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Bridges Resource Library Crossing Bridges Together: Secondary Transition In the Field, A Reading Room For Educators

Choosing Your Email Client

Managing Mail May

When we go to school or work full-time, we need to communicate effectively with our colleagues, teachers and employers. Checking our email is part of our morning routine, and we continue to check our email throughout the day. This May, we’ll explore ways to read, write and organize email for our personal and professional lives.

  • May 7: Email on the Go with iOS Mail
  • May 14: Looking Out for Outlook Email
  • May 21: It’s a Website, It’s an App, It’s an Email Provider… It’s Gmail
  • May 28: Choosing Your Email Client

In this final installment, we’ll wrap up our series with some tips on choosing the email client (or clients) that work best for you.

The Email Combo

Think of choosing an email client as somewhat similar to choosing a meal at a restaurant. Most of us have more than one device we use on a regular basis to do our work and personal tasks, most commonly a phone and a computer. Some of us also have a tablet, such as an iPad. So, when we choose an email client, we need to look at all the devices we use and (much like ordering a meal) choose the combination of clients that works best for our needs.

Let’s take a personal example from Chris Nusbaum, our project coordinator. He has two devices he uses for everyday tasks: a PC and an iPhone. He also has a BrailleSense, though that is always connected to his iPhone and used as a refreshable Braille display when managing email. In terms of email, he has multiple accounts to manage, both personal and professional, and he sometimes needs to store information from emails in folders or save attachments either to his computer or to the cloud. He also relies heavily on his calendars to keep track of work meetings and personal activities, including a shared family calendar. One of his work accounts is Google-based, while the other is Microsoft Office-based. With all of this in mind, the email client “combo” Chris prefers is Outlook on the PC and iOS Mail on the iPhone.

Other people, like our Director Carlton Walker, prefer to use the same thing all the time. While Carlton is sighted, this is likely a personal preference thing: she does not like change and tends to stick with what works in all areas of life. For example, when Carlton learned about computers, there were no mice, so keyboard commands were the only choice. She reluctantly used the mouse for years, but she thrills every time she finds new keyboard commands to replace mouse actions. In other words, it’s OK to be a stick-in-the-mud most of the time – so long as you are willing to make changes when better tools or techniques come along.

This is a common combo for email users, both blind and sighted, but it is certainly not universal. For example, some people whose work accounts are set up through Microsoft Office prefer the Outlook app for iOS because its similar look to Outlook on the PC. The same is true of the Gmail app for iOS, though there are marked differences between the Web interface and the iOS interface. Based on a summary of our previous Resource Library articles, here are some pros and cons of each client.

iOS Mail

Pros of iOS Mail

  • The Mail app is built into the Apple operating system.
  • All accounts from all providers can be used on it.
  • An “all inboxes” folder displays all emails coming into all accounts. Be careful, though; sometimes emails can get buried there.
  • Easy, guided account setup.
  • A message can be dictated or typed on a Braille display on the go. This brings up the overall convenience of email being mobile while traveling.
  • The ability to set up your own folders to organize email.
  • Calendars from all email accounts added to iOS Mail are added to the Calendar app by default (this can be turned off if desired).

Cons of iOS Mail

  • Some email accounts (mostly Microsoft Exchange accounts) have been known to block iOS Mail at first. If you receive an error, contact your company’s IT or Microsoft’s support (we recommend their Disability Answer Desk).
  • Attachments can only be sent through iOS Mail if they are saved to iCloud Drive or on your iPhone. You can, however, go to the app in which the file is saved (Dropbox, for example) and share it via email, which will bring up iOS Mail with the file attached.
  • There has been a bug in recent versions of iOS where the cursor of a Braille display moves around automatically while writing an email, particularly after creating a new paragraph. While this has gotten much better in Chris’s experience, it still has not completely been fixed. The workarounds Chris uses for longer emails with multiple paragraphs or bullet points are (1) drafting the longer email on his computer) or (2) writing the email in Notes, then copying and pasting the note into an email.

Outlook Email

Pros of Outlook

  • Intuitive and accessible interface, particularly easy to learn and use keystrokes for common email actions—reply, forward, reply all, delete, etc.
  • Writing in an email is like writing in a Word document, so the same keystrokes apply and you can format it accordingly if you so choose. For example, Chris often uses control K to add hyperlinks to both emails and Word documents.
  • All fields of the email composition screen are shown together. So, if you want to CC someone on a reply email who wasn’t included on the original, you can simply shift tab and add their name or email address. You don’t have to click on a separate button to “un-hide” the CC and BCC fields.
  • Efficient account setup process which Outlook guides you through step-by-step (see our video demonstration).
  • Users can add and switch between multiple accounts.
  • Ability to add “high importance” and “low importance” markers on emails to identify for recipients emails that should be given the most priority.
  • Files that are copied to the clipboard can be attached to an email by pressing Control V, as if you were pasting them into the email. This is especially useful when you want to attach multiple files.
  • Calendars for all accounts are integrated into Outlook.
  • Outlook continues to check for new emails automatically while the program is open.

Cons of Outlook

  • Some settings, particularly the account settings, can be a bit hard to find until you get used to them. It is helpful to keep in mind that, like Word, Outlook uses the virtual ribbon layout.
  • Outlook in the form we have been discussing is only available for PC. There is an iOS app, but it is slightly different.
  • Outlook can sometimes display an error and not send a draft after it has been opened and edited multiple times. We recommend copying your draft to the clipboard in case this happens and you need to create a new message, so you can use the text you have already written.

Gmail

Pros of Gmail

  • The client is totally Web-based, meaning you can access it on any computer.
  • Google Calendar is integrated into Gmail, and you can respond to an invitation directly from the email in which the invitation is sent.
  • Google Meet is built into Gmail, making it easy to switch between a call and your email.

Cons of Gmail

  • Multiple accessibility issues (see our post on Gmail)
  • Only one way to view the interface
  • Very few keyboard shortcuts
  • Multiple Gmail accounts can be accessed, but it is a difficult process to add non-Gmail accounts to Gmail on the Web

Conclusion

For a more detailed discussion of each of these 3 popular email clients, we invite you to read the other posts in this series.

Email on the Go with iOS Mail

Looking Out for Outlook Email

It’s a Website, It’s an App, It’s an Email Provider… It’s Gmail

Whatever you choose, remember your client combo is like your meal: It’s your own choice, based on your own preferences and needs. No one else can make that decision for you (certainly not us), but we can help you in the decision-making process. If you need help deciding, reach out to our Bridges Helpdesk and we’ll be happy to talk with you one-on-one!

Please Check Out the Bridges Technical Assistance Center Resource Library today!

Contact us

Follow the Bridges Helpdesk Facebook page for more transition tips, and please contact the Bridges Technical Assistance Center’s Free Helpdesk for Maryland Blind/Low Vision Transition Students, Families, and Educators anytime using:

This unique project is being coordinated through The IMAGE Center of Maryland, a center for independent living in Towson, and it is funded by a grant from the Maryland Department of Education Division of Special Education/Early Intervention Services.

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