As I mentioned previously, there are a couple of programs that make dealing with email on the commercial online services quite a bit easier, Emailer and MailConverter.
Emailer, due to appear sometime in the middle of 1995 from Claris, is being developed by Guy Kawasaki's Fog City Software. It's a program that Guy had a strong hand in because like many people in the industry, Guy has a large number of email accounts on different services, and checking mail on each one is a royal pain. Enter Emailer, which Guy and the folks at Fog City Software designed to be your central email program. Emailer can currently connect to CompuServe and RadioMail and understands POP and SMTP for talking to Internet email accounts, and America Online and eWorld are slated for support before Emailer hits the streets. Other services, like BIX or GEnie, may also appear at a later date.
I've been testing alpha versions of Emailer for several months, and it's worked like a champ with CompuServe. After you set up a service (see figure 12.27) by choosing Services from the Setup menu and double-clicking on the service name in the list, you can enter your account and connection configuration information.
Figure 12.27: Emailer's Services CompuServe Setup window.
Because Guy recognized that just as many of us have accounts on multiple different services, we also may have multiple accounts, as I do on CompuServe with a straight CompuServe account and my main ZiffNet/Mac account, as you can see in figure 12.27.
The configuration for each service is tailored to that service, so when you configure your Internet account, you enter things like your POP account, SMTP server, and return address. In a nice touch, Emailer supports Internet Config, which ships on the disk with this book, and which holds all of these sorts of pieces of information for use by any Internet program that wants to support Internet Config.
Of course, many people travel around, and need to connect to the different services using different phone numbers. In the past, it's been a pain to reconfigure each different program, CIM, AOL, or eWorld, for the local phone numbers in the places you regularly visit; Emailer turns this task into a one-time event (see figure 12.28).
Figure 12.28: Emailer Locations configuration windows.
But Emailer's elegant design doesn't stop there. Anyone who uses a number of different services doesn't want to connect to each of them manually throughout the day. It's much more convenient to have the program connect automatically at a preset time, and in fact, CIM, AOL, and eWorld can all do this. Well, so can Emailer, and it's more flexible than the lot of them (see figure 12.29).
Figure 12.29: Emailer Schedules configuration.
All right, so we have a program that can connect to multiple services using multiple accounts in many different locations at pre-specified times. Emailer has to know how to send mail from one service to another, and as you'd expect, it relies on the Internet, which can connect to all of these different services. You can, of course, reply to CompuServe mail back through CompuServe, but if you'd rather use a cheaper connection through the Internet say, you can also set Emailer's Destinations settings to send mail back through a different service than it was received from (see figure 12.30). I especially like this feature, because I can have all my mail come in from CompuServe and go out through the Internet. In addition, if I want to send new mail to someone on CompuServe, Emailer uses this information to properly address the message so it's delivered to CompuServe via the Internet.
Figure 12.30: Emailer Destinations configuration.
I haven't even gotten to how Emailer helps you read and reply to messages, but it has one other extremely notable feature that many people would appreciate -- full filtering capabilities that can auto forward or auto reply to a message, as I've done in figure 12.31. You can set priorities, file messages, and filter on basically any piece of information in an incoming mail message. Emailer's filtering capabilities, mostly thanks to the auto forward and auto reply features are perhaps the best I've ever seen.
Figure 12.31: Emailer Mail Actions setup.
Enough of these special features. When you connect to a service, Emailer brings in all waiting mail, and sends all mail queued for that service, assuming of course that you ask it to do that since the two actions can be activated separately. Mail comes into your In Box, accessible from the Emailer Browser window, and double-clicking on a message opens it for reading (see figure 12.32).
Figure 12.32: Emailer Browser In Box and message window.
As you can see from the buttons available, almost anything you could want to do with a message is available here, including deleting it (Emailer moves it to a Deleted Mail box in the Filing Cabinet part of the Browser for later deletion), filing in a separate mailbox, printing the letter, forwarding it to another person, and replying (and Emailer quotes the selected text when you reply, a great feature). You can also move back and forth between the messages in the current mailbox, and Emailer can automatically move read messages to a Read Mail box in the Filing Cabinet if you want. If you want to see who the message was sent to, the triangle in the upper left-hand corner flips down to display that header information, and clicking on the plus button next to the sender's name adds that person to your Address Book.
