PostPoints tip: Download your Web-mail
Many Hotmail users got an unplanned reminder of the risks of relying on Web access to e-mail when Microsoft's site temporarily lost all their messages over the New Year's weekend. More recently, a small subset of AOL users also stopped getting new messages. And at some point, some other Web-mail service will suffer the same misfortune. But the next time this happens, users who had thought to set up a mail program for the site's download option will at least retain access to their old messages; some may even find that new mail continues to download, as some prepared Gmail users discovered when Google's mail site suffered an hours-long outage in February of 2009.
Aside from Yahoo, all the major Web-mail services offer free offline access. Most support Post Office Protocol (POP), downloading of messages in your inbox. A few, including AOL and Gmail, support Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), which syncs all of the messages in all of your folders and even the status of individual e-mails--read, replied, forwarded, flagged for follow-up--with a mail program. Either way, all it takes is a minute or two to add your Web-mail accounts settings to such programs as Microsoft Outlook, Mozilla Thunderbird, Apple's Mail and the e-mail applications on iPhone, Android and other smartphones. It's worth taking that time unless you only employ a Web-mail account as a backup or throwaway address.
* Sunday's column described the market forces that have encouraged some sites to game Google's results, and the political forces that may make it tricky for Google to fight that trend aggressively. (When you're done with that, read Mike Rosenwald's piece for more details about how Google has been looking a little dull at Web search lately.)
* In Help File, I addressed a reader's concern over preparing a tax return online--although I have to admit that my answer wasn't entirely reassuring.
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