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The Internet

The Perfect Email Client? 446

An anonymous reader sends: "Can those who review also design? Trying to practice what it preaches, CNET published this article, a description of the perfect e-mail client. Next up, apparently: hardware and electronics designs."
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The Perfect Email Client?

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  • the bat (Score:4, Informative)

    by fyonn ( 115426 ) <dave@fyonn.net> on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:13AM (#3295084) Homepage
    for me the bat (www.ritlabs.com) comes close, now if oly they did a version for freebsd, even linux would do)

    dave
    • No IMAP support ?!?! (Score:2, Informative)

      by HEbGb ( 6544 )
      I just downloaded it and started setting it up, and found out that there's no imap support (unless it's seriously buried). A 'serious' email client that won't even do imap support? No thanks. There's no way I'm going back to POP3.

      If they did support it, I'd certainly consider dumping Netscape/Moz for The Bat.
      • Of course The Bat! supports IMAP. Just select it in the account settings ("Account" - "Properties") on the "Transport" tab. There you can choose from POP3 and IMAP4.

        This does not mean that the IMAP support is good. It just supports the POP3 style of polling. There is no way to control the folder structure from The Bat!. So I would not yet choose The Bat! if I'm looking for good IMAP support. But The Bat! has improved in the past, so I'm sure they are going to listen to what the users say. And this is definitely a large problem.

    • The bat has one major drawback: if you want to use encryption, it positively sucks. Basically it wants to use it's brain-dead pgp implementation (pgp2.x, RSA keys only etc) - even if you *have* a decent pgp or gpg installed.

      I couldn't get past this. But hey... maybe I'm paranoid. But are you paranoid enough?
      • They make a seperate product called Secure Bat, which is really really good at PGP stuff. It even has loads of extra stuff for the majorly paranoid. Check it out.
    • Re:the bat (Score:2, Informative)

      by WowTIP ( 112922 )
      I searched for a good email client to use under windows a while ago. My preferred choise should:

      Not need to be installed (no tampering with the system).

      Be able to import Eudora adress books.

      Be as small as possible.

      Have an easy-to-use adress book.

      Be freeware if possible.

      Be configurable (looks, fonts, etc.).

      Be able to handle multiple accounts.

      Be able to read/remove HTML.

      Pegasus and Eudora was both too large, so the list was narrowed down to:

      Kaufman Mail Warrior. [kaufmansoft.com]

      Opera browser mail. [opera.com]

      Poco mail [pocomail.com]

      The bat! [ritlabs.com]

      i.Scribe [ozemail.com.au]

      After trying these clients out separately for a while, I came to the conclusion that Poco mail fitted my list best. Not that it was outstanding in any way, the bat! and Kaufman was almost as good. I didn't like the interface of the bat though, and Kaufman, though very nice, had some problems with replying to HTML mails. The only things with poco that didn't fit my wish list is that it is not free and that it needed installation. Otherwise great program. I will be keeping an eye on Kaufman MW though. If some small details are improved, the client will rock.

      If you know another WIN32 mail client that fits my wish list pretty close, please tell me. (Never satisfied :)

  • by TheDick ( 453572 ) <dick@@@askadick...com> on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:14AM (#3295088) Homepage
    Is one who doesn't call every few days because they "can't get their email" It doesn't give any error messages they say, they just can't get it. Have them open up OE, and low and behold, a box asking for a username and password. At this point they SWEAR they don't have a password. After you explain that you MUST have a password, then they start with the "I don't know it" routine. I swear, its not worth it.
    • Um, I don't think that's the meaning of "clients" they had in mind... Unfortunatly, scince user design is a highly underrated part of the IT industry, given e.g. how much it contributed to Microsofts success (Remember the good old times when users didn't think that "just reboot, and if that doesn't help, reinstall" was a perfectly normal strategy to fix problems, and constant crashes in no way related to software quality?)
  • by sebi ( 152185 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:16AM (#3295089)
    Auto response when you're away? Great! One e-mail, and I know that I have five hours to clean out your home office...
  • Hmmm (Score:4, Informative)

    by hattig ( 47930 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:18AM (#3295096) Journal
    Pine has done the colouration of emails based upon criteria for years now, and it is a most useful feature that I would like to see in other email clients.

    The other points here are a checklist for current open source email clients (Evolution, KMail, Mozilla Mail, etc) - many of the features are already integrated of course. It is just Outlook that is lacking, and it will remain lacking because Microsoft take ages to upgrade software, and then only add features they think the user needs, not what the user actually needs.

    One thing I hear a lot about is the Amiga email program YAM as being extremely good. It is open source as well - a Unix port would be interesting.

    • Re:Hmmm (Score:3, Informative)

      by Paladin128 ( 203968 )
      Although many email clients offer *some* of these features in some form, the point is no client offers them all in a consise form. As a Human-Computer Interation (HCI) designer by trade, most of their design is head-on. The Floating PIM pane is a great idea, particularly if it has one line that notifies when new email is there and from whom, and can be used to un-hide the actual email client.

      The split pane for the email messages, if done properly, could be nicely exploited. The "SPAM" button is a wonderful idea. The integrated instant messaging I could easilly do without... too hard to do it in both a useful and intuitive method.

      I'm probably going to implement many of these designs this summer in a cross-platform open source email client. I may use some other client as a base as I'm not familiar with POP3 or IMAP. I'll probably wind up doing this in Qt.
      • The "SPAM" button is a wonderful idea.
        Correction: the "spam button" sounds like a wonderful idea. A "remove all evilness and cruelty and hurtful things from the world button" also sounds like a wonderful idea. Flying cars sound like a wonderful idea. The problem is that they're rather hard to implement. This "design" is little beyond blue-skying, as they've given no thought to how you would actually do these things. As others have pointed out, most spammers are forging their headers anyway, are using a spamhaus ISP that doesn't care, or are simply not accepting incoming email. A "one-click spam reporting tool" would only lead people to click the button without thinking about what they're doing, and bother people who can't or won't do anything.
        • I think you miss the point. If mass-return-spamming started taking place, those who administer systems condoning or not actively working against spamming would have to act. There just ain't enough bandwidth to go around. Responsible ISPs would rapidly learn to bar any user who generated thousands of anti-spam complaints. Irresponsible IPs who generated a similar amount of traffic would rapidly get blocked by those ISPs who have better things to do with their time. Simple as that, really.

