When you first started e-mailing, you probably used America Online. But you quickly tired of the lengthy log-ins, the ponderous graphics and the limited e-mail commands.
Now you can read your e-mail several ways. You can use the software built into Netscape Navigator or Microsoft Internet Explorer, or you can use one of the stand-alone applications available. The question is: Which program suits your needs? Let us help you decide.
Is It In The Mail?
If you don't have the latest version of the Netscape browser, Communicator 4.5, you can get it for free at http://www.netscape.com/download Communicator's built-in Messenger e-mail program lets you maintain an address book, format the message text's font and type size, attach files and embed objects, spell-check the message, send carbon and blind copies, sort incoming messages into folders, filter messages according to rules, and more. Messenger sets itself up smoothly, and, for most people, it serves its purpose just fine.
A Different Outlook
The Microsoft Outlook 98 e-mail program is combined with a personal information manager, which includes a contact database, a calendar and a task list. A version of Outlook is bundled with Microsoft Office 97, a business software suite; however, you can upgrade to Outlook 98 for free at http://www.microsoft.com You also can buy Outlook 98 separately for around $100.
Outlook Express, the mail component of Internet Explorer, is similar to Outlook; one useful feature of both is "stationery," a template you create using boilerplate text so you don't have to retype frequently-sent messages. However, both lack some of Messenger's advanced options.
In its various incarnations, Qualcomm's Eudora is probably the most popular stand-alone e-mail program. With Eudora Pro, you can test messages for complex conditions--for example, "To: contains `Smith' and `widget' appears in `Body.'? If a message matches the condition, you can automate up to five actions. For example, when a specific type of message arrives, your computer can notify you audibly, notify someone else or launch an application: If, say, an order arrives via e-mail, you might want a word processing program to launch so you can print a form letter acknowledging receipt.
Eudora Pro sells for $39. Qualcomm also offers Eudora Light for free; this program might be the right pick if you like Eudora's style but don't need its advanced features. Visit http://www.eudora.com
Still not sure what you want? You can download many free or or low-cost programs from Tucows (http://www.tucows.com). Or do a little more research on your own: To peruse the "Top Ten E-Mail Programs and Utilities," go to http://www.pcworld.com/news/daily/data/0198/980123142637.html
Hot To Buy
WebEdit Pro 3.1 is a professional HTML editor for creating Web sites. Users can see the results of their efforts by displaying the HTML code side-by-side with a WYSIWYG preview of a Web page. "WebEdit Pro 3.1 meets the demands of professional HTML authors who require precise control of their code," says Mark Green, CEO of Luckman Interactive, the manufacturer. Don't be intimidated by that: The latest version also incorporates tools and wizards that make it easy for beginners to create sharp-looking sites. Visit http://www.luckman.com for information. Price: $89.95.
Robert Schmidt is a computer and business writer in Culver City, California. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Microsoft Corp., (800) 426-9400, http://www.microsoft.com
Netscape Communications Corp., (800) 638-7483, http://home.netscape.com
Qualcomm Inc., (800) 238-3672