The killer application for Mac users isn’t Safari. It’s not a browser. It’s not Photoshop. It’s email. Email is what more users use more of than any other application.
We may browse the web longer, but email is more critical for most users. Here’s a look at the absolute best email program on earth.
First, let me say that a few of you may disagree with my conclusion, but hear me out. Email, like browsing, is a near intimate experience for most Mac users (Windows users, too). Reliability and dependability are givens. Dealing with email quickly is important. Storing it may be a requirement.
No one likes an email program that freezes from time to time. That creates this “feeling” that something valuable might get damaged or lost.
Second, while we may browse for longer periods, most would agree that email is critical; certainly in business. For Windows users, email has a number of mixed emotions. Fear and anger come to mind when you think of all the viruses that get spread via Windows various email programs.
Mac users have it much easier than Windows users when it comes to email programs and virus spreading. Spam? We all get it.
Apple bundles a very good email application in Mac OS X. It comes free with every Mac. Apple’s Mail is a very good email application. It’s matured in recent years, has a number of good features, is multi-account friendly, and, for the most part works OK.
Mail, though, is NOT the best email application.
To be sure, there’s other email programs, too. Mailsmith from BareBones will set you back about $100. It’s good, but, I’m being nice, it’s for a specialized niche of users, just like BBedit (the text editor).
For a platform that was supposedly on life support just five or six years ago, there’s plenty of email applications to go around. Some, like Apple’s Mail, are quite good. Others, like those bundled in Mozilla and Netscape, are commendable if clunky. Mozilla’s Thunderbird is full featured and popular and cross platform. They’re all free.
They’re not at the top of the list, though.
Before moving on, maybe I should list what most of us look for in a good email application. The list will be incomplete and subjective. Deal with it for now.
Dependability – it’s gotta work and work all the time
Backup – it needs an easy way to back up and restore all email messages
Friendly – while many features are good, basics should be easy to use
Migration – pulling email messages from other programs should be simple
HTML – most of us need the ability to send and receive HTML formatted pages
Accounts – it’s a fact of life that most of us need multiple email accounts
Address Book – we have to store email addresses
Contact Info – we also need to store more than just email addresses
Synchronization – sync with laptop, company, info, PDAs, etc.
Windows Friendly – needs to be able to send attachments to Windows
You get the idea. That list could go on and on but it’s basic, like “auto typing” of addresses and phrases. Apple’s Mail will do most of the above and much more.
One item on everyone’s list these days is integrated Spam Control. The major email apps have it. Many others do not. I consider it critical. With multiple email accounts the spam seems to flow freely these days. Controlling it, managing it, keeping it at arms length is a challenge. I want my email program to help, not hinder.
So, what’s it gonna be? What’s the best email program on the planet? Mac or Windows? Hold your breath. Now, hold your nose. Get ready…
It’s Microsoft’s Entourage; part of Microsoft Office 2004.
When I first reviewed Entourage over a year ago, feature for feature, element for element, no other email application (Mac or Windows) came close. The Mac Business Unit at Microsoft did their homework with Entourage. The previous version, including in Microsoft Office, was very good.
Now, with Tiger’s Mail improvements, there’s more competition. The 2004 version of Entourage is still better. More features, more capability, yet the interface is Mac friendly and worthy of consideration; especially if email is the center of your business life.
Features abound, of course. It’s Microsoft, right? If you’ve never used Entourage, it’s worth a try. And the tryout from Microsoft is Free. Click Here, then download the full use Entourage demo.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not a Microsoft apologist. I don’t like Microsoft and I don’t like Windows. I’ve loved Macs since forever. I’ve had more Macs than Monica had of Bill. I’ve got multiple Macs right now (and waiting for new Intel-based Macs). Mac applications are usually best of breed. Apple’s Mail is very good, and I use it regularly.
Microsoft Entourage is better; the best. Despite the fact that it’s from the “Dark Side” it’s from the side of the Dark Side that has a better understanding of the Mac Experience than most; Adobe, Macromedia, Apple and others notwithstanding.
All that being said, what do you get with Entourage that you don’t get with Apple’s Mail or Netscape or Mozilla Thunderbird or a bucket of others? What’s missing from Entourage that’s available elsewhere? Answer? Plenty and not much (but some things) at the same time.
First, Windows connectivity to Exchange server (most of the time) could still be improved. That’s connectivity in Entourage is a plus for the business world. We may not like it, but dealing with Microsoft is a requirement for most business folks.
I know. I feel your pain.
Second, Project Center. There’s nothing quite like this anywhere, Mac or Windows. For some, it’ll be the reason to go with Microsoft Office vs. AppleWorks vs. Office Killer X (or whatever Office killer application suite Apple has up its collective sleeve).
Project Center lets a user quickly view all documents, contacts, messages, notes related to any single project; all in one location. Project Center also integrates with the other office apps; Word, Excel, PowerPoint.
Finally, Integration. All the pieces of Entourage 2004 work well together. Accounts. Signatures (better handling than Apple mail). Contacts. Email addresses. Entourage really is a “center” for communicating via email. It even plays well with Palm’s PDA.
From what I can tell (and I get about 300 spam messages a day) it works as well or better than Apple’s Mail spam solution, which, strangely, works well for awhile then gets lazy. Spam protection in Entourage seems steady day after day.
The best solution I’ve come up with for spam control is simple filters. Both Entourage and Mail do filters quite well. All incoming email is filtered agains my Address Book and sent-mail list. If your incoming email message to me finds a match in Address Book, your message gets through. Likewise if I’ve already sent a message to you.
Otherwise, every email message goes into junk mail. Voila! No junk email in the InBox. It’s all in the junk mail box. Of course, the downside is that I have to look through junk mail to find some good email messages.
Feature for feature, point for point, Entourage 2004 is a great application, and the best email solution on the planet.
It’s not perfect, though. I found a few things that hurt the top ranking. Entourage doesn’t sync well with Mac OS X’s iSync application without a third party application to do the heavy lifting. That’s a shame. iSync is a sleeping beauty.
As email goes, Entourage is great. But it’s better with the entire Microsoft Office 2004 package. That means it costs big money compared to everything else out there. There is a version available that’s bundled with just Word. And there’s a student-teacher version, too. You’ll save hundreds but you’ll spend more than on any other application or suite.
Cost and iSync incompatibility notwithstanding, Entourage stands at the top; Mac experience, features, integration, capability. It’s a long list. Microsoft finally did something very well for Mac users.
Of course, we have to pay for it. That’s the Microsoft way, right?
What do you think? Are you a Microsoft user? Do you prefer Apple’s Mail? Do you use something else? Why? What do you use? Click on Comments below to leave your thoughts for all our readers, or Click Here to leave Feedback.
For a look at browsers for the Mac, Click Here.