On 18/Nov/2005, TFN added IMAP capabilities to its mail server. Yeay!
Prior to that, we had only POP.
We also added webmail.
Whoray! Our webmail client, IMP, uses the
Horde Framework. This framework
supports enhanced features such as user-based password changing,
calendars, and online task lists. We may add those later, if there is
demand and if resources permit.
- mail server
One of TFN's computers. It's job is to receive email on your
behalf and to hold on to it for you. When you are ready to read
your email, you connect to the server and retrieve your email.
- system mailbox
For every TFN username (such as aa000), there is a file in the
server. That file is called a system mailbox. All mail sent to your
email address (such as email@example.com) gets appended by the server
to your system mailbox, waiting for you.
Every TFN username has only one system mailbox, no more.
If you have created an email alias (such as
firstname.lastname@example.org), the server stores mail sent to your
alias into your one system mailbox. An email alias doesn't have it's
- email client
The program you use to read your email is called an email client.
It copies your mail from your system mailbox, to some private location.
Then, typically, as soon as the mail has been copied, the client deletes
it from your system mailbox.
Some clients run on your own computer; others run on TFN computers
(servers). We refer to clients that run on your own computer as
local email clients. We refer to clients that on TFN's computers
as server-based email clients.
Examples of email clients that run on your own computer are:
Thunderbird, Evolution, Microsoft Outlook,
Eudora. These clients download your mail to your own computer.
The advantage of running a client on your own computer is that the client
runs very fast and that you don't need to be connected to the Internet to
read your mail -- only to download it.
TFN does offer email clients that run on its servers. They are:
Pine (used by telnet users and by text-only dialup users) and
IMP (the Internet Mail Program, which provides TFN's webmail).
Advantages of using a server-based client:
- You can access your mail while away from home, eg from your
computer at work, from a friend's computer, or from a computer in a
public library or Internet cafe.
- You can read your mail even if you don't have an email client on
your own computer, eg if you have a computer older than the 1990s,
or if your computer's client has been damaged by a virus or other
mishap that you have not yet repaired.
POP and IMAP
POP (Post Office Protocol) is a communication protocol (a generally
agreed way on how your computer must talk to a TFN computer) for gaining
access to your email. IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) is another
communication protocol, also for gaining access to your email. POP is
the older protocol. IMAP is more complex, so more can go wrong with it.
The similarities: Both POP and IMAP work by reading your mail
from your system mailbox. They download your mail from your system
mailbox on TFN's mail server to another place, typically to your own
computer, so that you can view it. Both protocols will let you leave
your mail on the server, if you want. (but please don't pile up large
amounts of mail on the server.)
The differences: IMAP can create folders on the server
in which you can sort your mail. POP cannot, but most email clients have
the ability to create their own folders. So you can use POP and
have folders too. The difference is that, if you use POP, TFN's server knows
nothing about any folders your create. If you use IMAP, both your IMAP client
and TFN's mail server will know what folders you created.
Most people use POP.
TFN's webmail client, IMP, is configured to use POP too.
Local or server-based email client?
With a server-based client, you must be connected to the Internet to
read your mail. With a local client, you can download your mail from the
server, then disconnect from the Internet and deal with your mail at your
With a server-based client, all your mail is sitting on a TFN server.
If your computer dies, your mail is still safe at TFN. On the other hand,
if TFN's server dies, you won't be able to access your old mail until that
server is repaired.