PMMail v1.1 and Eudora v1.5.2- by Kenneth Wolman

I have been an OS/2 user since late 1993. I bought Red Box Warp back last November, shortly after it came out. I was particularly intrigued with the "freebies" thrown in, namely the BonusPak and (particularly) the Internet Access Kit. I had no horrible experiences installing either Warp itself or the IAK. But then I went to get email from my provider using the glitzy packaged application, UltiMail/2. And I came damned close to simply throwing my software out the window and going back to Dirty Old DOS and Windows.

Luckily, I discovered that with a few adjustments to the autoexec.bat and config.sys files, Windows Internet programs could find the IAK's winsock.dll, and programs like Eudora, which are remarkably fast and reliable even under Win-OS/2.

Still, OS/2 loyalists waited for a native mailer that would take advantage of the Workspace Shell and let them get free of Redmond, Washington. So when PMMail came out, followed not long thereafter by the PostRoad Mailer, here at last was the chance to wave good-bye to Eudora, the Chameleon mailer, etc., etc., and use the real thing: an OS/2 program written for the system, something that was not a Windows workaround.

So I tried PMMail 1.1 (available from Hobbes, CDROM, and the other usual suspects) and the relatively new Eudora release, Eudora "Lite," version 1.5.2, which is available at Qualcomm. I even liked PMMail well enough to send in my $30.00 to register it. The problem is this: I don't like PMMail 1.1 quite well enough to keep using it in its present state. Eudora 1.5.2 is more feature-rich and configurable than the OS/2 program.

Pluses and Minuses

Let's look at Eudora Lite first, then PMMail.

I hate to say this because I really AM an OS/2 loyalist, and member of Team OS/2. But from the point of view of being a heavy email user, Eudora Lite 1.5.2 for Windows is one of the greatest programs I have ever used on any platform: DOS, UNIX, or OS/2. It is rock-solid, reliable, effectively bugfree, has documentation (almost too much of it, but you don't need it to use the program), and decent on-line help files. And it's free!

How does it perform under Win-OS/2? I have used it under both the Red and Blue box versions of Warp. While I have found that Windows applications tend to perform less than optimally using Microsoft's own Windows as the base for Win-OS/2 support, Eudora runs equally well in either edition, and it does so in both seamless mode and from the Win-OS/2 program manager. It takes a bit of time to load because all that Windows code has to load first, but once it's on the desktop it fetches mail quickly and handles all its operations without a problem. It also works very nicely with the IAK's implementation of winsock.dll.

Eudora's big drawback as a Workplace Shell program is that it seems to default to taking up your entire screen at 640 x 480, and it has some problems dealing with the Windows fonts, at least when it's first run. The size of the open window is manipulable, so it's a solvable problem, but it can be an inconvenience all the same. It also has some minor but tricky configuration procedures. If you create aliases (a simple enough procedure from the Special/Settings windows, or from the toolbar icon), you need to double-click on the window in order to save the new aliases; there is no button on the screen to indicate a save. However, the entire Special/Settings array has been improved over earlier versions. Everything is done with icon-based menus. Mail can also be forwarded, redirected, and replied to either in group or single-user mode. Setting up individual mailboxes is a piece of cake; and simply typing an alias name retrieves the full pathname of the recipient every time.

The hardest thing to master in Eudora is appending files to messages. If you are sending plain text, you need to play with the settings and mail yourself a file or two to make sure you're not sending a BinHex version, and that you indicate you want the message in the body of the mail. Unfortunately, you will only see an indicator in the headings that a file has been attached; you will not see the file itself, and this can be a problem. Hence the advice: send mail to yourself until you know you've got it right, and download the documentation from Qualcomm, find someone with (sigh) Microsoft Word for Windows, and read it.

Some final drawbacks: there is no external editor, and you are stuck with the dreaded 8-3 naming conventions. The program runs wonderfully under Win-OS/2, but it is still a Windows program.

