Difference Between Similar Terms and Objects

Difference Between Outbox and Sent

The terms Outbox and Sent messages are often used synonymously when it comes to sending and receiving emails via an email program such as Gmail, Outlook, and more. However, they have different meanings in terms of delivery. When you compose an email and hit send, it first goes to the “Outbox” folder before it connects to the mail server and is successfully sent to the recipient. After the messages have been successfully delivered to the recipient, they are being moved to the “Sent” or “Sent Messages folder”. If the messages fail to send, they stuck in the Outbox folder as the communications in and out of the mail server are blocked. Emails stuck in the Outbox are a common issue in email programs, mostly because it fails to connect to the SMTP server. We present an unbiased comparison between the two.


What is an Outbox?

Outbox is a temporary holding area where your composed messages are stored temporarily until your email client establishes a connection with the mail server and the recipient successfully receives your message. When you compose a message and hit send, the outgoing message moves to the Outbox until a secure connection with the configured SMTP server is available and successfully established. The message also stays in the Outbox if the connection is failed to establish or because of any internet connectivity issues. Until the message gets successfully delivered to the recipient, the message remains in Outbox. If the connection is lost, the email client will automatically try to resend the message once the connection is reestablished. Once the messages are delivered, they are cleared from the Outbox. Simply put, Outbox is the place where the outgoing messages are stored until they are fully sent and received by the recipient.


What is ‘Sent’ in email?

Unlike Outbox which stores the pending messages for delivering, Sent folder enlists the sent messages that are being successfully received by the recipient. Every email client has their own label system for sent messages such as Gmail uses “Sent Mail” to store its outgoing mails whereas “Sent Items” is Outlook’s own system label where all emails sent through the mail server are stored. Most email servers use “Sent” folder by default to store their outgoing mails. The Sent folder is very different from the Outbox folder; sent folder stores all the mails that are successfully delivered and received by the recipient or recipients, whereas Outbox refers to a location where emails stay temporarily until they are being successfully delivered. To find your Sent folder, hover over to the navigation menu to the left and find the folder labeled as “Sent”.


Difference between Outbox and Sent

  1. Meaning

Outbox is a term used to describe a temporary holding area in the Mailbox where all the messages or emails are stored until they are being fully sent to the recipient. It’s like a temporary folder in Mailbox where emails sit temporarily before being successfully delivered to the recipient or fail to send in case it fails to connect to the SMTP server or the mail server. Sent Items or Sent Messages is the place where all the emails that are fully delivered to the recipient are being stored and can be reviewed.

  1. Process

The email is first composed on the email client (Gmail, Outlook, Live, etc.). Type in the email address of the recipient (receiver) at the top and add subject and the body of the message. When you hit send, the message first goes to the mail server using the SMTP protocol – internet standard protocol for sending and receiving messages via emails – and then the mail server redirects your message to the destination server which is the recipient’s Mailbox. Before the connection with the mail server is established, the mail is stored in the Outbox until it is successfully delivered to the recipient’s Mailbox, finally making it to your Sent folder.

  1. Purpose

Emails are stored temporarily in the Outbox folder in case there is a communication problem between the email client and your outgoing mail server. As a result, emails stuck in the Outbox folder because the email client fails to connect to the mail server because of either internet connectivity issues or some manual errors. Once the connection reestablishes, the mails are then successfully sent. Plus it also allows you to review, edit or modify the content of the mail before they are received by the recipient. Emails move automatically to the Sent folder so that you can keep track of your outgoing messages for further reference.

Outbox vs. Sent: Comparison Chart


Summary of  Outbox and Sent

Both the terms Outbox and Sent are often used synonymously in the messaging system to describe the messages in the send process, but the difference lies in the status. While Outbox refers to the messages that are in the sending process until they are being successfully sent whereas Sent refers to the area where the messages that are successfully sent and received by the recipient are stored. Outbox is simply a temporary holding area where all the pending messages are stored for you to review or modify before they are finally received by the recipient. Messages or mails move automatically to the Sent folder after they are successfully delivered and reached their destination address.

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References :

[0]Berger, Sandy. Sandy Berger's Great Age Guide to the Internet. Seattle: Que Publishing, 2005. Print

[1]Page, Alison and Tristram Shepard. Information and Communication Technology.Cheltenham, UK: Nelson Thornes, 1999. Print

[2]McBride, P.K. Communicating with Email and the Internet. Abingdon: Routledge, 2007. Print

[3]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/criminalintent/152443312

[4]Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/chadarizona/4111850808

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