Email Terminology

You may have been asked at some stage “Who’s your email with?” or “What email program do you use?”. While the questions are similar, they are asking for two different things and there’s often a lot of confusion over the difference. The first question refers to your email provider (or account) and the second question refers to your email client (or App).

Let’s start with the email provider. Your email provider can usually be determined by your email address. An email address consists of two main parts, the bit before the @ sign which is unique to the user and the bit after. The bit after is the bit used to identify the provider. Here are some examples:

Email Address Provider      Gmail From Google.      Yahoo        Xtra From Spark (formerly Telecom).   Hotmail Now owned by Microsoft.   Outlook From Microsoft.

Your email client (or app) is the program you use to access (or view) your email. Just like email providers, there’s also a number of different clients available for email. You may also use a different email client on your PC compared to your smartphone or tablet, although they may both access the same email account.

Most email providers allow you to access your email through a web site, this is called a “web client” or “webmail”.
Here’s a list of the web addresses used to access the webmail for the different providers we listed earlier:

Provider Web Address

The webmail client is great because you can use it on just about any computer anywhere in the world as long as it has internet access and you know your email address and password. So if you are going overseas you don’t even need to bring a computer, phone or tablet to access your email, just as long as you can find a computer somewhere that connects to the internet. All you need to do then is go to the web address listed above for your provider, enter your email address and password and you should have access to your email.

Unfortunately the webmail clients tend to be a little lacking in terms of features and ease of use, that’s where all the other email clients come in. These other email clients are apps or programs that run on your computer, smartphone or tablet and are designed for the purpose of storing, reading and creating emails. Most of the email clients can be used with any of the email providers. In fact, most of them can support multiple email addresses from different email providers all at the same time. Here is a list of some of the more popular email clients:

For Windows PC:
Mozilla Thunderbird      Available from
Microsoft Outlook          Available with some versions of Microsoft Office.
Microsoft Mail                 Included with Windows Vista, 8 and 10.

For Apple Computers:
Apple Mail                       Included in Mac OS X
Mozilla Thunderbird    Available from

For iPhones and iPads:
Mail           Just called Mail, the Apple Mail app comes installed on all iPhones and iPads.
Gmail        Google has their own email client called Gmail which is available in the App store.

For Android phones and tablets:
On most Android devices, the manufacturer (whether Samsung, Huawei or someone else) will have their own email app installed on the device and it’s usually just called Email.
Google has their own email client called Gmail which usually comes already installed on most Android devices. Note that with Google, they are simply calling their email app Gmail, this often adds to the confusion as Gmail can be both a provider and a client.

There are dozens of different email clients out there and I have just listed a few of the most popular ones. For a much more comprehensive list take a look at the “Comparison of email clients” article on Wikipedia at

This article was written by Geoffrey Allan, Hutt City SeniorNet (from their newsletter)

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