Terminology surrounding email programs is rife with postal allusions, although many people don’t realize that Eudora the email program is named in honor of American writer Eudora Welty, specifically because of her short story "Why I Live at the P.O." I hear quite a bit about postal service, since my father is a rural mail carrier in upstate New York, and it occurred to me that Eudora Pro has a bit in common with the United States Postal Service: both handle vast quantities of mail, emphasize efficiency over appearance, and do the job day in and day out.
Matt Neuburg wrote about Eudora Pro 4.0 in TidBITS-424; with its just-released Eudora Pro 4.2, Qualcomm continues to deliver with Eudora, adding more significant features than the small version number increase from 4.0.2 would indicate. Even better, the upgrade is free for users of Eudora Pro 4.0; Qualcomm has posted a free updater for the English version on their Web site. You can update only a copy of Eudora Pro 4.0.x – the updater won’t work on earlier versions of Eudora Pro or on the public betas. New copies of Eudora Pro 4.2 should be available within a few weeks; until then, only existing Eudora Pro 4.0 users can take advantage of the new features.
After releasing a free 4.2 updater recently, Qualcomm discovered a crashing bug and quickly released another free updater that takes either Eudora Pro 4.0.x or an already-updated Eudora Pro 4.2 to 4.2.1. If you updated to 4.2 but not 4.2.1, we recommend you pick up the 4.2.1 updater.
Please keep in mind that I’m in no way unbiased with regard to Eudora. I’ve probably logged more time in Eudora than in any other program; I’ve written a book about Eudora (Eudora for Windows and Macintosh: Visual QuickStart Guide, from Peachpit Press) and am in the process of updating it for Eudora Pro 4.2. I’ve used every private alpha and beta release of the last few versions, and I have over 400 MB of archived mail that I access within Eudora. In short, Eudora is totally integral to the way I use my Mac.
For space reasons, this article covers two of Eudora Pro 4.2’s top new features: a welcome redesign of Eudora’s search capability and in-line spell-checking, a surprise must-have tool. Next week I’ll discuss other new capabilities, such as multiple-pane message displays, support for Apple’s speech facilities, and a slew of tweaky ways to improve your everyday Eudora use.
Search, and Ye Shall Find — The most embarrassing feature in previous versions of Eudora was its search capability. Although undeniably fast, it lacked both a comprehensible interface and a coherent list of results. Forget everything you knew or believed about the old method, since Eudora Pro 4.2 offers a top-notch search feature. Eudora still distinguishes between Search, which searches across messages, and Find, which finds text within the current message or mailbox window. Find also works in most other Eudora windows, including the Address Book and Filters window, where I use it frequently.
The new Search window in Eudora Pro 4.2 is divided into two panes. In the upper pane, you define search criteria, using a pair of menus and a text entry field. The first menu lets you choose what or where to search, including: Anywhere, Headers, Body, Attachment Name(s), Summary, Status, Priority, Attachment Count, Label, Date, Size (K), Age, Personality, To, From, Subject, Cc, Bcc, and Any Recipient. The second menu defines the scope of the search, providing the following options: contains, contains word, does not contain, is, is not, starts with, ends with, and matches regexp. This last item means "matches a regular expression," which lets you search for patterns of text. A More button in the upper pane adds additional sets of menus (up to 16) to further refine your search. Once you define multiple search lines, you have the option of requiring matches to hit all of your search criteria or any of them.
The lower pane of the Search window offers two tabs, Mailboxes and Results. In the Mailboxes tab, you select which mailboxes you want to search, and once the search has started, Eudora automatically switches to the Results tab to display the found items.
Searching is easy – choose the appropriate search criteria from the menus, enter your search terms, select the mailboxes you want to search, and click Search. Searching is extremely fast, but true to form, Eudora offers a number of tricks to make the process even faster.
If you’re reading mail in a mailbox when you bring up the Search window, Eudora automatically selects that mailbox in the Mailboxes pane.
In the Miscellaneous settings panel, you can choose whether Find or Search should be Command-F; the other becomes Command-Option-F. I do more searches than finds, so I prefer setting Search to Command-F.
