What is a Catch-All Domain ?
Catch-All is a feature of an E-mail server, that routes all E-mail messages sent to any address (at a particular domain, which is known as Catch-All Domain), to a single mailbox.
For example, if 'mycatch.com' is a catch-all domain, then any E-mail message sent to 'firstname.lastname@example.org', 'email@example.com', 'firstname.lastname@example.org', 'email@example.com' or any other address ending with '@mycatch.com' will be redirected to one E-mail box.
The redirection is done by the E-mail server and has to be configured for each catch-all domain separately.
E-mail messages sent to a catch-all domain are usually retrieved via POP3 or IMAP, by direct connection to the E-mail server, via a configured E-mail and the password.
How is it useful ?
Catch-All feature is an easy way to create unlimited E-mails out of nowhere, which may be useful to create accounts for other web-based services that require E-mail accounts. The beauty of this approach is that we do not actually need to take any steps to create these E-mails. We can just use any name in front of the catch-all domain, and that makes a brand new E-mail address.
Are there drawbacks ?
Yes, there may be.
First of all, there is a process to set up Catch-All domain. You need to register your own domain, configure E-mail server and possibly take some other steps to make things work. These steps may require certain level of technical skills, understanding of E-mail transport protocols etc.
Second, Web services may be aware of this approach and may be restricting the use of Catch-All domains in their own way. Although it is not possible to tell for sure whether certain E-mail belongs to a catch-all domain or not (without accessing the server control panel), Web services may be maintaining a list of domains that are suspected to be catch-all, and may be restricting such domains in some ways.
How to set up Catch-All Domain ?
Assuming that you already have a domain and a hosting service, you need to contact your hosting provider and ask them what steps needs to be taken to set up catch-all domain. After the set up is complete, you should have the following information:
- The name of the catch-all domain (obviously), for example 'mycatch.com'
- Protocols supported by the server to read incoming E-mail messages (POP3 or IMAP, or both) and security settings (SSL or Plain-Text)
- Address and port of the E-mail server to pick up E-mail messages (usually starts with 'mail.', like 'mail.mycatch.com')
- Username and password to log in to the server
Once you have the above, you can configure the software to use Catch-All domain, keep on reading.
How to configure Catch-All Domain in the software ?
The set-up process is very similar to adding your own E-mail managers to the software.
Provided the information about your catch-all domain that you should already have from the previous step, click on the 'E-mail' tab in the software and then select 'E-mail managers'.
- Click Plus button on the toolbar to add your domain and enter Identifier (this is the code that the software will use internally to identify your domain, the best thing is to use the name of your domain here. Identifier is assigned once and cannot be changed afterwards) and Title (any descriptive text of your choice goes here. It is not used by the software, just displays in the list for your convenience). Click OK button. You will see how your domain appeared in the list of the supported domains.
- Now you need to enter the settings for your domain. Double-click on it or click Edit button. Select the "General" item in the settings and enter the name of your domain (without @) in the "List of supported domains" box. Next, select "POP3" in the settings box and enter address/port of your POP3 server. You do not need to worry about the "Login type" box as it is not used in this case. Finally, select the "Catch-All domain", check the box "Enabled", and enter username/password to access your catch-all mailbox. Click OK button.
The domain is now configured and ready for use.
The functions in the software that support catch-all domain will allow you to use it by selecting it from the drop-down list in the advanced options. For example, when you ask the software to create accounts, select "Customize account creation settings" and one of the options will allow you to specify that a Catch-All domain should be used to create accounts. Once you select it, the software will automatically generate E-mail accounts based on the catch-all domain of your choice.
When checking mail in Catch-All domains, the software will automatically add to its database an auxiliary E-mail account that corresponds to the mailbox of your Catch-All domain. The name of this account will look like '@mycatch.com'. If you have many catch-all domains in the software, then for each Catch-All domain a separate auxiliary E-mail account will be added. All settings for such auxiliary accounts are maintained by the software automatically, and it is better not to change them. Additionally, the software marks these accounts as "disabled" so that they are not used by the software as full-featured E-mail accounts.