E-mail for free

Q I am a regular reader of Australian PC World. Do you know any place on the Net that gives out free POP3 e-mail accounts? By this I mean a company that allows me to download my e-mails using something like MS Internet Explorer 4.0's Outlook Express. I have looked everywhere I could think of including Hotmail, Yahoo, Angelfire, and iName. They all offer free e-mail, but I have to log in and view my e-mail in a Web browser. This is really annoying since I cannot print or read them unless I go on the Net. If you could find one or two places that might offer a free e-mail account that would allow me to download my e-mail using Outlook Express, it would be greatly appreciated.

- Kevin Ibrahim

A Post Office Protocol Version 3 (POP3) is a set of rules that a server uses to transfer e-mail to your computer. POP3 is ideal if you want to retrieve e-mail from an Internet host and work with it offline. To use this type of service, you connect to the mail server using a POP3 e-mail client such as Outlook Express or Eudora and provide password details as required. You will then receive a list of the contents of your mailbox. You can delete unwanted messages from the list, and then download the rest of the messages to your computer. Since you spend less time online, it's a great way to save money.

There are a number of places on the Net which offer free POP3 e-mail accounts, and most of them use some form of advertising to support themselves. It's difficult to find any Australian sites, but you may want to check out the services offered by an American company called SoftHome, whose Web pages can be found at http://www.softhome.net. They offer free, permanent e-mail addresses to individuals (business users have to pay), and all you need to have is a program that is able to accept e-mail via the POP3 protocol. SoftHome provides online instructions for configuring Netscape Navigator 3, Netscape Communicator 4, Microsoft Internet Explorer and Eudora to access their mail server. Outlook Express can be set up for this service too.

If you want to look at some alternatives to SoftHome, there is also a lengthy list of free POP3 mail servers at http://members.xoom.com/ayhan/pop3.html.

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