If you hold down Shift when choosing either Find or Search from the hierarchical Find menu in the Special menu, Eudora automatically enters the selected text in the search terms field. One minor bug that should be fixed soon: the keyboard shortcuts Command-Shift-F and Command-Shift-Option-F are currently identical and work only with the command you’ve mapped to Command-F.
The Results tab of the Search window is a joy to use for long-time Eudora users. Search results behave much like a mailbox, complete with sortable columns (including one for Mailbox, so you can see where items were found), support for Eudora’s famed Option-click feature which selects similar items, and even Eudora’s new preview pane (more on that next week). You can work with results in a Search window exactly like you’d work with messages in any other mailbox window. You can even narrow a search by clicking a "Search results" checkbox that appears in the upper pane after completing a search; when it’s checked, the next search searches only the contents of the Search window. Search windows are also regular windows, so you can open several and perform different searches in each.
One little-known feature is that you can save Search windows with Save As; afterwards they appear in the hierarchical Find menu. Qualcomm chose to hide this feature for the moment because you can’t delete or rename saved searches from within Eudora yet. If you look in your Eudora Folder after saving a search, though, you’ll see a Search Folder containing files for each saved search that you can delete or rename. Perhaps this foreshadows a future feature that would let you maintain constantly updating search windows as a way of organizing messages outside of your normal mailbox and folder structure. For instance, I could have a "Mac Java Search" window that collected all messages talking about Java on the Mac, no matter where I might have filed them.
The main capability that Eudora’s new search lacks is support for the Mac OS’s new Find By Content capabilities, which is the killer feature in CTM Development’s PowerMail. Although Eudora provides more than enough control to find anything you can identify, if you just can’t think of the appropriate search terms, you’re out of luck, whereas an indexed Find By Content search could find messages about the concepts you describe and give an indication how relevant the match might be. I’m sure Eudora will support Find By Content searching eventually; I suspect Qualcomm wanted to leave something to do for 5.0.
Another indication of why this is 4.2 and not 5.0 is that there are essentially no changes to Eudora’s filter interface or directory services interface. Filters in particular would benefit from the capabilities enjoyed by the new Search function, and it might make sense to build directory services into either the Search window or the Address Book window, or even both.
Inline Spelling Skates — Another killer feature added to Eudora Pro 4.2 is an inline spelling checker, which underlines misspelled words in a fashion similar to that seen in Microsoft Word. Eudora has long supported the Word Services suite of Apple events, and it shipped with the Spellswell spelling checker from Working Software. But, to be blunt, running a traditional batch spell check on every piece of email you send is way too much work. Some people have avoided the issue entirely by relying on a system-wide spelling checker like Casady & Greene’s just-updated SpellCatcher or Newer Technology’s free SpellTools, but they help primarily with text you type, as opposed to text you may be editing. Since I know how to spell almost every word I use, and I type fairly accurately, I’ve never worried much about the few spelling mistakes that creep into my email. Now, however, I’m utterly addicted to Eudora’s inline spelling checker.
Remember that I moderate TidBITS Talk, which involves redirecting messages to the list. Whenever I redirect a message, Eudora promptly spell checks it, marking the misspelled words in red with underline style (yes, you can change the color and style if you like – details next week). All I have to do is Control-click offending words, choose the correct words from the contextual menu, and the message is spelled correctly. Being the retentive editor-type that I am, I spell-check (and do basic editing on) every message that goes to TidBITS Talk.
You can edit Eudora’s User Dictionary and User Anti-Dictionary (which contains properly spelled words you want marked as wrong, for whatever reason) with any text editor since they’re just text files. In fact, you can even add any text file containing words, one per line, to the Spelling Dictionaries folder located in Eudora Pro 4.2’s Eudora Stuff folder, and Eudora will recognize it as a user dictionary.
Looking at Converting? As I noted above, Eudora Pro 4.2 is available only as an 3.9 MB updater right now. The full commercial product should be available for $39 shortly, at which point we’ll look at some of the issues surrounding the decision to switch from a previous version of Eudora or another email client. For now, though, I strongly encourage Eudora Pro 4.0 users to take advantage of the free updater because the new features are well worth the minimal effort. And tune in next week for more on Eudora Pro 4.2’s new features.