I tend to shy away from writing about Windows XP because it’s woefully old at this point. However I do understand a lot of you out there have made the decision to stay with XP for a few more years. You’ve weighed the pros and cons, don’t see any real need to upgrade to Windows 7 and figure you’ll wait until getting another computer before using a newer Windows. If that’s the case, so be it.

This article is about Outlook Express, how much it sucks, and why you should think about using Opera Mail instead.

The reality of how bad OE6 really is

(If you want to skip to the Opera part, see "Opera Mail to the rescue" below.)

Many XP users continue to use the Outlook Express 6 mail client. Let me make something very clear: OE6 is a bad. It’s bad because it has zero spam/scam/phishing protection and because of its infamous 2GB cap.

"2GB cap? What’s that?"

Each folder OE6 uses is stored using a Microsoft-proprietary DBX file. You can see these folders from OE6 by clicking Tools, Options, Maintenance (tab), Store Folder (button), and looks like this:

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When you navigate to that folder, you’ll see your DBX files:

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Each DBX has a predefined maximum filesize of 2GB. If you go over that, it will corrupt, OE6 will crash and you’ve just lost all your mail in that folder. This is a nightmarish situation to face because there’s literally nothing you can do. Also, being that OE6 is so old at this point, few repair utilities exist that will fix a corrupted DBX file.

If you have any DBX’s that are near 2GB, you’re in trouble. It doesn’t matter how often you use "Compact All Folders," because once any DBX hits 2GB, you’re done. Good night. Crash and burn.

It also doesn’t help that DBX’s only work up to XP and no further. You are locked into the XP operating system if you continue to use OE6. Bad, bad, bad all around.

Opera Mail to the rescue

Before explaining how Opera Mail is a very good replacement for the oh-so ancient Outlook Express 6, here’s why I dedicated an article to it:

1. Outlook Express users usually don’t like Mozilla Thunderbird at all.

Thunderbird is a fantastic mail client, however it does not have the simplicity that OE6 does. Many OE users have tried Thunderbird but absolutely hated it – and still do.

2. Opera Mail’s simplicity is something OE users actually like.

O-Mail’s interface is one that’s welcome by former users of OE. It has easy-see icons, easy use of labels, the labels have icons that are useful, and the overall experience is one that makes OE users say, "Hey, I can actually use this. This is good."

3. Opera Mail is the only free mail client besides Windows Live Mail that writes in maildir format.

Most mail clients like Thunderbird and Outlook write mail databases that get large over time. Windows Live Mail writes emails to disk with email mail as an individual file, maildir style. Opera Mail also does this.

What does this mean exactly? It means you’ll never run into a "mail database is too big" issue. Mail can continue to grow without any worry of a mail database getting corrupted, because there is none to corrupt.

I also will mention exporting your mail for backup is stupidly easy. More on that in a moment.

Opera Mail setup, import from OE and usage

Setting up the mail account

1. Menu, Mail and Chat Accounts…

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2. Yes.

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3. Next.

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4. Fill out name and email address fields. Organization is optional; you can leave it blank if you want.

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When finished, click Next.

5. Enter login name (usually your entire email address,) and email account password. For this tutorial a POP account will be used, because if you’re importing over from OE6, chances are very likely you’re using POP.

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When finished, click Next.

6. Specify the incoming (POP) and outgoing (SMTP) servers. It is suggested that you leave "Leave messages on server" and "Until I permanently delete them" checked.

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When finished, click Finish.

Opera Mail will start and by default put a welcome wagon email in your inbox:

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Mind the left sidebar of Opera. The envelope icon is what you can click at any time to access your email while Opera is open.

If you close that bar for whatever reason, mail can be accessed this way:

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Importing mail from Outlook Express 6

1. Menu, Settings, Import and Export, Import Mail…

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2. Import from Outlook Express, Next.

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3. This one takes a bit of explanation.

If you have a single email account in OE6, the only account you’re interested in importing is Main Identity. If you have multiple accounts, you will have to repeat this import process for each account as you have in OE6.

Assuming you have a single identity being used in OE6, Import info should be set to the account you just set up in Opera Mail, and Move to sent should have Sent Items chosen.

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When finished, click Next.

Import will then proceed:

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4. When finished, your imported mail will be sorted by Filter.

In Opera Mail, filters are basically folders and that’s how you organize mail using this client.

Said another way: If you wanted to create a new "folder" in Opera Mail, create a new Filter. You can right-click on Filters at any time to create a new one.

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Important note: Deleting a filter does not actually delete mail. When you want mail 100% gone, you must delete it from All Messages / Received (see "Received" in the screen shot above.) Those messages will be sent to "Trash," and upon emptying of the Trash, then they’re gone for good.

 

Changing the email signature

The first thing Opera does – which is annoying – is inputs a dopey email signature that appears whenever you compose a new email.

To get rid of this:

  1. Menu
  2. Mail and Chat Accounts
  3. Highlight account you want to change.
  4. Edit
  5. Outgoing (tab)
  6. Edit Signature (button)

You’ll see this:

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Input your own signature here, or delete the one there and click Save.

 

Composing, addressing, replying, etc.

All of this is very straightforward in Opera Mail. "Compose" button is in plain sight, switching from plain text to HTML formatted mail will appear at top right when composing an email and is easy to use. Attachments are a breeze as is the rest of the way Opera does mail.

There is really nothing I could say here that you wouldn’t be able to figure out in a few minutes. The hardest part of Opera Mail is just getting your mail account set up and OE mail imported. Once done, the rest is smooth sailing from that point on.

 

Exporting mail for backup

It doesn’t get any easier than this:

  1. Right-click a mail folder or filter, such as "Received."
  2. From the menu that appears, choose Export.
  3. You’re prompted to save an MBS file. Pick a location and save.
  4. There is no step 4, you’re done.

To import mail back, this is located from Menu, Settings, Import and Export, Import Mail.

Compared to other mail clients, this is true importing and exporting of mail and not just setup files.

 

Stop using Outlook Express, start using Opera Mail

Opera Mail is a great mail client. It’s far superior to OE6 in every way, has built-in spam filtration, labels and a whole bunch of other cool stuff to boot. If you hated Thunderbird and thought there was nothing else free out there like OE6 that was agreeable to you, Opera Mail is what you want.

Even if you use Opera just as a mail client, that’s fine – although you can have your mail and browser in separate tabs within the same session easily.