I recently wrote about ProtonVPN, a VPN services from the creators of ProtonMail. And for those of you that don’t know, ProtonMail is a service that provides security and encrypted emails.
If I can remember correctly I was part of the in initial launch and was in a waiting list for a free account. And this was only due to seeing some stuff on Twitter about it and letting my curiosity get the better of me, and I’m glad it did.
So what is ProtonMail, well to put it simply it is an encrypted email client that is based in Switzerland, and by just saying that you should know that the privacy and security of its user will be fantastic. This is largely due to Switzerland having some of the best laws in place for online privacy and security. So you know from the start that they are going to make sure your privacy is protected as strongly as possible.
Creating you ProtonMail account is much the same as creating any email account these days, you chose a username and set you passwords. But unlike the likes of Gmail and setting only one password ProtonMail asks for you to set an account password and then another password for your mailbox. This is a second line off defense to prevent your account being compromised. You can also set up 2 factor authentication from the security tab in the settings later. This again adds another layer of security before you can even view your inbox. And don’t worry this isn’t just some SMS verification, you can use just about any authenticator application on the market.
The web client its self looks just like any other email client, this I feel is a great thing because it feels as natural an environment as you’d likely be use to. Before using ProtonMail I was skeptical that the user interface might have been lacking in the looks department as their main priority is the security and protection of their users. But gladly this is not the case. There are 2 options for the layout of your inbox, the first displays your emails in a column on the left and then display the selected email on the right. And then the section option is to just have the list of emails and you can open the emails you wish to view. Depending on where you are when you are using this client could depend on how you have it laid out.
So let’s get down to the main aspect of ProtonMail the functionality as a secure email client. There are some very cool features that are offered when sending an email, these are being able to set an exasperation time and date on the message and also password protecting the message. Both of these feature combined make sending encrypted email to users who may not use an encrypted email client secure. I feel that they have been able to manage this in a way that doesn’t alienate the person reciving this email, as not everyone might be as tech-savy.
The encrypted email options requires you to define a password before sending the email, and allows for you to add a hint that the person who receives the message will be able to see. This is much the same as trying to log into your computer, and being prompted by the hint. Furthermore this links into the email exsperation, because you can add that option to a password protected message or use it without. Meaning if you have not been able to predefine a password you will be able to send a message with s self-destruct so to speak
ProtomMail also offers some other cool and very welcoming features, such as setting up message filters and folders. This makes it so easy to manage and organize your inbox automatically and easily. You can also group message by assigning a label to them, this again helps to keep your inbox very neat and tidy.
But the features don’t stop there, they also have support for using your own custom domains, I found this to be an excellent option as I did not want to have to use [MyUsername]@protonmail.com. and it mean that I could maintain my professional look email address. and once you have set up your own domain you can have 5 different addresses connected to your account.
Unlike some of the other big email providers, ProtonMail is its own element and as a result needs to make money to keep providing a service. But thankfully they do offer a free account, and with all the competition I feel it would be hard for them to gain users without offering such an option. But even then the paid plans are not unreasonably priced in the slightest because £5 a month is not a large amount of money for the added security that they offer. And the plans are laidout in a way that aims for a certain user, I personally use ProtonMail Plus as it fulfills all of my needs and is very reasonably priced. I would say that ProtonMail Visionary is tailored more towards business users just from some of the options that it offers.
But ProtonMail is not just a browser-based client, they also have apps for both IOS and Android devices. This app looks and feels great and as you can see from the images below boasts a stylish and user-friendly UI. One disadvantage I have found using the app is that you cannot enter the settings through it so to make changes you will need to log in via a web browser. But it does mean that you can keep your encrypted mail services with you while you are on the go.
Features I would like to see…
Although ProtonMail offers a number of great features that I use almost everyday I feel there are a couple that could be added, such as support for 3rd party mail clients like Thunderbird and Outlook. Granted I understand that they want to offer a secure services and having 2 passwords might prove difficult to port to other platforms but I personally belive that it is something that would open them up to so many more users.
Overall I feel that ProtonMail is a great platform to use that offers great security while not limiting the user experience. It is also very important to remember that it is still somewhat in its infancy as a result is constantly improving!