It seems like the longer you're connected to the Internet, the more email you get. I'm not just talking about Spam, mind you. I've found, in the scant four years I've been "hooked in" to the internet, the amount of email I receive has increased drastically. Where I once had a single America Online mail account in a Win-OS/2 session (yes, I started out with AOL), I now have no less than four email accounts, am subscribed to at least 14 mailing lists, some of which deliver over 150 messages a day!
Strangely enough, I'm able to keep up with most of it. But I wouldn't be able to do it if I didn't have a top-notch, workhorse email application. That application is PMMail, and it's one of the finest email applications you'll find on any OS platform, anywhere.
OS/2 has been blessed with superior email clients, and PMMail (.GIF, 34K) is (arguably) the most popular of the bunch. If you're looking for a solid email client, capable of handling multiple accounts and complex filters with ease, PMMail is an excellent choice for you. It has a few quirks and annoyances (which I will describe below), but overall it is a product superior to almost anything out there.
PMMail uses the traditional IBM install program, so there's nothing out of the ordinary in this experience. What is out of the ordinary is that unlike many of the programs available for OS/2 today, PMMail doesn't modify your config.sys file at all. This means that you could, theoretically, move it to a Zip or SyQuest removable disk and carry your email program around with you if you work on more than one OS/2 machine with internet access. You can also move it to another directory or hard drive without breaking the program's ability to function.
Setting up an email account isn't hard, but account information is broken into more than one settings notebook (.GIF, 10K), something I find a bit cumbersome. After you set up your basic information (.GIF, 8.7K) (what your IP address is for your SMTP and POP servers, your login and password information, etc.) PMMail gives you a great deal of control over your account. You can specify whether or not the account automatically polls the server for incoming mail, whether or not that mail is stored on the server or deleted after it is downloaded, and how often the server is polled for new messages afterwards (if it is polled at all).
Each email account can have multiple signatures ("sigs") -- tags at the end of every email you send with whatever information you want to include (name, email, some kind of witty comment). You can set a default sig. that will be used in every message you send, or you can specify which signature you want to use while you are creating your email message. There are a few add-ons for PMMail out there that can attach signatures at random.
If you've registered PMMail, you can do this for more than one account. I currently have four email accounts, all of which automatically poll their respective POP servers when the program starts. Creating a new email account doesn't require any special maneuvering, you go through the same motions as you did originally. Email accounts are displayed alphabetically in the left-hand column of the main window.
Each account is created from scratch -- you can't "borrow" filters or sigs already created in a preexisting account. I find that a bit annoying, and I hope this is changed in a future release.
In basic email programs, you find they'll dump all your incoming messages into one folder and let you sort them out for yourself. PMMail defaults to this -- when you first fire it up, all messages appear in the "in" directory of your email account(s) -- but you can modify this with the use of filters.
Filters look for keywords in messages, and based on those keywords they do something (copy, move, delete) to the message. Filters in PMMail are very easy to configure (if you've never had any experience setting them up) and are a powerful way to manage your accounts.
For example, on one of my email accounts I've subscribed to a political discussion list, a mailing list that discusses the literary works of Charles Williams, and about five or six FYI lists (lists from web sites that let you know when the sites been updated, what articles of interest are on each site, etc.) The political discussion sends over 150 messages a day (not as big as some lists, but still a pain to wade through), and can often drown out the information in the other lists. I've set up filters that look for the email addresses of the various mailing lists, and send the messages into separate folders. All messages from the political discussion list are sent into its own designated folder, all messages from the Charles Williams list are sent into another folder, and all "update" messages are sent into a third folder.
The address book stores any email addresses you want to keep track of. You can configure the entries in the address book so that you can insert them into the "to" field of an email message by right-clicking on the mouse over that field, then selecting the email address you want to use. You can also set up a nickname for each entry. For example, when I want to send a message to the OS/2 e-Zine! Staff list, I simply type "staff" in the "to" field and hit the enter key.
PMMail has some other nice features that don't really fit into any category, so I'm stuffing them all in here.
First of all, if you happen to have the latest version of PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) available for OS/2, PMMail can automatically integrate itself with that, allowing you to encrypt and decrypt messages (as long as you have the appropriate keys). I don't use this function myself, but I have heard reports that at the moment PGP support is not as complete as some would wish.
PMMail has excellent support for attaching files via MIME or UUencode. Incoming messages with attached files have a little graphic to the left of the message's title. Viewing the message displays the attached document at the bottom of the message window (.GIF, 8.3K), where you can either double-click on it (to open it up) or simply drag it to your desktop to view it later. Attaching a document is just as easy: just choose your protocol and drag your document onto the message window. (If the file you want to attach isn't immediately accessible, you can use the more traditional menu controls).
While PMMail is a very powerful application, it is not perfect. There a few features I'd like to see improved in coming releases, and at least one major conflict with software from another third-party vendor.
While PMMail's email filtering abilities are very strong and thorough, the same cannot be said for its address book (where you can store the email addresses of mailing lists and individual people). The address book is functional, but fairly crude in terms of organizing. You can create folders to group addresses, but you can't create nested folders -- which I find kind of irritating, because I like to try and keep my email addresses as organized as possible. For example, I'd like to be able to set up a folder called "OS/2" that contains all the email addresses of all the people and companies I deal with in the OS/2 market. In that folder, I'd like to be able to sort those email addresses further by setting up a folder for Stardock (with all Stardock email addresses in that folder) one for TrueSpectra, one for OS/2 e-Zine!, one for Compo Software, one for Sundial Systems, etc. At the moment, you can't do that.
I'd also like to be able to sort the email addresses in the address book. At the moment, emails aren't sorted in any particular order -- they just kind of sit wherever you enter them. I'd like to be able to view the people's names in alphabetical order, at least -- that would make it a bit easier trying to find them.
I'd also like to be able to change the column widths of the message window on the main screen. At the moment, you can only modify one column (between the message title and the author's name).
On a final note, there's an incompatibility between the latest version of PMMail and Codesmith's desktop enhancer, Xit. Xit gives you the ability to configure the third mouse button on a three-button mouse. If you use this ability while you are working in PMMail, your entire system can freeze solid. At the moment, the only solution is to configure Xit so that it ignores PMMail completely (you won't be able to use any of Xit's features with PMMail if you do this).
(Editor's Note: Too late to fully consider in this review was the release of version 1.96, which claims to fix this problem with X-It. We were not able to verify this before "press time".)
If you're already using an email program like J Street Mailer, or MR/2 ICE, there's no real reason to switch over to PMMail. All applications are reasonably equivalent in power and flexibility. I find PMMail to be a very intuitive program to use and incredibly easy to manage, but that's something that is ultimately in the eye of the beholder.
A plus for PMMail is its support for PGP and SouthSoft's plans for future enhancements of the product, including more support for PGP and some limited support for email sent as an HTML document. SouthSoft has repeatedly assured their OS/2 supporters that they have NO plans to abandon the OS/2 version of the product and will keep the features as current with the Win32 version as is technically possible (there are more hooks to support HTML in Windows 95 and NT than there are in OS/2, which is why the Win32 versions have support for it and the OS/2 version does not).
PMMail is an excellent product, and despite its few shortcomings (lack of configurability in the address book, the lockups with Xit) it is one of the most reliable applications I use. If you're looking for a quality email client, PMMail will easily meet your needs.
Christopher B. Wright is a technical writer in the Richmond, VA area, and has been using OS/2 Warp since January 95. He is also a member of Team OS/2.
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