Contrary to popular belief, Microsoft doesn't make the only two email programs on the planet. Eudora and Pegasus are great, free alternatives.
Strange, but true: before Outlook and Outlook Express, there was email software. I know it, because I used it all the time. That email software is still around, and some believe it is superior to Outlook and Outlook Express in some ways. While there are many alternative email programs out there, my two favorites, Eudora and Pegasus, have both been around a very long time. While both have some drawbacks, they each have enough unique features that they may make you want to throw away Outlook and Outlook Express.
Once upon a time, Eudora ruled the roost. In the pre-Outlook and pre-Outlook Express days, you'd find it on the desktops of power users everywhere. Although it's not nearly as popular today, it has its fans, and with good reason, because it has some unique features you won't find in any other email software.
Foremost is one of the all-time great features in an email program, a feature that will be welcomed gladly by anyone who has ever blasted out a red-hot email in a fit of anger. As you type, MoodWatch analyzes your messages for their degree of aggressiveness and rates them on a scale of ice cube all the way up to three chili peppers. You see the rating as you write and you get a warning before sending the message if it might be offensive.
Another goody is the ability to share files on a peer-to-peer basis with other Eudora users, through the Eudora Sharing Protocol (ESP). You define groups of people with whom you want to share files, and they're the only ones who can access those files. In turn, you can can share files with people who give you access to files on their computers. The New ESP Share Group Wizard walks you through setting up a share group. Choose Tools ESP Groups New... "Create a brand new share group" Next. You can customize many features of this tool, including the ability to set up a new mailbox just for users in this group, so that the messages from users in your new group will be filtered automatically into the appropriate mailbox. The wizard prompts you for this and other options, including share group name, share group description, transfer to new or existing mailbox, share group folder (choose where the files to be shared with the group will live), and even the choice of which Eudora personality?Dominant or otherwise?should be associated with the file share group. You can also set all Eudora preferences for each file share group (right-click on the group's name and choose Options) and set filtering options for messages from the file share group (should messages go through the normal filters or not?) with the ESP Settings button. For each user, you can specify their role within the group (can they send updates, only receive updates, or both?). Then, you can share files across machines and collaborate on any sort of document. It's pretty amazing and might even convince non-Eudora users to make the switch (see Figure 6-8).
Also included is a way to send voice messages via email, and very powerful filtering and searching. If you're a statistics hound, you'll find a usage stats area (Tools Statistics) that analyzes that displays statistics, such as how much time you've spent using the program and the time of day you send and receive the most messages. Email addicts will love it (see Figure 6-9).
An ad-supported version of Eudora is available for free from http://www.eudora.com. If you want to do away with the ads, you can either pay $49.95 or switch to the "light" version, which lacks some of the program's features.
If you're a longtime computer user, Pegasus may remind you of your youth, when there were no common interface standards and a program reflected the personality of individual programmers rather than focus groups and user interface whizzes. In part, that's because this program was first released in 1990, in the days of Windows 3.0. Its eccentric layout and tiny icons will whisk you back in the Wayback Machine to those days gone by.
That is this program's strength and its weakness. Good luck trying to figure out this program when you first install it; it's bristling with often-undecipherable icons. Even the tooltips that appear when you hold your mouse over these icons don't necessarily help. For example, can anyone explain to me what "Open a list of local people on your system" means?
However, the strength is that these eccentricities carry over into the list of the program's features, and it's a very powerful program. The ways it handles rules for how to automatically process incoming messages are extremely sophisticated. For example, you can to use it to create a set of rules that would allow you to automatically allow people to subscribe to listserv email discussion groups that you run using Pegasus.
Its message-viewing capabilities are also exceptional. You can choose a view that lets you quickly switch between displaying an HTML message either as plain text or as full-blown HTML, and in the "Raw view" you can see the entire message, including all the header information showing you the path the email took to reach you.
There are also some decidedly odd features buried deep in this program. For example, one feature lets you send an email that includes preformatted text telling someone they've received a phone call. Somehow, I don't think that one came out of a focus group.
Pegasus is free and available from http://www.pmail.com. If you want manuals and support, you can pay $29.95.
If you decide to stick with Outlook but want a way to improve it, try Nelson's Email Organizer (http://www.caelo.com). It offers ways to manage your email overload better, automatically sorts your email by putting it into a variety of easy-to-use folders, does lightning-quick searches on your mail, notifies you when new email arrives, and lets you view your email with many different views. It's shareware and free to try, but if you continue to use it, you are expected to pay $39.95.
Annotis Mail is another Outlook or Outlook Express add-in (http://www.annotis.com). It lets you embed pictures, markers, rubber stamps, sticky notes, sounds, and videos in your email using either Outlook or Outlook Express. It's shareware and free to try, but if you continue to use it, you are expected to pay $24.95.