Speaking of the Address Book, it's almost a work of art (see figure 12.33). You can store multiple addresses for users easily (including multiple addresses at the same service); you can create groups of users; and you can filter the list on text strings once it gets large so that it becomes easy to find people. I could go on for some time, but that would spoil the fun. Suffice it to say, that it's really easy to create new messages for people from the Address Book, and if you have it and a message open at the same time, you can drag an entry to the message from the Address Book to include that person in the message.
Figure 12.33: Emailer Address Book.
Other useful features in Emailer include search capability within saved mail, multiple mailboxes for filing mail, support for enclosures, and even support for enclosures from CompuServe to other services -- something that isn't possible any other way. Overall, Emailer is simply a very good program, and I strongly recommend that anyone who must rely on different multiple email accounts on the commercial services buy a copy when it comes out in the middle of 1995.
There are two reasons why I'm not currently using Emailer in favor of the commercial version of Eudora. First, in a design mistake, Emailer stores each message as a separate file on your hard disk (in comparison with Eudora, which stores multiple messages in a single mailbox file in Unix mailbox format). Because most messages are relatively small, they can take up a full block size on disk. For instance, the partition of my hard disk that holds email is formatted to 700 MB or so. That means that a 500 byte email message in Emailer's format takes up about 20K on disk, since that's the smallest file size possible with such a large disk. Considering how many hundreds of messages I get and send and keep each day, this inefficiency is a problem. Second, although I like Emailer's interface and I think it's well done for the most part, I've come to really like the simplicity and elegance in Eudora. That's purely a personal preference though.
Actually, one feature has yet to appear in Emailer that's been promised for the shipping version -- redirect. Eudora pioneered the redirect capability, which enables an email program to forward a message to another user without making it seem as though the message came from you. For instance, if I get a message that Tonya should deal with in Eudora, I redirect it to her rather than forwarding it. That way, when she gets the message and replies, the reply goes to the original sender, not to me. Once Emailer has a redirect feature, I plan to use it to redirect all mail from CompuServe, eWorld, and AOL straight back out to my Internet account, so they come in via Eudora and can be stored with the rest of my mail. I can't wait.
I also can't give you any details about buying Emailer because they aren't yet finalized (I suppose it's even possible that the name could change before Claris releases it). Keep your eyes out where you normally buy software -- your dealer, a mail order catalog, or an online vendor -- and I'm sure you'll see it as soon as it's available. I do believe Emailer will be inexpensive since Fog City Software has pre-sold it at user group meetings for about $30. I'd be very surprised if the final list price was more than two or three times that.
I've become fairly fond of Richard Shapiro's free MailConverter because it saves me from having to read and reply to email within America Online and eWorld. Instead, I use AOL's FlashSessions or eWorld's Automatic Courier to download the mail, then I have MailConverter convert the messages into a Eudora mailbox, where I can read and reply in a powerful and consistent environment. MailConverter also can convert a number of mail formats, including messages from LeeMail, MacEMail, cc:Mail (limited support), VMS mail (limited support), Pine, Elm, and files saved from various newsreaders, including NewsWatcher. MailConverter also will break up mail digests into individual messages. MailConverter supports drag-and-drop and is rather flexible in terms of dealing with strange headers. Until AOL and eWorld support automatic mail forwarding, I'll probably use MailConverter with them.
Although not specifically related to the Internet, CompuServe has made a gateway available for Apple's PowerTalk email technology so you can send and receive CompuServe email in the same way that you can send and receive PowerTalk email or email using any other PowerTalk gateway, such as StarNine's Internet email gateway. I don't recommend PowerTalk for more than a few messages a day, but you can get a complete set of these gateways in:
Although most decent email programs have the capability to add a signature to your messages, it's uncommon for the commercial services to support signatures. In addition, none of the commercial services make it easy to quote text from a message in a reply. Rick Holzgrafe's $10 shareware SignatureQuote FKEY is the answer to such problems -- just configure it with your signature and add your signature with a single key press. To quote text, just copy it, activate SignatureQuote, and click one of the two Quote buttons to use one of two quoting styles. I highly recommend it for use with the commercial services.
Although I cannot recommend any of them as a replacement for a full MacTCP-based Internet connection, the commercial online services provide an easy way to dip into the Internet without diving headfirst. The liability of taking the dip in favor of the dive is that you'll quickly find that in terms of Internet access, the commercial online services are extremely shallow. A number of bulletin boards have gained full Internet access in recent months as well, and I expect more to appear all the time. Because most bulletin board systems charge little or nothing for access, they can be a great way to obtain inexpensive Internet access.
Enough talking about limited access, though, let's move on to Unix shell accounts, which are as powerful as they are ugly for Macintosh users.