the TRASH for an amount of time determined by your settings. It can stay there permanently, or you can have it delete permanently after an amount of time you determine. This permanent deletion is sometimes called “purging” or “emptying the TRASH”.
OK, that pretty much covers things. Check back later when we explain composing, sending and organizing with IMAP.
Question: Wait! What if I have POP with two computers? Or a smartphone? And/or a tablet?
Answer: Well, now you have multiple hubs. And each one is completely independent of the others.
Stop. Re-read that. Make sure it sinks in.
If your e-mail is a mess, this is the most likely reason that your e-mail is a mess.
With multiple hubs, you have downloaded mail from your e-mail server to multiple IN BOXES on multiple devices. You now have multiple SENT folders; one on each device. You now have multiple DRAFTS folders; again, one on each device. You now have multiple TRASH folders; one on each device. And if you created a folder on your computer to organize your mail, that folder is only on that computer and cannot be accessed by other devices.
Question: Umm… So why does POP even exist?
Answer: So service providers such as Verizon, Comcast, godaddy, and Network Solutions can say that they offer “free” e-mail hosting. It’s cheap and most people don’t know any better. Isn’t that thoughtful of them?
Question: Did you just answer a question with a question?
Answer: Yes, but it’s a snarky, rhetorical question.
We’ll cover IMAP in a future blog post. Spoiler alert: IMAP is MUCH better.
[Click HERE for A Simplified Overview of POP and IMAP, Part II]