Hack 64. Fire Outlook and Outlook Express
Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft doesn't make the only two email programs on the planet. Eudora, Thunderbird, and Pegasus are great, free alternatives.
Strange, but true: before Outlook and Outlook Express, there was email software. I know this because I used it all the time. That email software is still around, and some believe it is superior to Outlook and Outlook Express in some ways. While many alternative email programs are out there, two of my favorites, Eudora and Pegasus, have both been around a very long time. And Thunderbird is an open source alternative that's been developed in concert with the great Firefox browser [Hack #43] . While all of them have some drawbacks, they each have enough unique features that they might make you want to throw away Outlook and Outlook Express.
6.7.1. Check Your Mood with Eudora
Once upon a time, Eudora ruled the roost. In the pre-Outlook and pre-Outlook Express days, you'd find it on the desktops of power users everywhere. Although it's not nearly as popular today, it has its fans, and with good reason, because it has some unique features you won't find in any other email software.
Foremost is one of the all-time great features in an email program, a feature that will be welcomed gladly by anyone who has ever blasted out a red-hot email in a fit of anger. As you type, Eudora's MoodWatch feature analyzes your messages for their degree of aggressiveness and rates them on a scale of one ice cube all the way up to three chili peppers. You see the rating as you write and you get a warning before sending the message if it might be offensive.
Another goody is the ability to share files on a peer-to-peer basis with other Eudora users, through the Eudora Sharing Protocol (ESP). You define groups of people with whom you want to share files, and they're the only ones who can access those files. In turn, you can share files with people who give you access to files on their computers. The New ESP Share Group Wizard walks you through setting up a share group. Choose Tools ESP Groups New, click "Create a brand new share group," and then click Next.
You can customize many features of this tool, including the ability to set up a new mailbox just for users in this group so that the messages from users in your new group will be filtered automatically into the appropriate mailbox. The wizard prompts you for this and other options, including share group name, share group description, transfer to new or existing mailbox, share group folder (choose where the files to be shared with the group will live), and even the choice of which Eudora personalitydominant or otherwiseshould be associated with the file share group.
You can also set all Eudora preferences for each file share group (right-click the group's name and choose Options) and set filtering options for messages from the file share group with the ESP Settings button. You can specify each user's role within the group (can they send updates, only receive updates, or both?). Once you've set your preferences, you can share files across machines and collaborate on any sort of document (see Figure 6-18).It's pretty amazing, and might even convince non-Eudora users to make the switch.
Figure 6-18. Sharing files with others in your invited group
Also included is a way to send voice messages via email, as well as very powerful filtering and searching capabilities. If you're a statistics hound, you'll find a usage stats area (Tools Statistics) that analyzes and displays statistics, such as how much time you've spent using the program and the time of day you send and receive the most messages. Email addicts will love it (see Figure 6-19).
Figure 6-19. Email usage statistics
An ad-supported version of Eudora is available for free from http://www.eudora.com. If you want to do away with the ads, you can either pay $49.95 or switch to the "light" version, which lacks some of the program's features.
6.7.2. Move Forward to the Past with Pegasus
If you're a longtime computer user, Pegasus might remind you of your youth, when there were no common interface standards and a program reflected the personality of individual programmers rather than focus groups and user interface whizzes. In part, that's because this program was first released in 1990, in the days of Windows 3.0. Its eccentric layout and tiny icons will whisk you back in the Wayback Machine to those days gone by.
That is this program's strength and its weakness. Good luck trying to figure out this program when you first install it; it's bristling with often-undecipherable icons. Even the tool tips that appear when you hold your mouse cursor over these icons don't necessarily help. For example, can anyone explain to me what "Open a list of local people on your system" means?
However, the strength is that these eccentricities carry over into the list of the program's features, and it's a very powerful program. The way in which it handles rules for how to automatically process incoming messages is extremely sophisticated. For example, you can use it to create a set of rules that will let you automatically allow people to subscribe to listserv email discussion groups that you run using Pegasus.
Its message-viewing capabilities are also exceptional. You can choose a view that lets you quickly switch between displaying an HTML message either as plain text or as full-blown HTML, and in the "Raw view" you can see the entire message, including all the header information showing you the path the email took to reach you.
Some decidedly odd features also are buried deep in this program. For example, one feature lets you send an email that includes preformatted text telling someone he's received a phone call. Somehow, I don't think that one came out of a focus group.
Pegasus is free and available from http://www.pmail.com. If you want manuals and support, you can pay $29.95.
6.7.3. Use Open Source Thunderbird
Thunderbird (shown in Figure 6-20) is a remarkably powerful program, particularly because it's free. It's open source software and is being developed by Mozilla.org, which also develops the Firefox and Mozilla browsers.
Figure 6-20. The Thunderbird email client
You'll find just about everything you want in an email program here: a spam killer, the ability to get and read RSS feeds, the ability to read newsgroups, the ability to handle multiple email accounts, excellent search tools, very good filters that make it easy to find the email you want fastthere's lots more here as well. For example, it also includes built-in encryption for more secure emails. Particularly useful is the ability to group mail in your folders by several criteria, including date, priority, sender, recipient, status, subject, or label.
When you install it, it will import your messages and contacts from other email programs, including Outlook, Outlook Express, Netscape Mail, and Eudora. If you've got a lot of mail, this can take some time.
Like Firefox, Thunderbird can use extensions, free add-ins that give it extra features. Some extensions, for example, let you use mouse gestures to open, close, and send email, as well as accomplish other tasks; you hold down the right mouse button and move your mouse in a certain way, and it accomplishes the task. Other add-ins let you read RSS feeds, control your music player, and more.
It's free; get it at http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird.
6.7.4. See Also