The desktop e-mail client is dying a slow death. In June 2011, just over 50 percent of all e-mails were opened on the desktop. In June 2012, that number had fallen to 33 percent [source: Jordan]. One reason for the demise is that an e-mail client -- a piece of software you install on your computer -- ties you to an operating system and can make syncing e-mails across multiple computers, tablets and phones problematic.
Some people sidestep these issues by using a webmail application. This certainly works, but better solutions can be found in cloud-based e-mail systems. If you enroll in a free service, you won't be able to get a custom domain (the part of your e-mail address that comes after the @ symbol), and you'll have to be able to live with ads in your inbox. In exchange, you'll have access to all of the core e-mail features that come in a desktop client. You can compose, format and send outgoing messages, read and organize incoming messages, and reply to people listed in the address field. And you'll be able to do all of that on any computer that has a browser and an Internet connection.
Of course, Yahoo Mail is a big Web-based e-mail service. As is Gmail from Google. It integrates with Google Drive, which combines file storage with a suite of productivity tools to create documents, spreadsheets and presentations without ever leaving the browser. Google also offers a business-class version of Gmail.