    • Pine has done the colouration of emails based upon criteria for years now, and it is a most useful feature that I would like to see in other email clients.
      The other points here are a checklist for current open source email clients (Evolution, KMail, Mozilla Mail, etc) - many of the features are already integrated of course. It is just Outlook that is lacking, and it will remain lacking because Microsoft take ages to upgrade software, and then only add features they think the user needs, not what the user actually needs.

      Outlook is missing it? True they weren't the first ones to the market but the have had it for 2 years atleast. Outlook I have to say is one of Microsoft's best products and as much as you flame microsoft, they do do some decent hings for your average desktop. In an office enviorment, in a non tech industry, outlook is by far the best choice. It is very easy to teach (interactive teaching CD's) and couppled with Exchange server keeps our agency moving along quite nicely. I'm sorry but linux is not as simple as microsoft and till it is, it won't be taking over the desktop..

      P.S. I use pine as my email client at home

  • by cheesyfru ( 99893 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:19AM (#3295097) Homepage
    This reminds me a ton of when Homer was hired by his brother to design the ultimate car, the "car of the common man". Ugh. :-)
  • by macpeep ( 36699 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:19AM (#3295098)
    I've been planning an email system that is based on searches rather than folders. The user interface might be "folders" but in reality, each "folder" is actually a search into an email database. This means a number of things. First of all, emails can exist in any number of folders (including no folder at all). Folders can have all kinds of "complex" rules such as "unread emails plus emails that have been read within the last 10 minutes". This would be a kind of "inbox", for example. Then there could be "Today's emails". "Yesterday's emails", "Emails from Firstname Lastname", "Work related email" and so on. Emails can be flagged using filters to help categorizing them. For example you could have a folder "work emails" that simply search for all emails that have a "work" flag set. The work flag would be set when the email arrives by checking if the email matches a set of rules (is from certain people, is to a certain email address, has a certain topic etc.).

    The basic idea is to get powerful email management without having to actually manage "at runtime". Instead, the management happens by setting up folders and rules.

    One implementation idea is to implement it as an IMAP server that one would run locally. That would allow people to use existing email clients with this system. I haven't decided about that yet though.
    • by mjh ( 57755 ) <mark@hor[ ]an.com ['ncl' in gap]> on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:22AM (#3295105) Homepage Journal
      Evolution comes close to doing something like this already with it's "Virtual Folders". [ximian.com] You might want to check it out.
    • The BeOS has enabled you to do just this since day one. In Be, every email is just a file. Because of the uberfilesystem BFS (and its file-typing system), you can create lightning-fast queries based on the email headers, achieving exactly the result you describe--no specialized client required.

    • The Groupwise Client already does this. I agree, it's great!
    • I have a few tens of thousands of emails filed in around 400 folders in my 550MB Outlook .pst file. (This size is after I strip out almost all attachments!) I manually file them, because Outlook rules are wowefully inadequate.

      I keep all these emails because they're some of the most valuable organizational information I can have. I search them daily and would be absoultely lost without them.

      What I need is a database that pretends to be an Outlook .pst file. I need to be able to tag files with medadata such as project, business line, and importance, in addition to the standard email headers. I then need folders to exist for each of these categories.

      Given that I've had this need since about 1998, I don't understand why Outlook has not yet delivered. (Outlook 97, Outlook 98, Outlook 2000, Outlook XP... how long do we have to wait!?!)

      And please kids, don't tell me to use Linux/Pine/Elm/Mutt/whatever. My office email environment is Exchange, and very much makes use of the scheduling system in addition to email, so I'm stuck with it.

      The only thought I've had so far is to set up an Outlook rule to forward a copy of every message I get to one of my Linux boxen, where I could chop it up and insert it into a database... but retrieving these messages would require me to use a second interface, and I need the functionality integrated into Outlook.
      • Re:bingo. (Score:3, Interesting)

        by stripes ( 3681 )
        And please kids, don't tell me to use Linux/Pine/Elm/Mutt/whatever. My office email environment is Exchange, and very much makes use of the scheduling system in addition to email, so I'm stuck with it.

        Well if you don't want anyone to give you alternatives what do you want? Should we just say "use outlook and enjoy it, dammit!"?

        The only thought I've had so far is to set up an Outlook rule to forward a copy of every message I get to one of my Linux boxen, where I could chop it up and insert it into a database... but retrieving these messages would require me to use a second interface, and I need the functionality integrated into Outlook.

        Can outlook use IMAP servers? Can it see folders in an IMAP box? If so you can send the mail to to a Linux box have it autofile it, serve it up via IMAP. Then you can use whatever client you want...which is apparently only outlook :-)

        P.S. is it just me or is this article all about craming a bunch of stuff into a mail reader that doesn't belong? I would much rather have a bunch of applications that work together then on big one, too hard to replace the big one. With a bunch of little apps I could replace the "to do" part with one that works better with my PDA, or that has repeating items or just look better without having to find the better todo stuff in an app that does all that other crap too! Maybe this is why people like giant bloated software, and leave me puzzled?

        (the Apple mail app is a little like that, it leaves the "address book" stuff up to another application; still too integrated for my taste...MH anyone?)

      • You're stuck. LookOut was only created because Netscape was threatening Microsofts monopoly and now that the've killed that threat, why do they have to change anything? IMO, the only changes you will likely have in LookOut is not going to be seen because it will be hidden in the protocols to eliminate the non-Microsoft server and force MS servers for use with all corporate email.

        You play by their rules and you stagnate by their rules. Send your request to MS and see what that gets you. ;/

        LoB
    • Yes, I had the same idea. The problem is scalability. What happens when you get 100 megabytes of mail, and you have to search the whole lot.

      I was thinking it would be a good idea to search the emails, google style, by building indexes when you receive each email item. It would double the size of the mailbox; but who cares, disk is cheap. Besides, having quickly searchable mail allows you to delete stuff more easily.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      an email system that is based on searches rather than folders

      you've just describe XEmacs' VM mode, very power email client working without any major bugs for years.

      The only drawback of Emacs modes: you've gotta use programming. Just general programming skills b/c elisp is very simple and very logical.

      The same argument becomes a benefit - you can do virtually everything. You can tune the mode for your preferences or you can integrate several emacs modes to work together or you can create your own mode.

      For example, I've integrated VM with IRC and ICQ clients (yes, there are such modes for emacs!) and with diary calendar and with PostgreSQL ORDBMS. The result of such power and flexible integration is barely possible even in M$outlook.

      I wish Mozilla would have same extensibility and I hope it will eventaulally, but without elisp it will be not THAT power.

