QuickMail Pro 2.0 – Review

QuickMail Pro 2.0
Company: CE Software
Estimated Price: $39.95


In its promotional materials and advertisements for QuickMail 2.0, CE Software promises the Holy Grail of good software programming–a clean, easy-to-learn interface to comfort the newest of newbies, combined with enough features and muscle to keep the true power users happy. Even though I have a few minor quibbles with this underdog of an email client, for the most part QuickMail 2.0 delivers on its promises, and provides users with a good, solid alternative to the heavyweights of the market.

For many people, an email client isn’t just an application they run on their computer, it’s the application they run on their computer, and life without it would be almost unimagineable. As such, it’s worth doing a little comparison shopping to make sure that this indispensable tool is the best you can get, not only in terms of features, but in its of ease of use and efficiency. If you take the time to do this, you’ll probably find that QuickMail Pro stands up pretty favorably to the competition. Whether or not it stands above the big boys is ultimately, of course, your own decision.

Looks to Die For, and a Good Personality, Too!
CE Software isn’t just giving QuickMail lip service when it touts its easy-to-learn, easy-to-use interface; it is quite intuitive, and for the most part self-explanatory. Toolbar icons are well-designed, and if you can’t figure out a button’s function by the icon, hold the cursor over the icon for a second, and some text will pop up and tell you. Menu commands are where they are expected to be, and most of them have keyboard equivalents for people who are inclined to spend as much time with their hands on the keys as possible, as I am.

The interface does break a little from the now-standard three-paned motif popularized by clients such as Netscape Messenger and Microsoft’s Outlook Express. By default, the main window shows only the status of your accounts: how many messages are unread, how many have been sent, and so forth. Clicking on the triangle widgets on the left hand side of the window collapses and expands the account hierarchies, much like a Finder window in list mode. If you like, you can expand your mailboxes to show your messages, reveal the optional preview pane at the bottom of the window, and read all of your email from this one window. I find it easier to double-click on messages and show them in their own windows, though.


QuickMail Picture 2 

A look at the main Message Browser window in QuickMail Pro 2.0Like nearly all email clients, QuickMail allows you to create subfolders to store your read mail in, but the program takes a different approach to how you put them there. Instead of a third pane on the left side to drag-and-drop the messages onto, or a menu in the menubar, QuickMail has a “File” icon in its toolbar; clicking on it pops up a dialog box allowing you to select which of your personal folders you’d like to move the message to. Alternatively, clicking and holding on the “File” icon pops up the your personal folders in a list, from which you can easily choose the proper destination for your piece of email.

But, as slick as the interface is, it could be slicker. People who prefer to read their email in the main window’s preview pane must use the keyboard or the menubar if the wish to reply to a message–the only time a “Reply” button is present in the toolbar is when a message is being displayed in its own window. Also, the toolbar buttons are not contextual–in other words, the “New” button always creates a new email message, which can be confusing if you are working with your personal folders and expect it to create a new mail folder!

Looks Aren’t Everything ­ What Can It Do?
In addition to its outstanding interface, QuickMail Pro 2.0 offers many power features that make it a strong contender: support for multiple users; multiple accounts; multiple signatures; scheduled mail checking; contextual menus; mail filters; styled text; LDAP directory servers; and more. The built-in spell checker is both complete and customizable, and the Contact Manager is so robust for an email client’s address book that I’ve taken to using it as my own lightweight PIM of choice. QuickMail also supports Auto-Completion of email addresses (if you have them stored in the Contact Manager). For example, by the time I’ve typed “Kar” into the To: field of a new message, QuickMail has already matched my typing with the name of My Mac’s webmaster, Adam Karneboge, and has completed his name and email address for me. Finally, in one of the niftier features, you have the option of recording a voice message within QuickMail and sending it as an attachment to an email message. (That is, as long as your Mac has a microphone and/or an audio-in jack–sorry, iBook users!)

In the two months that I have been regularly using the program, QuickMail has done all I have asked it to, and more. The only gripe I have with its operation is the way it handles multiple accounts. If you have several active accounts, QuickMail doesn’t consolidate your mailboxes. For example, mail that gets sent to my My Mac address, my college address, or my home ISP address gets put into three different inboxes, and mail I send from the three addresses gets stored in one of three different outboxes. I know this is a highly subjective point, but I would have preferred one inbox and one outbox, with a column in the mail browser window devoted to specifying from which account the message originated.

Plays Well With Others… Sort Of
QuickMail Pro makes it easy to keep your current contacts and address book lists from other programs. You can directly import QuickMail 1.x address books, and, even more importantly, Outlook Express Export files, into QuickMail Pro 2.0. Additionally, you can import other contact files (from other programs) as LDIF files or text files. However, since I previously used Outlook Express 4.5 as my email client, I didn’t have a chance to try out that option.

In the other direction, QuickMail Pro 2.0 also allows you to export its Contact Manager file in either LDIF or text fomats. This is useful if you want to use that information in another program.

