E-mail client

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An email client, email reader, or more formally mail user agent (MUA), is a computer program used to manage a user's email.

The term can refer to any system capable of accessing the user's email mailbox, regardless of it being a mail user agent, a relaying server, or a human typing on a terminal. In addition, a web application that provides message management, composition, and reception functions is sometimes also considered an email client, but more commonly referred to as webmail.

Popular email clients include Microsoft Outlook, Pegasus Mail, Mozilla's Thunderbird, and Apple Inc.'s Mail.


Functionality and configuration

Retrieving messages from a mailbox

Like most client programs, an email client is only active when a user runs it. The most common system is for a remote Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) server, using a suitable mail delivery agent (MDA), to add email messages to a client's storage as they arrive. The remote mail storage is referred to as the user's mailbox. The default setting on many Unix systems is for the remote mail server to store formatted messages in mbox, within the user's HOME directory.

Emails are stored in the user's mailbox on the remote server until the user's email client requests them to be downloaded to the user's computer, or can otherwise access the user's mailbox on the remote server. The email client can be set up to connect to multiple mailboxes at the same time and to request the download of emails either automatically, such as at pre-set intervals, or the request can be manually initiated by the user. Alternatively, the user can run an email client on the remote server's machine or via an email client on another location. Webmail applications running on the remote server can also have direct access to the user's mailbox.

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