    • You're reinventing Lotus Notes. This is exactly how Notes stores it's email. Everything is really in a database, and the folders that are displayed are actually queries against the database.

      In theory, this is great.

      In practice, it's a disaster.

      Of course, the Notes UI doesn't help. But the problems go deeper than that.

  • Interface Design (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SuperCal ( 549671 )
    I was looking for a skinable Email Client not to long ago, and this is why. After looking though what was availible ,by way of Email Clients,I desided that it was fairly obvious that everyones idea for a perfect inferface is different, so the only way I was going to get things just the way I wanted was to design the interface myself, unfortunantly I am still unable to find a skinable Email Client that is stable enough to use everyday. I may work on a ducttape rigged client myself.
  • This sounds... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ectospasm ( 5186 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:22AM (#3295103) Homepage Journal
    like asking for bloatware if you ask me. Like somebody once said, a tool should do one thing and do that one thing well.

    I dunno, just my thought.
    • a tool should do one thing and do that one thing well.

      In the case of email, 3 things: It should download the messages, store them locally, and send messages. The rest would be APIs for displaying, composing, indexing, sorting, and PIM features. All of these other features would be plug-ins from various vendors that could be upgraded or replaced when better plug-ins came along.

      The tricky question is what the local storage format would be. Probably, the simpler the better: store the messages as files in the order they're received using the file system to break them up by year, month and day. An indexing or folder API would provide more sophisticated retrieval.

      I believe Web-based clients that interact with sendmail work this way.

    • I find it frustrating that CNET assumes Outlook is a reasonable basis for future email clients. How many Slashdotters prefer it to other email clients? Didn't think so.

      But the problem with Outlook is not that long feature list. Presumably they're all used by somebody. And indeed there are a lot of features in Outlook I'd like to be able to use.

      Problem is, these features are not well integrated. As with most Microsoft apps, they just pile on the features without any thought as to usability. So it's pretty painful to find the features you want to use and turn off the features you don't.

      To make matters worse, MS's response to these issues is totally brainless. They throw in fancy technofixes, such as "Wizards" and "Help Agents" which just make things worse. Or they remove features that some people complain about, without considering that others actually use them. Like the MDI interface: mandatory in Office 97, disabled in Office 2K, optional in Office XP. Duh!

      Some of the open source mail clients are promising, but there are so many secondary issues. Many refuse to support rich text, citing security or bandwith issues. (Legitimate concerns, but banning HTML from email is neither a necessary nor a sufficient fix.) Others support only the protocols the authors themselves need. These never seem to include both IMAP and LDAP, two protocols I can't live without.

      Attention! POP is out of date! Public LDAP servers are useless (stupid spammers), but a lot of us still use corporate LDAP servers!

      I used the Mozilla client for a long time. But they never fixed all the nastier memory leaks. And recently they started adding weird incompatilities to way HTML mail is composed. This in a product that is supposed to be close to 1.0! (After only 3 years.) Enough of that. I'm back to Netscape 4.7.

    • like asking for bloatware if you ask me. Like somebody once said, a tool should do one thing and do that one thing well.

      Uhhh, just so you know, that person was a Unix person, and CNET is not filled with Unix people (and neither is most of the world).
    • I like that part about complaining that PIMs are separate apps but then they want a separate panel with PIM features that will stay running when the email is closed.... Sounds just like a separate PIM app to me. OK, so they added a feature to show how many messages are in your inbox. Big wooop.

      LoB
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy ( 457657 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:22AM (#3295104)

    I think they've done a pretty good job, actually. I particularly like the integrated encryption and spam-reporting tools. These are widely asked for by those in the business, and yet no mainstream e-mail client seems to provide them. I'm sure more people would use them if they were easily available, rather than something you have to fight for. For example, there is a helpful service for spam complaints [abuse.net], who amongst other things will forward the details to the relevant abuse address, but how many people know that, or where to find it?

    That said, I'd settle for just having the colour-coded "new mail" icon with the ability to hover over it and see the sender/title. At the office, where we use Outlook/Exchange Server, one of our guys tried to write a tool that hooked into Outlook and did that a while back. Unfortunately, he found insurmountable problems with the way Outlook's automation and new mail reporting features work. Too bad, as the rest of us were looking forward to him finishing it! That alone, to me, would be a major improvement. Here's hoping some of the guys at MS read the article!

  • Eudora (Score:3, Informative)

    by Beowulf_Boy ( 239340 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:25AM (#3295111)
    Eudora would be a great email client, if it weren't for a few things.
    1. I don't believe it is out for Linux
    2. Wierd ass server naming conventiongs. Your server name is usually like, mail.myrealbox.com in netscape, Yet in Eudora it ends up being, Username@imap.myrealbox.com, and sometimes that even doesn't work, its strange.
    3. Buggy as crap, and doesn't like alot of servers from what I can figure
    4. Ok, joke error messages are funny, if you know what they are supposed to mean. "I sent the password to the server, and said, shhhh, don't tell anyone, and the server said....shhhh....this ..won't work." Ok, is it a bad password, bad server naming convention, or a dozen others. I've seen it do this when I know my net connection is down, so its like, WTF!

    Good stuff
    1. multiple email boxes/servers/usernames
    2. Easy to set rules
    3. easy interface
    4. tech support is disant from the one time I used it.
    5. the only problems with the free one is that there are adds on the bottom left, very small noninvasive adds.
    6. you can do cool crap like not only mark an email as read, but mark it with 10 different colors, so you can seperate them between clients/problems or etc.

    • Give sylpheed [slashdot.org] a try. Drag drop attachments even work (one way at least, *sigh*) with ROX.
    • I don't believe it is out for Linux

      That almost happened. When I worked there, I was bugging them to port Eudora to Linux. (I've been a Linux user for a long time, and essentially had to use Windows since I had to use Eudora.) Well, one day a PHB type (sorry, John...) comes into my office and says "We'd like to talk about what it would take to get Eudora working on Linux." w00t!

      So I go searching for someone to do the port. Among my searches, I would up talking to Loki Software. The Linux game company that just went joysticks up. So I brought them in (they were in Tustin, QCOM was in San Diego, so it was a easy thing). We had them sign NDA's, the works. Scott Draeker came, as did two other geeks. I had fun talking to them. Way smart people. One of them was a GNOME user, the other KDE. I got them going on that. Kind of a troll, but I needed an ice-breaker. :-)

      Anyway, I burnt a CD with Mac and Win Eudora source and gave it to them. They looked at both and said that the Windows source could be ported in like 3 months. I was a happy camper.