Unfortunately, there is no easy way to import email messages from another email program into QuickMail. So, if you have tons of mail archived in another format, like I do, your options are either converting the archives to text files and storing them that way, or keeping the archives in their old format and keeping a copy of the old email client around “just in case.”

Compatibility-wise, QuickMail has been relatively trouble free, though I had some problems with the program crashing due to Type 2 errors when I first started using it. The problem went away when I disabled, among other things, desktop printing; I never investigated further to know if that was the true culprit or not, and it may well have been something else. In any case, since then I haven’t had a single problem with the program.

In another minor annoyance, the QuickMail Menu extension insists on putting its menubar icon closest to the Application menu on the right hand side. The problem with this is that America Online Instant Messenger wants its menubar icon in that position, too, and the QuickMail extension “wins.” When both extensions are active, AIM’s menubar icon disappears, which led to me disabling the QuickMail menu extension. (I use a QuicKeys keyboard macro for checking my email, anyway, so it wasn’t a big deal for me.)

A Quick(Mail) Fix for What Ails
Users of QuickMail 2.0 should download the 2.01 update from CE Software’s website for interface improvements and bug fixes. It cleans up the user experience even further by adding icon flags to messages that have been replied to and/or forwarded, adding button titles to the Contact Manager, sorting the Account Assistant’s user list by last name instead of first name, and marking as read messages which have been read in the preview pane but not in their own window, among many other minor improvements and fixes. Get it at http://www.cesoft.com/updates.html.

That’s The Price You Pay
Unfortunately, the biggest drawback to QuickMail Pro, in light of such popular email clients as Outlook Express, Netscape Messenger, and Eudora Light, is that it isn’t free. Even though the saying goes that you get what you pay for, in this case forty bucks doesn’t get very much extra. Don’t get me wrong–I’m a big fan of QuickMail Pro, but the fact remains that it does precious little that Outlook Express can’t. This will only become all the more true when Microsoft releases 5.0 of their email client, with promised features such as direct access to Hotmail accounts and intelligent spam blocking. Even the current version of Outlook Express offers some features that QuickMail Pro doesn’t, such as the ability to access news servers.

I do strongly believe that QuickMail Pro is much, much better than the underpowered freeware offerings from Netscape and Eudora Light, and any users of those programs should check into QuickMail Pro. However, the program doesn’t have much to set it apart from other commercial offerings, nor does it offer a truly compelling reason–other than it’s interface–to pay for it, when you can get a high-powered client like Outlook Express for free.

Personally, I’m in love with QuickMail Pro’s interface, and am willing to pay for the privilege to use it. But that will probably not be the case with most Mac users, and understandably so. The fact that you have to pay for QuickMail Pro shouldn’t cause you to immediately write it off as an option, because if it sounds like a program that might be up your alley, I strongly suggest you “try before you buy” by downloading the demo from CE Software’s website, at http://www.cesoft.com/demo.html. The demo is fully functional for thirty days, and CE Software even provides free technical support during the 30-day evaluation period, so you can’t go wrong by checking it out.

The Target Audience
Given all of the above pros and cons, whether or not QuickMail Pro is for you probably depends on who you are and what type of situation you’re in. For example, even though I didn’t get a chance to test it personally, CE Software’s QuickMail Office package, which offers clients for both Macintosh and Windows as well as mail server and directory server software, seems like an ideal way to set up a cross-platform mailing system. Using the same software on both platforms will keep support simple, and the intuitive interface will keep the learning curve and training cost at a minimum.

Even if you’re not running a network, QuickMail Pro’s support for multiple-user accounts is great for a single Mac with multiple-users. For example, my three roommates and I can all use QuickMail Pro to check our email without worrying that one of us will read someone else’s mail or send a message using someone else’s name (either intentionally or accidentally).

A single user who is searching for an email client right now should definitely give QuickMail Pro a look, too. But, for someone who’s on a budget or already using an email client they’re happy with, it’s hard to recommend switching to QuickMail Pro too strongly.

I do think that, overall, QuickMail Pro is a very, very good email client. Its stellar interface makes it a snap for anyone to get used to, and its feature set is robust enough for all but the most demanding users to appreciate. It has enough power to be a true workhorse while maintaining a light footprint (requiring 6.5 megs of hard drive space and less than six megs or RAM), and you’ll never find yourself scratching your head wondering how to perform a certain task.

Whether or not you should choose to use QuickMail Pro as your email client depends on several factors, such as your user environment, needs and wants, and willingness or ability to pay money for a program which has top-notch freeware competition. Rest assured, though, that if you do choose QuickMail, you’ll be getting a solid program that you won’t regret buying.

I’ve always thought that the truest test of a reviewer’s opinion, regardless of what gets said in the printed review, is whether or not the reviewer actually uses the program in day-to-day life over its competitors. This is the case with me and QuickMail Pro, and in the last two months of using it I’ve made it my email program of choice. As such, even though it’s not for everyone, I recommend QuickMail Pro 2.0. It’s not a Holy Grail, but it is a solid contender in the battle for email client supremacy.

MacMice Rating: 3

Mike Wallinga

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