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Mail Drop, the Eudora Alternative

Few people know about Mail Drop, a great freeware mail client for the Mac. Mail Drop is an IMAP email client being developed by Carl W. Bell as a Baylor University project. IMAP is a protocol for remote mailbox access, along the lines of the POP3 protocol used by Eudora. The IMAP protocol is different from POP3 though, and offers a significantly extended paradigm for remote mail retrieval. The POP3 protocol is a simple protocol with very limited options for managing mail on the server. When a POP3 client connects to a mail server, it can basically say two things: "give me all my mail" or "give me all my mail and then delete your copy". If you always read your mail using the same POP3 mail client on the same computer, this is fine, but if you have ever tried to access your mailbox from different client machines, you will be familiar with the synchronization problem that occurs.

An IMAP client, however, can request specific information about messages. With IMAP, mail is always stored on the server until you command the server to delete it. For people who check their mail from multiple computers or for access to a shared mailbox, IMAP is ideal. IMAP also enables you to transfer messages between mail boxes on the server, and save sent mail on the server. For more information about the IMAP protocol, please see:

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Mail Drop, which enables you to access an email account on an IMAP server, is intuitive and easy to use. When you use Mail Drop to connect to your mail server, instead of retrieving messages in their entirety, Mail Drop downloads selected information about each mail message (the message’s date, subject, sender, size, and whether the message has attachments) and displays it in a list. To read a particular message, double-click the message’s listing, and then (and only then) will Mail Drop download the message’s body to your Macintosh. If the message has an attachment, it will be indicated in the message’s window. You can direct Mail Drop to download the attachment, or tell Mail Drop to delete the attachment from the server. (This feature is especially handy if you receive email via a modem connection.)

Mail Drop has been steadily gaining features, and the latest beta version supports such niceties as drag & drop from an address book to recipient fields, drag & drop of files from the Finder into the attachments list, and drag & drop files between folders on the mail server. Mail Drop supports AppleDouble, AppleSingle, BinHex, and true MIME. If you receive a particularly long message, Mail Drop can only show you the first 32K of the message, but you can immediately save the entire message for reading in another program. Mail Drop is also URL-aware: if you command-click on a URL in the message’s body, Mail Drop opens the URL with the appropriate helper application.

If you are interested in Mail Drop, you can download the latest beta version from the following URL. Please note that you must have access to an IMAP mail server to use Mail Drop; though many Internet providers only provide POP3 service, some sites support both POP3 and IMAP. If you aren’t sure about your situation, check with your Internet provider or system administrator.

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