Apple has improved OS X’s basic applications step by step over the past few years. Safari is now a fast, stable browser with a good feature set.
Mail has improved to the point where I moved all my mail off Microsoft Entourage and decided to go with Apple’s iSync, iCal, AddressBook.
What else is there? Is it only Entourage and Mail? Is there life after Mail or Microsoft?
Taking a look at the email applications available, it would appear that email beyond Apple and Microsoft is not dead. Not yet. But one has to wonder.
Why? Email applications used to be a dime a dozen and actually cost money. These days, email is included. Mail in OS X, Entourage as part of Office for Mac.
There’s PowerMail, which continues on the tradition of Claris Emailer (a favorite). There’s venerable Eudora, still kicking after all these years.
For the techno crowd, there’s Bare Bones’ MailSmith (from the folks who bring you BBEdit).
As I scour the five pages of listings on MacUpdate (try it—just enter “email), I’m amazed at the email add-on’s, utilities, spam helpers, Widgets, remote mail checkers and more.
There’s even email applications still listed, ostensibly still available, but haven’t been updated in years (user beware).
That means that email has become very mainstream and only those email applications with a special approach or loaded with features will survive.
Fortunately, from the Open Source crowd, there’s Thunderbird. Think of T-Bird as the Firefox of free email applications. Free is the part I like best. Features is the part that gets me to use Thunderbird.
Now, why would I need more than Mail? Or more than Entourage? Mail is free and has become quite good; fast (except for IMAP), loaded with features, and integrates nice with iLife apps.
Why? We don’t live in a Mac world. It’s a Windows world and some of us have to use Windows. I asked Mac360’s sys admin to check web server logs. Readers who use Windows PCs to access Mac360’s site now account for over 30-percent of the total.
I’m forced to use Windows at work, too, so I’ve developed an admiration for Thunderbird, as it looks and feels about the same on Mac OS X as it does on Windows.
If you’re like me, you have more than one email account. I use Mail for my primary accounts, but keep mail, like my .Mac account on Thunderbird, so I can always be connected and comfortable wherever I may go, Mac or Windows.
What’s good about Thunderbird? Did I mention that it’s free?
Thunderbird handles POP, IMAP and standard SMTP protocols and includes HTML formatting of email (not even Mail does that).
All the basics are there. Import mail and accounts, RSS, search, spell check as you type. These are table stakes.
So is spam control, and Thunderbird is at least as good as Mail (your mileage may vary). Thunderbird also checks for phishing attacks (not a feature found on Mail or Entourage) which are increasing these days.
Security is always an issue, so Mozilla loaded up Thunderbird with more than basic email security items: digital signing, certificate support, message encryption, S/MIME, and so on. Even attachments won’t run (Mac or Windows) unless you give the OK.
Even better are the automatic updates and customization features.
The auto updates work like Apple’s Software Update in Mac OS X. When an update is ready, it’ll tell you about it. Customization comes via extensions similar to those found in Firefox.
After having used Windows’ Outlook Express and the bloated and insecure Outlook for many years, being able to switch to Thunderbird at work was a pleasant experience.
Email applications have matured, added features, and, along with a browser, are often the applications we use the most. Thunderbird? It works well, it’s cross platform, and it’s a good addition to Firefox.
Click Here for the Mozilla home page, Thunderbird’s details and download link.
Alex, did you mention that it’s free? Even vs. free I prefer to use Entourage.
Carol Mary Miller
After all kinds of hassles with Outlook at work, I finally got my company to let me use Thunderbird on the PC in my office. Personal mail at work. Cool.
Jack D. Miller
How many email applications do we need sitting around on our computers? Mac or Windows. Isn’t one enough?