But Eudora has one feature in its favor: it is a simple matter to use it as an off-line mail reader. When you've downloaded your mail, no matter how much, you can disconnect and do all your work off-line, freeing your phone for stuff like calls. You save your mail to the Outbox, close it, and it's still there. When you log back onto your provider, you simply send all your queued messages which are then timestamped.

As for PMMail....

PMMail does a number of things very well, even if configuring it may be mysterious and not quite intuitive for a first-time SLIP or PPP user. You have to look under the "PMMail" menu to find a submenu called Configure, which allows you to define your system connection. Another menu, called Preferences, allows you to make choices about removing mail from the server, adding different signature files, and word wrap.

Once done, PMMail (12k gif) loads to the desktop FAST: no Windows code to worry about, after all. Click on the Fetch Mail icon and everything on the server downloads quickly. Click on the message you wish to examine and it appears in a separate window. You then have a choice to reply with or without the original message.

There are problems, however, and for someone who is more than a casual emailer, they are problematic. Mailbox and address functions are present, but are hard to set up. To create aliases, you have first to set up a separate address book of some kind, then include the alias within it. To send mail to the given person, you need to open the address book and click on the alias.

The complications are not helped by the fact that PMMail does not have documentation or a user guide. What the Help menus explain they do very well, but they do not explain what you _cannot_ do. A somewhat unintuitive program can be made quite user-friendly if the user can consult a reference. The lack of one here is a problem that won't go away until the gap is somehow filled.

Your mileage may vary here because I've heard contrary reports, but my experience has been that setting up separate mailboxes, while easily done, is unreliable. You can use the "Transfer" function to move a piece of mail to the mailbox you select from a submenu, but there's no guarantee it will get there. I have personally had pieces of mail go into mailboxes other than the one I selected. I have also had them stay exactly where they are, in the Inbox. This possibly broken feature makes mail storage a bit chancy and time-wasting. (editor's note: we also use PMMail v1.1 at OS/2 e-Zine! and have had no problems of the kind described here.)

As a person with accounts on more than one system, I also miss the presence of a function that allows me to redirect my mail. I can forward it, but it arrives at the other system without the original sender's name and email address, so if I try to answer from the other system, I have to brute-force the address.

As with Eudora, there is no way to configure an external editor such as elvis, emacs, or vi. (editor's note: Oops! It seems that this is possible. Thanks to Steve Schneider and others for picking up on this.) You are forced to use PMMail's flavor of the OS/2 system editor, and you are not given a choice of fonts: everything appears in that hideous System VIO font, and there is no way to change it, even if you doctor the Font Palette on the OS/2 configuration menus.

Another problem I found with PMMail is that its off-line capabilities are more difficult to manage than Eudora's. It saves mail to the Outgoing box, but (unless I've missed something) it also loses unfinished mail: at least it has done so with mine. There is no way to save an incomplete message except to a separate file. If you exit, you lose what you've done. The only way I've found to get PMMail to hang onto mail written off-line and not ready for sending is to hit the "Send" key. You will get an error about not being able to find the network, but the mail will queue up. It is every bit as inconvenient as it sounds.

On the other hand, appending text files is simple and quick. And they appear in the body of your message, so they can be edited before you send them out.

PMMail is basically a good program, and in its current release it is excellent for someone with little time to play with their software and whose email traffic and storage requirements are relatively simple. But - and again, this is personal experience - the program seems to have traps and murky areas that I would dearly love to see clarified in time for Release 1.5. Hell, I paid for the thing, I'd like to use it:-). But for the time being, I'm going to stick with Eudora.

(editor's note: Hmmm... It seems Ken's article has sparked some controversy. We will be posting your replies to our feedback section shortly!)

 * PMMail v1.1 (194k)
Author(s): Robert Novitskey and Evan Goldring
Registration: US$ 30

Kenneth Wolman is a technical writer in New York with a night job as a sometime poet.

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