Better Translating–Part V: Get the most out of your email program

german english email

Email is the main communications medium for translators. These days, because of the popularity of blogs and because it is getting easier and easier for freelance translators to have our own websites, we are likely to receive most of our jobs in our inbox.

Finding the right email program to suit your personal needs is thus key to efficiently dealing with correspondence with clients and colleagues. Many people swear on GMail, but there’s no doubt also Microsoft has come a long way with Hotmail, and as far as webmail clients go, Hotmail now matches GMail feature-per-feature (if not for speed) and many might argue it is even a bit nicer to look at. I nevertheless recommend the use of a full-blown desktop email client to manage your mail, for the following reasons:

  • They double as a storage solution for your received files and attachments. You might accidentally delete a document for translation (or worse, a translated document) from your hard drive, but chances are you’ll find it by doing a search of your desktop email client.
  • They make all your email available offline. Which means that clean-up and organization can be done on a plane or train, or whenever your internet connection is down. (It’s advisable to clean out your translation inbox every now and then, or use email productivity tactics like Inbox Zero to stay on top of everything.)
  • Plugins and Extensions go a long way to making your life easier. Xobni is a great search extension, for example, and the Plugins for Linkedin and Facebook (which deserve a separate post) are great for a quick lookup on the sender of an email.

Currently, there are not so many email programs out there which satisfy the needs of a freelance translator in terms of function, looks, and ease of use. Apple Mail is solid and nice to look at, but not feature-complete enough to be a valid solution for professional translators. Postbox is a better effort, like Apple Mail, but with bells and whistles, though the lack of proper calendar integration is a great drawback. In my opinion, it’s a toss-up between Postbox and Microsoft Outlook. Outlook 2010 is a lot more satisfying than its predecessors, and while it’s still rather slow and prone to the occasional crash, it is the most complete solution. Try both and decide which one you want to spend your money on. Do not waste your time with any of the thousands of alternative email apps out there; they’re either limited in functionality, or rather behind the times. Take your choice between the two and learn to use them properly. I know what you’re thinking: It’s only an email application. However, it is probably the one software you are going to spend the most time with, so let’s get to the bottom of it and see if we can make email management easier to do and speed it all up a bit.


In the following couple of posts, we will look at some handy ways of attaching and saving files, researching your clients using Outlook, and making sure emails  get delivered not too early, and not too late. Watch this space.

What are your strategies against email overload? Which software do you use and why? Sound off in the comments.


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