      Then, doom. Money got weird. The ads were selling, but there were internal QCOM politics. I can't go into it, but if I had talked to Loki three, four months previous, there likely would have been a Linux Eudora Pro. And Loki might still be in business (since we were going to pay them a boatload of money). And I would have been happy. But now I make do with Pine and Kmail.

      This is all an interesting story, actually. I should write it up one day. I still have friends at Qualcomm, though, so I'll have to wait.

      -B

  • by jsse ( 254124 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:25AM (#3295112) Homepage Journal
    11. Do something to all these security holes, for the love of GOD!
  • by gazbo ( 517111 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:26AM (#3295113)
    Frankly no. The majority of the features they list I would turn off (they would have that option, right?) Some are good but obvious (integrate PGP - no-one's said *that* before)

    Some just show that these people do not understand UI design (all powerful right-click. Yup, nice idea, but when you say how many options there are in modern clients, I wonder how you expect them all to fit in a context menu? As an example they give 'send all mail from this user to folder x' Well great, but to be all powerful they also need 'block email from this user','automatically reply to this user with x', direct all email with this subject to x' etc. all in the context menu)

    Overall, a couple of nice ideas, a couple of dumb ideas, and a rehash of some oft-mentioned ideas. Hardly anything groundbreaking.

    • I think you're being overly negative. OK, I agree that I'd probably turn off the majority of features. I don't use most features in most of the other packages I use, either. But as long as there's an easy option to switch off the bits you don't want and the UI isn't forced upon you, the features they suggest would help many people and inconvenience no-one, AFAICS.

      As for things like PGP -- yes, maybe they are obvious, but apparently not so much so that mainstream e-mail clients already do it, eh? This article doesn't seem intended to provide leading edge research, it's a summary of the state of play, and where they think improvements could be made. In most cases, I think they're right. Putting them down because they don't have ten new improvements (and they didn't ignore good features just because someone's mentioned them before) hardly seems fair.

      No, most of it wasn't groundbreaking, but I don't think it was meant to be. It was a wish list, a summary of some missing features they'd like to see incorporated into e-mail clients, and a pretty good one, IMHO.

    • nice idea, but when you say how many options there are in modern clients, I wonder how you expect them all to fit in a context menu?

      Reminds me of a friend's computer. Click start menu, mouse over to programs, and the enire screen gets BLOTTED OUT with a FOUR COLUMN list [pardon me while I go VOMIT] . Nothing but crap he will never use and old versions of AOL.

      While I'm on the issue, one of the worst offenders is games. What are the chances that we could get the game industry to stop installing to START/ PROGRAMS/ FOOBARSOFT_r001z_d00d!/ FOOBARSOFTgames_r001z_d00d!/ BLARFO'S-ADVENTURE/
      [BLARFO.EXE, LICENCE.DOC, LEGAL.TXT, REGISTER.EXE, README, READEME.TXT, README.DOC, README.HTML, README.WPD, README.WAV. UNINSTALL_BLARFO's-ADVENTURE, BLARFO_Screensaver!.SCR, Screensaver_LICENCE.DOC, Screensaver_LEGAL.TXT, BLARFO2-Blarfo_does_hollywood.MPEG, Director-of-marketings's-girlfriend's-website.HTML , LemonMeranguePie.PPT]

      Just install to C:\games\blarfo\ or to C:\Program files\games\blarfo\. Just add shortcuts to Blarfo.exe and *maybe* Blarfo.txt in STARTMENU\GAMES\ or to STARTMENU\PROGRAMS\GAMES\.

      Oh yeah, as I was saying - it was nauseating when my friend's START\Programs blotted out the entire screen. And then there's his STARTUP folder... [The pain! Somebody please stop the pain!]

      -
  • Mutt? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by NWT ( 540003 )
    Oh, I like my Mutt/Procmail/Fetchmail Mail system most ... it simply does what it should do!
    • Re:Mutt? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by lessthan0 ( 176618 )
      Amen, brutha.

      Although, I would make it Mutt/Procmail/Fetchmail/Postfix to complete the food chain.
      • Re:Mutt? (Score:3, Informative)

        by Fweeky ( 41046 )
        Maildrop may be a reasonable replacement to the procmail part, since procmail's rather messy and has a filter language that would make Larry Wall blush.
  • when i want to read my email, i use an email client. when i want to message some one i use a messaging program. when i want to download porn i use a P2P app. most of the time the only 2 features om the email client i use is the reading "feature" and the "writing" feature. although it is useful to hava an address book in the email program. this is one of the reasons why i find pegasus so easy to use.its simple, lightweight, doesnt crash, supports HTML and RTF (bleck)and has an address book. this is all i need, not some complicated mail client that is full of uneccesary bloat that i , and may others dont need. remember, adding more features will reduce the stability of any program ie outlook & outlook express or kde vs enlightenment. (integrated browser crap)
    so there. pfffffffffffff
    • Agreed. Email != IM != PIM, FFS.

      Personally I think something that slams HTML mailing is sensible too.

      I use fetchmail, procmail, spamassassin and razor at ork with a frontend of Gnus, amongst a company of M$loth-lusers, and I have no problems at all.
      In fact, compared to all the M$loth+telnet+vim+/usr/bin/cvs "people", I have a particularly easy life of it - mail comes in, diff gets saved out, edited, sanity-checked, applied with Ediff mode and then committed to CVS all from within Emacs.
  • by www.sorehands.com ( 142825 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:32AM (#3295125) Homepage
    I don't mean the autoreporting of spam, but protection from web beacons, bugs, or whatever they call it.


    Some spammers put in an image tag that includes the email address, or encoded email address as part of the image request string so that they know it has been opened. That way, they can verify the address.

    • Wish lists don't have to include "don't include security or privacy holes in the software". That should be assumed. If cnet had been reviewing Outlook Express or Mozilla Mail, it would have been a reasonable request, but they were listing "features today's mailers don't have that we think would be cool" and not reviewing a specific product.
      • Wish lists don't have to include "don't include security or privacy holes in the software". That should be assumed.

        Given the state of today's commercial software, it might be a good idea to mention things like that rather then assume.

  • Others have alreadypointed out the bloat. (I want an emailer that includes a doctor/Eliza function!), but there is a terrible amont of stuff missing from the list. Making it hard to compose messages which violate standards should be close to the top of anybody's list.

