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Configuring your mail reader

Programs such as Thunderbird offer mail functions controlled by a GUI ("Graphical User Interface"). They have many options that simply can't be offered by a text-based program (such as drag-and-drop manipulation of files). Depending on the level of IMAP support they offer, they not only have folder organization of messages, but allow folders within folders for a full hierarchical structure of your mail.

Although we support using Outlook, Entourage, and other Microsoft-authored mail readers at Nevis, I don't encourage their use. Unfortunately, for technical and social reasons, the Microsoft mail readers are prone to security problems. Please consider using Thunderbird or some other non-Microsoft program instead.

f you use a graphical mail program, here are some items to check in your configuration:

  • You have to decide whether to use POP or IMAP to read your mail. The difference between the two is described in a separate web page.

  • If you want your mail files to be stored in some place other than the default location (/a/mail/folders/$user), this web page tells you how to do it. Note that this is not recommended.

  • The name of the account can be anything. I use "Nevis". The name of the account has nothing to do with how your mail reader connects to the mail server.

  • Make sure your mail identity is <youraccount>

    Alternate: your mail identity is <youraccount>, and your mail domain is

  • Your IMAP, POP, and SMTP server names are all

    Alternate: If you wish, you may use any of the following aliases for clarity:

  • Turn on all the authentication options. You need authentication to both send your mail (SMTP authentication) and to read your mail (IMAP or POP authentication).

    Do not use "SPA" or "secure password authentication", which is a different protocol not supported by the Nevis mail server.

  • Some reminders:
    • POP and IMAP are two different ways to read your mail; you can use either one as you choose.
    • SMTP is the way your mail program sends the mail.
    • In general, you must use SMTP to send your mail (there are no other popular e-mail methods).
    • If your e-mail address ends in you must use the Nevis mail server to send mail.
    • Do not use the Nevis mail server if you want your e-mail address to end in anything except
    • In particular, if you'd prefer to use your Columbia University UNI account to manage your mail, do not use set your identity to <account> and try to use as your SMTP server; use Columbia's SMTP server:


If your mail reader supports it, I highly recommend that you use SSL encryption. This assures that your password is not sent over the network in plain text. Most mail readers (though not all) support this, even Alpine (note the ssl tag in configuring alpine).

Aside from selecting the option in your mail reader, you'll have to set or confirm that your mail reader is using the correct ports to access the mail server:

  • If your mail reader does not support SSL, use port 110 for POP3, port 143 for IMAP, and port 25 for SMTP.

    Some sites block off port 25 with their firewall. As an alternative, you can try accessing the Nevis mail server via port 587.

  • If your mail reader supports TLS or SSL, use port 995 for POP3 and port 993 for IMAP. You can use the same ports for SMTP with or without SSL: 25 normally, 587 if a site has blocked port 25; the mail server can recognize when your mail program wants to use SSL and make the switch.

    You can also use port 465 for SMTP+SSL. Try this if neither ports 25 nor 587 seem to work when sending mail via SSL (Outlook Express is an example).

    No matter which ports you use with SSL, you have to bypass certificate validation. If you don't, you may get warning messages about how the Nevis certificate cannot be validated or trusted.

  • If you are using a non-Nevis mail server, connect to port 587 of that mail server. Our firewall blocks off port 25 to any other mail servers.

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Topic revision: r10 - 2011-08-09 - WilliamSeligman
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