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Modern e-mail clients offer a lot of useful features, however from the electronic mail's point of view it is required that an e-mail client is able to send and receive mail. Depending on the mail server type and the quality of the internet-connection we can distinguish several ways of how e-mail is handled:
|Connect to the Internet, download messages, disconnect.
Read the incoming mail, compose replies to messages, but instead of sending them out right away place them into the Outbox folder.
Connect to the Internet, send outgoing mail, eventually download new incoming mail, disconnect.
This is characteristic to circumstances when there is no permanent connection to the Internet, e.g. via a modem. In this case the POP3 protocol is mainly used, though IMAP4 is also no wonder here.
|Connect to the server, download mail, disconnect.
Read the incoming mail, compose replies to messages and send them out immediately.
This is common to permanent connection to the Internet. Both POP3 and IMAP4 protocols can be used to retrieve mail.
|Permanent connection to the server.
All the mail is stored on the server and can be downloaded on demand. The server will notify the user when new messages arrive on the server.
In this case a broadband connection to the Internet (e.g. local network) is required. The use of the IMAP4 protocol is also mandatory.
Each of the methods described above has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the first one is the most undemanding to the quality of the Internet connection, but is bound to a PC as all the mail is stored there. The third method allows accessing the same account from different PCs, but it requires a broadband connection to the Internet, it constantly uses server resources and is therefore dependent on the server's capabilities and current load.