    As for autoresponders, they shouldn't be in the client unless that client (a) has access to envelope information, and (b) can send things as error messages (null envelope from). I also have rant about broken autoresponders [goldmark.org].

  • Hmm. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When I think about e-mail, I think about pine. Lately, I've been thinking about other clients for Linux. I sure as hell don't think about Outlook, unless there's a virus scare.

    1. PIM.. Sounds nice, but I want my e-mail client to do *e-mail*, and do it well. No thanks.

    2. Split box. Hmm. No problems with it, but I'm not sure I'd use it.

    3. Built in IM. WHY?! FOR THE LOVE OF BOB, WHY?!

    4. Auto-response. I'd still get twenty messages in the span of an hour asking 'r u ther?!?!?!' from people who can't figure out how to turn their speakers on.

    5. Integrated PGP. This'd be great, because as it is now, PGP is too confusing for the average person to use.

    6. Spam reporting.. to the spammer's ISP.. Heh. Considering most illegal spam comes from faked headers.. This'd work out great.

    7. Mouse-over contact info. Very not bad idea.

    8. Smart notification. Again, a not bad idea. I'm surprised this hasn't been implemented yet. (It probably has.)

    9. Who needs a mouse? If you do, this might not be bad.

    10. My e-mail doesn't seem like pregenerated drivel, so I doubt I'd use templates. I could see them being useful to businesses, though.

    Bonus: Oh god, make the bloat stop.

    In conclusion, we've got a few good ideas, and the rest.. Well, there's always emacs. It can do everything already.
    • Re:Hmm. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Vanders ( 110092 )
      I have to agree, most of their ideas seemed like crap to me. Some of them though, like mouse-over contact information, split folders & more options on context menus (Although not to the level they ask for!) are sensible and not-a-bad-idea.

      Some of these might get into later versions of my own email client [shagged.org]
    • 3. Built in IM. WHY?! FOR THE LOVE OF BOB, WHY?!
      Amen to that. I have GAIM at work, but most of the time I leave it off. I already have email and a phone and people still drop by to bother me in person - why the hell do I need another way for people to bother me? If anybody's thinking about writing something like this - FOR GOD'S SAKE, INCLUDE A WAY TO TURN IT OFF. I do NOT want to automatically be logged into IM whenever I'm reading my email. Did the writers talk to anyone who's actually used a system like this? A friend of mine who uses AOL has had to set up multiple screen names simply because she can't avoid logging into AIM (and becoming visible to everyone) every time she goes on AOL.

      And needless to say, the one thing I really care about, they didn't think of: REPLY AT THE BOTTOM, NOT THE TOP!

  • There are three major points for my perfect email client:

    1. Look and feel the same in X and console, so that I could make use of both xpdf/mozilla and remote mail reading.
    2. Localization. Being non-native english speaker, this one is pretty important.
    3. Keyboard navigation

    For the last 4 years I am extremely satisfied with the combination:
    - fetchmail [tuxedo.org] (getting mail)
    - procmail [procmail.org] (sorting mail into mailboxes)
    - mutt [mutt.org] (reading/replying)
    - vim [vim.org] (editing)

    When it comes down to analyze mailbox and generate some reports, like for example, in the case with antivirus reports, I use perl [perl.org] with Mail::MboxParser [cpan.org] module.

    For all my friends, who need GUI to read email, I recommend using Mozilla [mozilla.org] and or Evolution [ximian.com]

  • by ddmckay ( 56023 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @10:46AM (#3295154) Homepage
    The proposed design is way too busy with too many features I'd turn off if I were using it. The ultimate e-mail client IMHO is one that does e-mail, only e-mail and does it well. The ultimate e-mail client needs to:

    1/ Support *all* inbound e-mail standards, pop, apop, pop over ssl, imap, imap over ssl, MicroSoft exchange (I don't want to run Outbreak^h^h^h^h^hlook), etc. I don't want to change e-mail clients to match up with whatever e-mail server is in use where I am working.

    2/ Support *all* outbound e-mail standards, smtp *and* the various authenticated smtp methods. Security matters.

    3/ Deal with *all* content standards, MIME, HTML, etc. and provied fine control over how they are viewed (e.g. no html, html without downloading images, etc.)

    4/ Supports crypography (GPG, S/MIME, etc).

    5/ Message filters. Filter inbound mail, filter on demand, etc. Filter on any header or other part of the message. Filter using external programs like spamassassin, etc.

    6/ A Clean UI. No oversized cute buttons, etc. Let me decide where to put the list of my folders, messages in a folder, etc.

    An example of an e-mail client that's close to ideal for me is KDE's Kmail.
    • 1/ Support *all* inbound e-mail standards, pop, apop, pop over ssl, imap, imap over ssl, MicroSoft exchange (I don't want to run Outbreak^h^h^h^h^hlook), etc. I don't want to change e-mail clients to match up with whatever e-mail server is in use where I am working.

      You missed the most often ignored catagory. Just opening files, including on network shares with Windows workstations.

      2/ Support *all* outbound e-mail standards, smtp *and* the various authenticated smtp methods. Security matters.

      Your probably also want proper SMTP as well as third party relaying. There is also simply sending the data to another program.

      3/ Deal with *all* content standards, MIME, HTML, etc. and provied fine control over how they are viewed (e.g. no html, html without downloading images, etc.)

      Maybe also sanitise HTML before rendering it if you want to effectivly feed it to a web browser. Or even give though to using an HTML rendering program with more limited capabilities.

      5/ Message filters. Filter inbound mail, filter on demand, etc. Filter on any header or other part of the message. Filter using external programs like spamassassin, etc.

      This may be more a part of a MTA than a MUA though.
  • They want the PIM features of their EMail-Client to work independently from the rest of it? Um, how about using a different application for different tasks?

    Obviously bloatware has finally won, if users even request it. Is there really something wrong with the "toolbox" approach of one tool for one job, or is it only that Windows-socialized people never had a chance to learn about it (due to the lack of usable tools)?

    (Then again, I use Gnus.. but that is of course something completely different!)

    • They want the PIM features of their EMail-Client to work independently from the rest of it? Um, how about using a different application for different tasks?

      The E-mail client will have the most interaction with the Address book/PIM features, so it makes sense to have the E-mail client be the "host" application of the PIM. The way Windows software is written, with DLL-based components, there's not much distinction between having a separate application and just being a component of the E-mail client.


      Just a few weeks ago, I spent hours cleaning out my wife's Outlook Contact List, so I have a few ideas.


      (1) Keep track of when each address was added to the address book. It was hard to tell which of a person's many addresses was current.


