From the May 1999 issue of Startups

Free Web-based e-mail is an irresistible slice of the Net. These days, who doesn't have an account with Hotmail (http://www.hotmail.com), Yahoo! Mail (http://www.yahoo.com) or Angelfire (http://www.angelfire.com)? These free accounts can be accessed from anywhere-all that's required is a computer with an Internet connection and a Web browser.

But there's a downside. Reading and responding to Web-based e-mail is slow, slow, slow. Pages take forever to refresh, especially as new banner ads pop into view. The core problem: The Web is often just molasses-paced. But now there are acceleration remedies. A pair of programs-C-WebMail (http://www.cwebmail.com) and ZinCheck Mail (http://www.zinchak.com)-can be toggled to retrieve Web-based e-mail from any standard offline e-mail reader (Eudora, MS Outlook, Netscape Mail and so on). You log on to the Net to get mail and to send, but otherwise do your reading and writing offline, without distracting ads and other time wasters. Just install the programs-they're easily configured to work with all standard e-mail apps-and forget about them. They perform their techno magic act behind the scenes with no further help from you.

Currently, C-WebMail can access mail only from Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail (a Hotmail trial is free for 30 days; the standard version costs $10), while the freeware ZinCheck does the job at those leaders plus Angelfire, MailCity (http://www.mailcity.com) and a few more. Which to use? Our advice: Try them both. Either way, you'll soon be saving plenty of time.

Robert McGarvey started exploring the online world over a decade ago with Genie, and has been writing on--and complaining about--the Net ever since. He writes about the Web for Entrepreneur, BizTravel.com and Upside.