General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionSolo Newsletter

Test Drive Some E-mail Programs

by jennifer j. rose

E-mail programs are like cars. Whether you drive a FordEscort or an Eldorado touring coupe to the courthouse boils downto a matter of style, priorities, and preference.

Enhanced E-mail Programs: Go the Extra Mile

  • E-mail formatting. Your e-mail will look more stylish andbe easier to read if you're able to use bold text, italics, andcolors.
  • Multiple signatures. While your standard signature mayread "Respected Attorney, an operator is standing by to take yourorder," you may prefer to use a closing that's a little morepersonal when writing to a lover or List Serve.
  • Immediate notification of incoming mail. An alert can beset to warn you when a message is coming in from your kid incollege.
  • Integrated e-mail. When a URL (Uniform Resource Locator;otherwise known as a Website address) appears in a message, youcan click on it and reach your destination a lot quicker andeasier than writing the URL down on a scrap of paper or copyingand pasting.
  • Preformatted response. With an autoresponder, you can fireoff a canned message, something along the lines of "Make anappointment and hire me if you want real legal advice," insteadof going through the old cut and paste routine.
  • Mail filtering. Messages containing a certain key word canautomatically be directed to a file. All of that mail emanatingfrom the IRS can be quickly consolidated for reading at a laterdate.
When you sign on with an Internet Service Provider (ISP),nearly all provide you with a complimentary copy of Eudora Light.Eudora Light is the Volkswagen of e-mail programs. Trusty,clunky, small, and inexpensive, this free, no-frills programdelivers. You can download it from the Eudora Website(http://www.eudora.com). Even after you've graduated into chrome-plated supercharged e-mail programs, keep this one around.

The Eudora Pro series is more sophisticated but retains muchof its predecessor's simplicity. It includes spell check,multiple signatures, message filtering, preformatted responses,multiple account support, web browser integration, and technicalsupport. Empowered by EMSAPI (Extended Messaging ServicesApplication Programming), it will accept plug-ins--those add-onoptions you'll soon consider among life's necessities. You canpurchase it online with electronic delivery, by mail, or througha reseller. The suggested retail price is $69-$89, and the streetprice is about $50. The latest version, 3.0, is in Beta and isslated for delivery during October. Rank this one a Chevrolet.

Netscape 2 brought along its own mail program, and for manyof us, this first no-cost step toward integrated e-mail taught usvery well the benefits of Netscape's suite, even if certainbenefits of Eudora Light's ability to "print out before sending"were lost. Netscape 3.0 now has stabilized, and although it ismore feature-rich than its ancestors, as a mail program it stillhas its limitations. Even though Netscape expects its users topay about $50 for the program, it'll still let you use it asshareware. Check out the Website (http://home.netscape.com). Thisone's a Ford.

Not to be outdone, Microsoft's new Internet Mail and News,in version 3.0, is not only free but as sophisticated as EudoraPro. Although its earlier versions were anemic in comparison toEudora Light, the new release performs and is well-supported. You can download it off of the Internet(http://www.microsoft.com/ie/download). The biggest drawback isthat it's only available for Windows 95 and NT, and it's twice aslarge as Netscape Navigator. This one's a Buick Roadmaster.

The most impressive mail program in the neighborhood isPegasus. Developed in New Zealand for Novell, this high-octane,flashy but quirky freeware should be categorized at the Jaguar ofe-mail clients--or perhaps the progeny of Eudora, Netscape, andMicrosoft on steroids and methamphetamine. If you have the time,persistence, and inclination to spend a week studying it, it's abeautiful program. Its only shortcomings seem to be a spell checknot geared to American English, some difficulty transferring mailin and out of folders, and jumping to links. I've becomedistraught when it freezes up in Windows 95, but Windows 3.xusers have reported few problems. Everyone should take a spin inthis program at least once (http://www.pegasus.usa.com orhttp://www.pmail.usa.com orhttp://www.pipex.net/people/chuck/pegasus).

Selecting an e-mail program is a lot like love. Some folkswill always dance with the one who brought 'em; others can'tresist the allure of suave and daring new programs. If EudoraLight was your first mailer, then it may always have a warm placein your heart. If Netscape's browser was your first, you mayflirt with Microsoft but return to Netscape's suite.

Size is important. Smaller means a faster download, lighterdisk requirements, and a simpler life. If you've got disk driveto spare, play the field and test drive several programs. Everyproduct can do something well. It's a matter of determining whatyour needs are.

If you're new to e-mail, stick with the most basic mailprogram for a few months. There's no need to rush in at breakneckspeed. Take your time and learn the essential elements of e-mail. When you're ready, advance to one of the more feature-richversions.

jennifer j. rose is a solo practitioner in Shenandoah, Iowa.

From Solo, Fall 1996, ABA General Practice, Solo and Small FirmSection. Copyright 1996 American Bar Association.

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