Older versions of Windows came with a free e-mail client called Outlook Express. It caused continual confusion in the legal profession, with lawyers thinking they were using the high-powered Microsoft Outlook when in fact they were using the substandard Express product. Outlook Express wasn’t bad but it was not in any way comparable to Outlook’s rich features.
The e-mail landscape has changed significantly over the years, with many lawyers dropping their e-mail clients to go entirely to the Web. They log in to Windows Hotmail, Yahoo! Mail, or Google Mail and their entire interaction is online. Some will also use alternative e-mail products, like Mozilla’s Thunderbird or Apple’s Mail.
Windows users who are looking for a simple e-mail application should look at Windows Live Mail. The interface is a huge improvement over Outlook Express and has the ability to handle more, and non-Microsoft, mail accounts than the older product did.
Windows Live Mail is a consumer-oriented download, so you will be prompted to load a bunch of other dreck – instant messaging, photo tools, etc. – that you do not necessarily need for your practice. Microsoft has followed other e-mail programs so that e-mail account setup is turnkey for major providers. For example, if you type in your Google Mail username and password, Windows Live Mail will automatically configure the server settings you need to access your mail. You can finally forget about what IMAP means or where your SMTP server is!
It supports other e-mail providers as well, although you may find that it does not support their authentication. For example, I use an e-mail server that requires a particular method of secure authentication (STARTTLS). Windows Live Mail was unable to talk to this server, although it supports secure authentication using SSL.
It is still not Microsoft Outlook. But if you are looking for an easy to use, light e-mail application, Windows Live Mail is a nice, free option. Thunderbird and Zimbra have more power but they may be more complicated than you need.