      (2) Let there be a way of marking an address as inactive. Yes, you can delete an address, but then later it may be added in again (automatically or manually).


      (3) A richer data model for addresses and a user interface to match.

      Right now, you can have only 3 e-mail addresses per contact. Not adequate. You need an unlimited number. Also, you should be able to share addresses (e-mail and otherwise) between people. John Smith and Jane Smith have different business phones and business e-mail addresses, but have the same home phone and address (and then again, have separate cell phone numbers.) I shouldn't have to update their home addresses separately. (Of course, it should keep a history of their past addresses, not just delete them.) There should be an easy way to tell the PIM that two contacts are really the same person and should be merged.

  • Before I did any of this fancy stuff, I'd settle for fixing aol and outlook to have all mail sent to more than three recipients to be automatically bcc'd, unless overridden by the sender.
  • I'd love to see gabber and evolution linked together a little more. Perhaps automagic importing of vcards or right click options for emailing a contact on your gabber list.

    I've gotta say, it'd be awesome for a corp environment. Gabber (and Jabber as a whole) is a pretty neat protocol, and includes a lot of features that I just love (gpg/pgp encrypted messages, ssl logins...god I love not having my traffic sniffed to death). Combine this with a jabber server in the corp setting, it'd pretty neat for communicating.
  • There are some terrible ideas on that list:

    (1) Floating PIM pane.
    This isn't an email client function. Sure, it's nice, and I do use Outlook's Calendar at work, but it's nothing to do with email. Having it hook into and be readily accessible from email window though - that'd be useful. Provided I get to choose what to use. Consider Outlook - it rules corporate email for one simple reason - scheduling meetings.

    (2) Split view in-box.
    Why split view? Why 2? Just make it more flexible.
    Let one of them be my window to Usenet, let one be a project email folder.

    (3) Instant Messaging.
    Okay, I don't use IM. However, my views on it's utility aside, why would you want it embedded in a giant window? It's the sort of app that runs in a small window in the corner of the screen - sticking it in the email client is ... odd.

    (4) Calendar linked autoresponse.
    NO NEED! Why would I want to send an email and get 30 replies all stating that they're in a meeting?
    If I'd wanted instant replies I'd have phoned, or met in person. By mailing I'm batching the job - unless the person is gone for weeks I don't care.
    Often even urgent work emails don't get replied to for 2-3 days. But that's fine for email. If people are away for days they can choose to set autoreply anyway.

    Sounds like the ideal mailer would be a blend of Outlook and Mutt!
  • by Sax Maniac ( 88550 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @11:00AM (#3295190) Homepage Journal
    The #1 feature that I want in a mail client is:

    When some moron sends me dual-encoded HTML/text mail, let me prefer to show the text version. If they sent HTML-only mail, convert it to text. I never want to see HTML. Ever!

    I am sick of getting HTML spam that automatically starts banging on my net connection, even before I get chance to blacklist the appropriate site through Junkbuster.

    (And no, I don't want to use a text-mode client. That's throwing the baby out with the bath water.)

    • KMail allows you to do that:

      You can prefer plain-text over HTML, enable HTML but not letting it pull external resources (webbugs, images,...) or just accept it al. You can also enable HTML on a folder basis, wich is nice for some legit HTML newsletters I recieve

    • Mutt does this. And it's MIME compliant, so any non-text attachments can be opened by the associated program in your mailcap file. Mine is set up to open HTML in mozilla (if I'm running X) or lynx, and open images with display (ImageMagick). You can associate a program for every MIME type...

      It truly does suck less.

    • I am sick of getting HTML spam that automatically starts banging on my net connection, even before I get chance to blacklist the appropriate site through Junkbuster.

      When there's something like this in the email:

      <img src="http://www.xxx/is-alive.cgi?a=your@email">

      and your client loads this image, they know someone is reading their spam at your address and they can log that your address is worth spamming, for future spam or selling it to other spammers. So your stolen bandwidth is actually a little problem, automatically rendering html email has much more serious problems than wasting the bandwidth. It's like a return receipt request which you can't ignore. A return receipt which is not sent by email but directly through tcp/ip, so the email sender knows your geographical location, your ISP, etc.

  • Outlook Express..... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Simulant ( 528590 )
    How about a client that actually displays the email address of the sender with out forcing you to jump through hoops Microsoft? I am not an idiot and you are just confusing my mother because I have several email addresses. I must admit, though I wish it wasn't so, Outlook Express (security and usability issues aside) is the most stable IMAP client I've used on a windows box. Outlook 2k definitely isn't stable and I havn't tried Outlook 2002. I'll be swtiching to Mozilla (for email) when 1.0 is released and we'll see how that goes. Anxiously waiting for IMAP support in Opera. Pegasus has some promise but is quirky. Eudora is broken. Any other recommendations for windows IMAP clients?
    • Any other recommendations for windows IMAP clients?

      One worth looking at is Mulberry [cyrusoft.com]. It is a great client written primarily for IMAP (with top-notch IMAP compatability). One or two annoyances, most of which I figured out in the first 15 minutes (it is very configurable and I don't agree with many of their defaults). Worth a look. Similar to OE in many ways, but fixes the security holes, auto-HTML rendering, shows you the real email address, etc.
  • Threading and scoring.

    I don't know how I'd get through my mailbox without mutt threading and scoring things for me. I don't want things just dumped in another mailbox...I want my mail scored so that it has a priority meaningful to me. Threads clear up the view considerably.

    I'm still trying to get Cygwin and mutt to work with my mail system, but no luck yet.

    The Bat (previously mentioned) DOES have threading, so it's part way there. Pretty decent for a fairly cheap client.
  • I've tried mostly every windows email client out there, I chose pocomail because of it's abillity to handle multiple email addresses as well as filter all the mailing lists I'm on to seperate folder. It also has a functional email filter, is scriptable and you can skin it. If you are the type of peson that actually reads documentation it will do just about anything. I think it's fairly stable and it's one of 2 programs I have _ever_ purchased.
    PocoMail.com [pocomail.com]
  • OS X Mail (Score:2, Interesting)

    by d0n quix0te ( 304783 )
    Comes pretty close to my ideal.

    1. Simple refreshing design. Does one thing and does it well. Simple enough for Mom and complex enough to handle a deluge of Mail.

    2. Security-- Built in support for using ssh for communication. No virus threat.

    3. Superb search functions. All e-mail is auto indexed using AIAT (Sherlock) for rapid search. You have to try it to believe it...

