If you've had it with Microsoft's software, one of these five independent packages may suit your needs. Five writers advocate for their favorites.
If I say the word "e-mail" to you, chances are that one of the first (if not the first) words that will pop into your head will be Outlook. Because Outlook Express has historically shipped along with Windows, and because the Outlook personal information manager is an indelible part of Microsoft Office, they seem to be on almost everyone's desktop. The only other e-mail applications that even approach the same public awareness levels are Lotus Notes (for business users), and America Online (for consumers). However, for many users, these are not viable alternatives -- the former is an expensive and highly complex enterprise messaging system, and the latter is...well...AOL.
If you're the type of person who wants to be able to choose an e-mail package that's easier, or more configurable, or less expensive, or simply not Microsoft, take heart. There are a number of other options out there.
The Basics And Beyond
You'll find that nearly all e-mail packages offer the same basic functionality. They allow you to collect and send IMAP and POP3 e-mail, organize your e-mail into folders, search your existing e-mail, and maintain a contact list.
Get past the first layer, though, and you start to see differences in available features, ease of use, and even what kind of user the application is appealing to. For example, Mozilla's Thunderbird starts with a very basic e-mail application and encourages its users to add features via extensions and themes. Poco Systems' PocoMail, on the other hand, encourages individuals to use its PocoScript scripting language to do their own tweaks. Qualcomm's Eudora offers the chance to organize and individualize your e-mail accounts through the use of "personalities," while Pegasus Mail provides advanced sorting capabilities and RIT Labs' The Bat! gives power users the ability to thoroughly automate their workday.
To help you choose, we've found five writers who are currently using (or have recently used) an alternative e-mail package. We've asked them to explain why they chose their favored app, what it is about the software that first attracted them, and why they are sticking with it (or why they finally left it for a better, or shinier, application).
E-mail has become one of the primary ways we communicate with each other today, so it's vital that you have an e-mail application that does what you want it to do. Read through our writers' descriptions of their favorites, and see if any of them convince you to switch. --Barbara Krasnoff
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