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Proton Mail Review: Free Secure Email Service

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Proton Mail is a free end-to-end encrypted email service accessed through a web interface as well as mobile apps.

Information in this article applies to the web version of Proton Mail as well as the Proton Mail apps for iOS and Android.

Proton Mail Pros and Cons

Compared to similar services, Proton Mail provides several benefits and a few limitations.

What We Like

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  • Easy and secure email encryption.
  • Multiple encryption options.
  • Set emails to expire after a certain date.
  • Access Proton Mail on any device with the mobile app.

What We Don’t Like

  • Occasionally sluggish web interface.
  • Cumbersome integration with other email clients.
  • Free account is limited to three folders for organizing.

Get Proton Mail for:

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iPhone and iPad

Free vs. Premium Proton Mail

Anyone can sign up for Proton Mail and get up to 1 GB of online storage for free (you’ll start with 500 MB, however). Paid accounts include up to 500 GB of storage in addition to priority customer support and other productivity features. If you don’t really send a lot of email, you might be perfectly fine with the free account.

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What Is End-to-End Encryption?

Encryption protects the content of emails from prying eyes. As messages are sent from your computer to the recipients’ inboxes, they can be intercepted by malicious third parties along the way.

With end-to-end encryption, the message is encrypted when you send it and is decrypted when the recipient opens it. Because the message can be unlocked only with the recipient’s personal key, nobody in between can decrypt it. Services like Proton Mail make it possible to transmit sensitive information without worrying about it falling into the wrong hands.

How Proton Mail Encrypts Email Messages

When you exchange emails with another Proton Mail user, messages are encrypted with their key in your browser or smartphone app and are deciphered when the recipient opens the message. Therefore, you don’t have to set up passwords.

When you send a message to someone who does not use Proton Mail, you have the option to encrypt it with a password. The recipient will receive a message containing a link to the Proton Mail web interface, and they must enter the password to view your message. From that same interface, they can reply with an encrypted message protected by the same password.

You can also use PGP to encrypt messages and can export your public and private PGP keys from Proton Mail to use with a different service. Conversely, if you’ve been using encrypted email, you can import your existing keys to your Proton Mail account.

Protect Yourself Even More with a VPN

The Proton Mail Interface

The Proton Mail web interface includes folders found in other email clients (such as Archive and Spam). It includes color-coded labels, stars to make messages stand out, and rules to automatically label incoming mail. Paid Proton Mail users can create unlimited custom rules while free accounts are limited to one custom rule. It also has a simple auto-response feature.

Send Messages With Proton Mail

Use the Proton Mail rich-text editor to customize messages with HTML formatting and inline images. Although Proton Mail supports a few keyboard shortcuts, it offers limited help with composing messages. For example, you cannot set up templates or text snippets, and Proton Mail does not suggest text, times, or recipients.

Proton Mail’s cryptography brings another benefit: You can set emails to self-destruct at a time you specify. For additional security, you can enable two-factor authentication.

Search for Messages in Proton Mail

Proton Mail has a search feature, but the fields that can be searched are restricted to information in the message headers such as sender, subject, and date. Encryption prevents Proton Mail from searching the body of a message, but if you set up the Proton Mail Bridge application on your desktop, you can expand searches to include the email contents.

How to Use Proton Mail With Your Other Email Accounts

Proton Mail Bridge is a desktop application that links your other email accounts with your Proton Mail account. Because of the way Proton Mail encrypts mail, it cannot connect directly with other email clients, so the Bridge acts as a remote server to facilitate communication. Any mail client that supports connecting to a remote mail server, such as Outlook and Thunderbird, can connect to ProtonMail this way.

Proton Mail cannot collect mail from your existing email accounts, and you cannot set it up to send mail using your existing email addresses. Nonetheless, using your favorite email program with Proton Mail might help with some of the productivity shortcomings.

Proton Mail Bridge is only available for paid subscribers.

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