iBasics

Eudora, the Mac's Most Powerful Email Client

- 2005.12.01

In my last column we began discussing alternatives to Apple Mail. We looked at Mozilla Thunderbird, a young, powerful, and promising open-source option.

Now, do you want to take a look at the most powerful Mail replacement on the market?

It's called Eudora.

There are many ways it could be described: a 1,000-pound gorilla, an old-timer, a reliable veteran, etc. Eudora has been under development since 1988, and it's still going strong. This veteran has always offered more raw power than any other email application on the planet, and it kept improving.

Despite MS Entourage's progress, Eudora still beats them all.

Q: Is switching to Eudora worthwhile?

A: If you need advanced features for mail handling, yes.

There is one catch - you have to put up with an interface that is bitterly unfriendly in comparison with all the competition. Really.

Eudora's interface
Click image for full-sized view

Eudora has had a difficult interface since the beginning, and it barely evolved over time. Its separate windows are no fun to manage, and many of the potential customizations are only known to people who people who have been using Eudora forever and people who really take the time to get familiar with it.

For instance, you would never think that hitting the Command (or Apple) key when clicking on the main toolbar is the way to modify it, since you have learned to control-click (or right-click) on order to get the Personalize contextual menu. Or that clicking on a mailbox-looking button opens a mailbox drawer similar to Mail's.

Eudora toolbar

How can people make Eudora friendlier? There are two ways. Do I as did by being familiar with the software for the last 10 years - or spend time reading the help documents.

If you are ready to learn and don't care much about the poor interface, the beauty of Eudora is that its only limit is taking out the trash, feeding the dog, and giving a massage to the wife. I'm barely kidding.

Eudora uses its own address book, which has a very large number of fields to enter data about your contacts. It uses a time-tested system to create and modify stationery, which lets you create message templates.

Filtering is also very powerful, with perhaps the most comprehensive number of options available, from what criteria should be used to the type of email to be filtered, including outgoing messages.

How can you really use these kinds of features?

Make FilterYou could use the stationery to create a template for messages sent to, say, a client. Then the sent messages would be filtered to a specific folder instead of the regular Sent box. And when you would pull down the Special menu and select Make Filter while one of that contact's messages is selected, you would create a new mailbox with a filter that automatically contains a certain number of pre-filled criteria.

At the same time, the Mood Watch would show an ice block or peppers in your compose windows, letting you know if you are writing an aggressive email. This is useful to keep you in check when you are staying in touch with a contact on a regular basis.

That's the tip of the iceberg. Eudora can easily be compared to Microsoft Word - you will never use 100% of its power, and using half of it can accomplish great things.

Dig in the preferences window, and you will find hundreds of options that let you tailor Eudora's behavior to your liking. The software can produce detailed statistics about your email, including about the efficiency of spam filtering.

SettingsInterface customization is the perfect illustration of the philosophy behind Eudora.

Let's take toolbar changes as an example. The Command-click combination is not intuitive, but once you know about it, you can do more than with any other software. You can hit any of the menu elements (not just a small selection of buttons) to add them to the toolbar, in addition to removing buttons or moving them around.

If one specific menu element is particularly useful to you even though it doesn't appeal to the masses, you can still create a toolbar button that includes it. No need for a focus group before getting the option....

Eudora can thank its long and steady evolution for a few things. It has been hugging email standards closely forever, and its interface has been the same for a long time. For users who adopt it, the rare changes make it feel as comfortable as an old pair of socks.

The people at Qualcomm always add features, however. There was a time when Eudora didn't filter spam or support HTML.

At the same time, the software doesn't conform to things like contextual menus, simple tooltips, or pleasant Aqua interface elements.

As you can guess, I can't start making a list of all the things that can be done with Eudora because it would be very long. What you need to know is that Eudora offers you a tremendous amount of power to handle your email if you're ready to accept making sacrifices as far as user-friendliness is concerned.

If you truly learn to use it, you may refuse to use anything else afterwards.

To find out if this is the kind of beast you can tame, I strongly suggest that you download Eudora and start using it in the free "Sponsored" mode. LEM

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