Eudora Pro 5.1, by Qualcomm
Posted: 7-Oct-2002

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice

Vendor: Qualcomm Type: COMMERCIAL

Reviewer: Peter MacGregor Class: INTERNET

Since Eudora's initial conception by programmer Steve Dorner, it has been the e-mail application with the odd name and solid reputation, overshadowed by the market dominance/popularity of the more aggressive Microsoft Outlook and Outlook Express. Eudora deserves a second look as the application that tries harder and seeks to please by presenting the user with a unique variety of capabilities.

Flexibility has always been the hallmark of Eudora's presentation, available as the less capable but free version, Eudora Lite, or the fully-charged version, Eudora Pro. Now Eudora reaffirms its "can-do" identity with a third choice. This Eudora configuration addresses the cost-versus-capability issue with a classic solution: advertising. Eudora now includes a fully-featured free version that displays advertisements within the application. Of course you can still pay for the fully-featured ad-free version or settle for the feature-shy "Light" version.

Eudora's owner for the past decade, Qualcomm, refers to these configuration choices as "operating modes":

  • Paid mode provides the full-featured Eudora desktop email client.
  • Sponsored mode provides the full-featured Eudora desktop email client at no charge, supported by sponsors' advertising.
  • Light mode is an upgrade to the freeware version formerly known as Eudora Light, and includes fewer features than the other modes as well as a sponsor image or logo, but no advertising.

All of these modes are contained within a single download file, which is nifty. In fact, one way of looking at the "Sponsored" mode is as a fully functional demo that never expires. This marketing approach is essentially the same route that's being taken by some other enlightened development teams, like the Opera browser team, but the jury remains out on just how well it will work. The question is whether the ads will irritate you enough to pay for having them removed by moving up to the "Paid" mode, and whether you mind being "profiled" by these same advertisers in the "Sponsored" mode if you don't.

The current version of the fully-featured Eudora 5.1.1 ("Pro") boasts a number of new capabilities as well as significant improvements to features that appeared in the 5.0 version. The first of these is the addition of Secure Sockets Layer, a transport security protocol. SSL can be used to authenticate the server and to encrypt mail transfers so your mail cannot be read while it's being sent to or received from your mail server (assuming that it supports SSL). SSL options are set in Eudora using the following settings dialog:


Secure Sockets Layer Settings


Introduced in Eudora 5.0, Qualcomm has substantially improved the usefulness of MoodWatch, a feature for monitoring potentially offensive content and purposefully delaying the transmission of such messages in the hopes that one might "think twice" before committing to send. Calling it an "emotional monitor", Qualcomm provides a concise overview of MoodWatch on
their web site, including a link to a white paper by David Kaufer of Carnegie Mellon University, who has studied and categorized the use of offensive, aggressive, insulting, etc., words and phrases. Messages classified as "OK" or "cool" by MoodWatch are represented with an ice cube, while suspect missives are characterized with one to three chili peppers, according to whether they are deemed hot, hotter, or hottest.

Proponents of MoodWatch call it friendly, intelligent, and fun, while critics call it a form of intrusive nag and free-speech-robbing "censorware". The good news for critics is that you can turn it off if you don't like it. Improvements to MoodWatch include an extensive set of settings shown below, and the "flagging" of suspect word(s) and/or phrase(s) in boldface red within the message.

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Mood Watch Settings dialog

Perhaps anticipating future criticism, Kaufer himself states in Flaming: A White Paper (June 2000 ) that "People should have their language watched only because they want it watched and feel they can benefit from the scrutiny." And as the dialog box above shows, MoodWatch is purely optional and need never be used.

Qualcomm themselves point out that MoodWatch is not a "replacement for common sense" and, in fact, can be fooled. Naturally, this was a difficult feature to test since I didn't want to send myself (or someone else for that matter) any really nasty messages . Here are some examples of MoodWatch in action:

When the title of a published book, "How to **** in the Woods", is inserted into an outgoing email, it gets lit up and in this case ranks the email a full 3 "chilis" alert (you'll have to use your imagination, as this review is also being censored). Consider the following text as another example:

Naturally, I was half way through assembling my son's new bike rack when I found out that they hadn't provided enough screws. So I was missing that one last screw you know what I mean?

In the above example, MoodWatch signals a potentially offensive phrase (but strangely does not actually characterize the email with any chilis). Once the grammar mistake is corrected with a judiciously-placed comma, the potentially offensive phrase is transformed and the red highlighting from MoodWatch disappears:

Naturally, I was half way through assembling my son's new bike rack when I found out that they hadn't provided enough screws. So I was missing that one last screw, you know what I mean?

Oddly, messages that got rated three chilis when outbound got only two when inbound, suggesting that it's not always better to give than to receive (at least when it comes to nasty-grams).