    4. Open design to allow add-ins/services. My favorites include Word Service for formatting, SpamCop service for reporting Spam, GPGP support for encryption.

    5. Easy organization. Multiple signatures, templates, accounts, mailboxes.

    6. Internet standards compliant. No proprietary stuff.

    7. Anti bloat. At 3.5 MB it is small by today's standards...
  • Despite a committed kmail user at home, I have to use outlook at work. My job takes me around the world, so I am often having to connect using not very good communication links. The biggest problem I have is that the user interface locks up solid when its is trying to communicate with the server. I can see no reason why it has to, just bad design.

    The other issue that this review misses is the difference between e-mail that is person to person (ie the sender knows who the readers are) and mailing lists (where generally the post gets sent to those people who happen to be subscribed). Most of the facilities being requested are for the first type of communication, whilst the second needs a completely different set of priorities. This suggests the integration of the NNTP protocol, the ability to subscribe and unsubscribe automatically from lists and much stronger threading capability (and associated actions such as ignore or watch threads) are functions that are built in.
  • My big desire would be the ability to do something with my email outside of the client... maybe I want to save years upon years of email by writing a program to parse them and store them in a mysql database... something like that.

    An XML file format that was something like:

    thisdude@greatideas.org
    someotherdude@evenbetterideas.org
    Hey Dude!, I had another great idea!

    and so on, including all of the header information and such. I could then parse it and do whatever I want with it.

    As the Pragmattic Programmers said, "Keep Knowledge in Plain Text"

    -db
  • by jbridges ( 70118 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @11:30AM (#3295268)
    Anyone I've ever recieved more than N messages from, make a folder for me, and setup the filters to automaticly put messages from that person into that folder.

    Also put symbolic links to any messages I've ever sent that person (or list) into that folder.

    Why do I say put links?

    Ever write a message to multiple friends and you have no idea which folder the message was filtered into? It's either in some random folder for whichever filter was first, or worse there are multiple copies of the message in each persons folder.

    I want it all to be automatic, so automatic that magicly my mother's 500+ message InBox is suddenly cleaned up as a series of neat and clear folders.

    If it's not automatic, 99% of users (like those who never program their VCR) will never use filters for folders. At most I see people using folders manually. It needs to be all automatic!!

    I'd also like all my messages stored as plain text, one file per message, one directory for each folder (like PMMail except use better filenames). I want my mail to be indestructable, and not tied up in anyones database format. Screw mbox or worse the encrypted junk in Outlook. Let the OS do the work! Then I can search for messages, move messages between folders, do all sorts of cool stuff directly to the message base.

    • It needs to be all automatic!!

      Your auto-folder-making-and-filtering idea sounds good, but I firmly believe that all "automatic" functions in any software should default to "OFF!"

      My primary desktop is linux/KDE, with a small stable of applications to provide for everyday needs (kmail, for instance.) Nothing frustrates me more than having to use a huge application that starts doing "useful" things that are not what I want, and I can't figure out why, or how to stop it. This is especially true of various big-name word-processors. All of a sudden I'm getting headers, and page numbers, and different line spacing here and there, and various freaky auto-formatting, because the application wants my work to look "professional." Bullshit. If I want to look professional, I'll take a class or read a book and pick and choose the functions myself. Until then, just give me the basics.
  • Peices and plug-ins (Score:2, Interesting)

    by spiphy ( 83524 )
    One of the reasons I like linux is because for many jobs there are tools made just for that job. In some cases there are a group of tools designed to work seamlessly to get a more complex task done. I like this idea. I like small fast well writen apps that work with each other. I have yet to see this to the extent that I am thinking about tho.

    I would love a simple e-mail client with the absolute minimum number of features required. Then to make things better plug-ins and helper apps to make the client totaly customizable. So if I wanted all the features listed in the review I could install them. If I wanted diffrent one I would get them.

    The perfect email client is one that would have a bunch of peices like legos. Anyone could pick the pieces they like and build there own email client. Heck why stop with email?
  • Elm worked fine in 1987 and damn it, it works fine now. Other than a small timezone problem for one hour about 0000 GMT Y2K, its been bug free for 15 years.
  • News (Score:2, Insightful)

    by oren ( 78897 )
    The first thing which drives me nuts is that news (usenet) readers and mail readers are completely saparate. Sure, at times they are both integrated into the same product, but they are still conceptually separate. What is so hard to understand in the following statement: being subscribed to a mailing list and tracking a usenet group should be *exactly the same*. And yes, Virginia, even normal E-mail "folders" *need to support threads*. Sigh.

    The second thing is having to sort messages to "folders". I'd much rather be able to assign keywords to each message - multiple, independent keywords, both automatically using rules and manually when I read the message - and then view "virtual folders" based on queries on these keywords. Nothing ground breaking here... but I suspect it would take another 10 years until it would become mainstream. Ugh.

    My final problem is that my work environment is based on Exchange's calendar so I'm stuck with using Outlook, so I'll die of old age before I see any of this, even if it does get into open-source viewers. Arrgghh!
  • I'm sure I'm ignoring obvious deficiencies, but when I'm in X I've settled on Evolution from Ximian [ximian.com]. It tastes like Outlook, which I use if I'm stuck in Windows, will soon be able to replace Outlook (Exchange server 2000 compatibility is out, hopefully older Exchange server compatibility is on the way) for the corporate desktop, its pretty, featured, etc. When I'm relagated to a mere console, I use pine. Its been around and I'm used to it.

    I might check out the bat based on other comments here, but those two do it for me.

  • Mulberry (Score:4, Informative)

    by the eric conspiracy ( 20178 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @12:26PM (#3295446)

    I am surprised to not see Mulberry suggested. It's one of the few email clients (if not the only email client) specifically designed from the ground up for use with IMAP. It's fast, reliable. It doesn't fully support HTML mail (a good thing). It has versions for almost every platform - Win, Mac OS 9, Mac OS X, Linux, Solaris.

    I've been using Mulberry for a year and a half now, and there is no way I would go back to Exchange or Eudora (whose crappy behavior started me looking for an alternative).

  • Many posters have talked about how this article is asking for bloatware. They have a good point, but I think they are missing the real issue: interoperability.

