Webmail and mail clients
In the past, mail clients were always desktop programs. You may still use one: Microsoft Outlook is probably the most well-known mail client. Today, phones also usually have an embedded mail client.
The way these work is that the messages are fetched from the server (over the internet) and stored locally on your computer or device. This is very efficient, because you can read and write email even when you aren’t connected, and lots of messages can be bundled together all at once for delivery.
The problem with a local mail client on your own computer or phone is that you have to use your own computer or phone to access your email. The price for efficiency is a potential lack of convenience.
Webmail is a mail client that is not local to your machine but sits on a web server (often, the same one as your mail server) and lets you interact with it over the internet. It’s not quite as efficient as a local client, but you can access it from any computer with a web browser.
SquirrelMail Web Mail Client
SquirrelMail is a Free and Open Source webmail application written in PHP.
It’s licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL), which means it can be used and distributed for free. SquirrelMail is scalable up to thousands of users with hundreds of simultaneous connections.
Squirrel Mail supports third-party plugins and extensions, and there are currently over 200 available, including support for and enhancements to features like spell check, spam filtering, user administration, calendaring, folders, address books, email signatures, and auto-responders.
Translated into more than 50 languages and usable anywhere via most Web browsers, SquirrelMail is widely accessible.
The only real downside to SquirrelMail is that the web interface is not well optimized for mobile devices. However, a single email account can be accessed by more than one mail client. So that shouldn’t stop you from connecting your phone’s native mail client to the mail server directly, and using SquirrelMail whenever you are sitting at a traditional desktop or laptop computer.
Many hosting providers offer SquirrelMail directly from the web hosting control panel.
SquirrelMail Frequently Asked Questions
What does SquirrelMail do?
This webmail application allows both individuals and businesses to manage their email. It’s free and open-source, released under the GNU GPL, which means it can be freely downloaded, used, and even modified for free.
Since it uses HTML4, you can access it through any browser. The downside is the lack of a mobile interface. However, you can work around this problem by connecting your phone’s native mail client directly to the mail server.
What email protocols does SquirrelMail support?
It supports both IMAP and POP3/SMTP protocols.
Do all hosting companies offer SquirrelMail?
No, some of them provide a different webmail application.
Are there any third party plugins available?
Yes. There are more than 200 plugins to choose from which include spell check, spam filtering, address books, calendars, and auto-responders. These are not required, but are often installed to make for a more personal email experience.
Can I download it to my computer?
Not without downloading a local server environment as it requires PHP to run. It’s not meant to be used as a traditional desktop email client such as Microsoft Outlook. You can, however, access it from any browser.
What security features does SquirrelMail have?
It uses transport layer security (TLS), secure sockets layer (SSL), and STARTTLS.
Is support available for SquirrelMail users?
If this is offered through your hosting company, they may provide support. SquirrelMail also provides support for end users and administrators through its website.
What distinguishes SquirrelMail from a local email client?
As opposed to local email clients, attachments are never automatically opened or downloaded, the amount of spam is reduced, you can process email from any device, and there is no waiting for messages to download which saves space on your computer.
Can I use SquirrelMail if it is not offered by my hosting company?
Yes. You can download a stable version of SquirrelMail from the official website and install it on your server using FTP or the command line. Before doing so, check with your hosting company to ensure that your server has all the necessary requirements.
Which platforms support SquirrelMail?
It is available on all platforms supporting PHP. Some of the platforms commonly used alongside SquirrelMail include OS X, FreeBSD, and Linux.
Is it available on Windows servers?
Yes, as long as the server has support for PHP which most modern hosting companies do.
When was it developed?
The webmail portion of SquirrelMail dates back to 1999, making it one of the first standards-based webmail applications to gain traction.
Does it support languages other than English?
The application has been translated to more than 50 languages, including Chinese, French, Spanish, German, and Arabic.
About Adam Michael Wood
Adam specializes in developer documentation and tutorials. In addition to his writing here, he has authored engineering guides and other long-form technical manuals. Outside of work, Adam composes and performs liturgical music. He lives with his wife and children in California.