Eudora's Address Book has been enhanced with vCards (i.e. electronic business cards) and goodies like photos, resulting in some major fun. For example, if you correspond with someone on a frequent basis, you can add their likeness (or pretty much whatever digital graphic you like) to your address book and then drag that person's nickname to the toolbar, where their likeness will now appear as a new button. When you click on that person's button, a new message window pops open with the "To:" field already filled in with their email address. In the following example, three such picture buttons have been added to Eudora's standard toolbar by using a digital photo, a scanned drawing, and a cartoon inserted between the existing buttons via drag-n-drop:


Eudora Toolbar customized to include recipient pictures

Photos and graphics having different formats, including JPEG, TIFF, PICT, BMP, GIF, and even Photoshop native (flattened) files all seemed to import with ease. One caution though; the imported graphic may look as if it has been cropped in the address book's Photos window (except for PICT format), but fear not the entire graphic will reappear when you drag that nickname onto the Toolbar.

Other major improvements include the ability to synchronize Eudora's address book with a Palm OS device, to export address book data in Comma Separated Values (CSV) format, and to view and edit signatures from within the messages you are composing.

While not new to Eudora 5.1, a unique and powerful workgroup feature called ESP (for Eudora Sharing Protocol) is worth mentioning. ESP allows file sharing within a group via a so-called common folder. In fact, this common folder is really a set of email-synched folders, stored locally on each group member's machine. The downside is that you never know who might be working on a particular file at any one time, but the upside is that it's an approach to workgroup collaboration and file distribution that is solely dependent on email (and hence inherently cross-platform). Among other things, this means that there is no need to purchase, set-up, administer, and maintain a separate shared server. Having used more sophisticated workgroup apps, I can vouch for the fact that much of their proffered high-end capability is simply overkill and unused in practice.

Also in the category of not-new-but-nice features is Eudora's ability to let you record, send, and listen to voice messages using Qualcomm's PureVoice and SmartRate technologies. Naturally, this capability is of particular interest to vision-impaired users, and there is even a web list
http://www.topica.com/lists/blindeudora/ for it.

Strictly speaking PureVoice is a separate "plug-in" app, but it is easily invoked from within a new message window and sports a nicely intuitive interface. Most importantly, the voice quality is nothing less than amazing considering the file sizes involved, and playback can be sped up or slowed down on the fly to improve intelligibility.

In terms of look and feel, those of you who remember older versions of Eudora mayfondly recall the rooster with an envelope in its beak and the snake, but in fact Eudora's inventor says he received lots of angry e-mail for his animal selections. In any event, they've been replaced by three pigs and a rabbit in a hat, as shown below:


The new Eudora mail alert graphics


As would be expected, default mailbox window and column layout is sensible but also highly customizable should you favor something different. A variety of status flags and options exist, but an alternative setting for larger symbology (along the lines of Opera's enlarged "User" versus "Document" mode) would be nice.

Last but not least, Eudora tracks your email statistics and can display them in text and graphics for messages sent, messages received, and general usage in hours as well as the percentage of time you've spent reading versus composing versus other (e.g. housekeeping). These statistics can be displayed and printed on a daily, weekly, monthly, or yearly basis. The latter include projections as shown in this example:


Statistics on Eudora Email

Eudora is not completely free of quirks. For instance, if you create a new signature with an apparent "misspelling" in it - a surname would be a common example - it will seem as if Eudora is applying and saving the font, size and style characteristics you have specified (but not the color for some reason). But saved or not, Eudora will throw away all of those characteristics once you add that surname to the spelling dictionary and so you end up with a plain text version of that signature! In this case the workaround is simple. If you take care of those supposedly misspelled words first by adding them to the dictionary then everything works fine.

Despite occasional quirks, there is strong support from Qualcomm, including Quick Start Guides and a 354-page User Manual for the Macintosh version of Eudora 5.1. There is also lots of unofficial but loyal support for Eudora on the internet as well. Andrew Starr's
Unofficial Eudora Site is a good example.

Review System

  • iBook
  • PowerPC G3 500 MHz
  • MacOS 9.1
  • 192MB

Summary
Email has become ubiquitous. Most of us deal with at least a trickle of e-mail on a daily basis, and then there are those who have to struggle just to keep their heads above water against a strong current of daily messages. And after a long weekend hiatus or a vacation, that stream can turn into flood which takes us days to sort through and regain dry land! Let's face it, dealing with email has become part of everyone's daily grind. Anything that makes this work more interesting and efficient and less of a chore is what computers are supposed to be all about.

In the past, you had to decide to pony up for the full-featured Pro version or settle for the less-capable freeware version. That dilemma is solved now that Qualcomm is offering a full-featured free version with some simple ads. There is no longer any reason not to take a dip with this Sponsored mode, and you've got nothing to lose by upgrading to the Paid mode except the ads.
Eudora set the standards for reliability and ease-of-use over a decade ago. Eudora 5.1 continues to set the standards by which other email clients will be measured. It's a solid performer, and more fun that ever!

Pros

  • Reliable and Fast (compared to Webmail accounts)
  • Good at integrating multiple, separate e-mail accounts
  • Fun Features: PureVoice, MoodWatch
  • Enhanced Address Book
  • Available for MacOS X


Cons

  • Cannot just import address books
  • Some quirks


Overall Rating:

4 1/2 out of 5 Mice