    For example: No, there's no good reason to have a PIM or IM client integrated into your email client. However, there are extremely good reasons to have the two programs interact rather closely:

    • Interoperating email notifications with meeting scheduling and todo lists/calendars is a great idea (but it has to be optional, and the best way to do that is to separate the clients).
    • Hyperlink-like functionality between email and contact lists, schedules, etc.
    • Ease of use in terms of sending email from any application.
    The one true key to these types of interoperability is standardized, extensible, backwards compatible, and stable information storage formats (XML, for all it's faults, is one step in the right direction towards this). One good way to encourage that, of course, is open source development :-).

    Unfortunately, most programmers are too lazy to do this right. The ones that aren't are too concerned with keeping their product's chokehold on the software consumer.

  • They forgot the most important feature for this sort of bloatware that is really needed: it should by design be safe from viruses. Right now, I can only laugh when I get yet another virus. Mutt is safe from this sort of bullshit :)
  • What about a readable archive format like mbox? Not some binary garbage that requires special coding to migrate mail to a new mailer. It's a lot easier for me to translate something I can read in an editor. Also what about a text mode so that you can read your e-mail over a terminal session?
  • Anybody considering mail clients should probably look at Mulberry [cyrusoft.com]. Runs on all the major OSs. I download it every once in a while, hoping it's gotten usable enough for me to live with. Last time (some months ago) it was still too klunky. But it is stable, and the feature set is impressive.
  • The CNET review started with the Outlook model, which means that there's more to mail than mail. Outlook competes with Notes, which is a database-driven application environment that incidentally includes a truly wretched mail client. Let's leave calendaring, napstering, chat and news to specialized clients and focus on mail!

    I like Eudora 3 a lot, but of course it doesn't have a Unix/Linux version. A really nice mail program would do better to start there. KMail's not bad either but again missing some things. A simple wish list:

    - Fast user interface, with keyboard shortcuts to move to the next message, delete, etc., without touching the mouse. (I often need to filter through a hundred or more messages, many spam.) [Okay, this is common.]

    - Filtering. [Okay, this is common.]

    - POP3 and IMAP4 support.

    - Good use of screen space. Eudora's overlapping windows are wonderful -- the 3-pane model is more common but takes more screen space.

    - With POP3 (this is easier with IMAP but lots of POP3 servers are out there), there should be a "delete after x" option. And it needs tokeep track of what it's already seen. All of the Linux clients I can find are "leave mail on server" or "delete". But with more than one computer (home and office), I want to sync the mail by having both copies of the client get the mail, leaving it on the server just long enough for both to have a chance to get it all. Eudora and Outlook Express both do this on Windows, but it's not in KMail, Outlook, Sylpheed, etc. This is a showstopper! I have to boot back to Windows in order to run Eudora just to control the mail (my Linux clients are "leave mail on server").

    - Cross-platform Linux/Unix and Windows support using the SAME mail files! (Thus the Linux version has to run against VFAT mail files.) This way the user can boot up either OS and access the same mail, rather than maintain two copies (see above about "leave mail on server" and multiply the problem by different OSs as well as by computers. I keep three copies of most mail because of this, office, home Windows and home Linux.) Yes, I recognize that Windows and Linux disagree on ASCII conventions, but a Windows app *can* be written to use a Linux-standard database.

    - Optional display of HTML mail, without making external references (phoning home to spammers) or executing anything (viruses) unless you explicitly say to. Default send should be plain text.
  • I've got one! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by drix ( 4602 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @02:02PM (#3295761) Homepage
    Here's one! [mozilla.org]. Maybe a little long on design and short on implementation, but overall sounds like a good idea to me.
  • by Khopesh ( 112447 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @02:23PM (#3295824) Homepage Journal
    A long while ago (pre-win2k), I used a little program called Becky! [morelerbe.com] (official site here [rimarts.co.jp]), a shareware Windows email client. It has the best interface I've seen yet. ...however, it doesn't get updates frequently and it's primary language is Japanese. Oh, and it's not free beer let alone free speech.

    I'm currently using Pine for receiving and Mozilla for sending. Once I get an IMAP server up on my linux box, I'll use Mozilla for mail at home and Pine for remote. Personally, I think this is the optimal solution; with your own personal IMAP server, you NEVER have to worry about switching email clients and converting everything. ...and you can't beat Pine for remote access (unless you're a fan of webmail, and even then you're hard pressed for something free).
  • by melatonin ( 443194 ) on Saturday April 06, 2002 @02:53PM (#3295909)
    Can those who review also design?

    Of course not.

    Well, I guess if it really was one of those 'of course' things, I wouldn't be responding, would I? :-)

    Users know only one thing. "I want this." This doesn't just apply to software, it applies to any industry, from cars, services, whatever. Users only know what they want, and they typically want the stupidest stuff.

    It takes people who understand the problem domain and the issues involved to actually make solutions work. This is why joe-6-pack doesn't make solutions. When they do, they make Homer's Car.

    They've committed several 'crimes' on their wishlist. The most prominent is that they used Outlook as a launching point. Good god. Outlook shouldn't be a launching point for anything, especially a Dream Email-PIM system.

    Besides that (I'll admit that I've got several grudges with Outlook), they've ignored problems with scalability and configurability. It's easy to dictate "I want this here, and it should do this," but it's much harder to decide how it's supposed to adapt to varying amounts of data and user workflows. The split email view is bad on so many counts- it makes showing subjects and dates harder, and what if you have 5 email accounts (such as I do) that you need to monitor? It just doesn't work. You need a better solution.

    And there's the whole issue of feature bloat. I'd say reviewers are fairly savvy with the software they use (if not, they don't deserve their job). But a new users (and many not-so-new users; basically whenever anyone encounters something outside of their knowledge domain, which anything that they're not used to working on) have to take a blind eye to 90% of the features of feature-bloated software. It's information overload; so much that the new user doesn't know where to start, or what half of those things are useful for.

    It's just the 90/10 rule; 90% of the work is done by 10% of the code- or interface. Don't put the rest of the 90% of the interface up front, it's just not useful.

    For people born and bread on Microsoft Office, it would be hard to picture another way of working. But it's not for those people to decide; it's up to the user interface designers to make those decisions and come up with appropriate solutions.

    That's the most important factor when writing software. Most programmers and managers (and reviewers) completely miss that fact, and we all end up working with complicated (== $$ on training), inefficient (== $$ on time), feature-rich software designs (== $$ for MS and people who support it, like that NT sys admin at work you love so much) that don't help the user.

    UI designers exist for a good reason. Good ones understand their problem domain better than anyone else, and are best suited to make solutions for it. To get anyone else to do the job is akin to putting non-tech people in charge of digital copyright laws. It just doesn't make sense.

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