Eudora was the greatest e-mail client ever.
Was. Qualcomm released the last update, 184.108.40.206, in 2006. It had secret subterranean hallways, notably the file esoteric.epi, that yielded another 12 years of utility. But the latest security certificates are just beyond its ability to cope, as far as I can tell. One day I'll have to send something urgently, and a certificate will have changed overnight. Either I put down the urgent item for an hour and miss a deadline while I tinker with Certificate Manager, or I move on now, to a current e-mail client.
RIP Eudora. You served me well for 25 years.
It seems that most of the world today accesses mail on a browser. Our entire life's correspondence record resides on a server somewhere, we don't know exactly where. Often the service is “free” and we sign away our rights in exchange, giving the service provider the right to profile us, and to peruse our intellectual property. I don't care for any of that.
The other way is to use a client (effectively a program or “app:” Apple Mail, Outlook, Thunderbird) on a computer or portable device, that talks to a server. We usually pay to use the server, or our cable/DSL service includes an e-mail account on their server in a package deal. We have rights. There are two ways to handle client-server mail: IMAP and POP3. I don't like IMAP, for the same reason I don't like free browser mail: it leaves the entire mail history on the server. That does give it the advantage of anywhere-access. Which comes with the disadvantage of anybody-access at the server site. I prefer total control: my mail on my disk. If I lose the files, it's because of my incompetence, I don't stand around fuming helplessly when someone else ruins my archives. POP3 is the e-mail model that does this.
An e-mail client handles IMAP or POP3. If this is how you want to handle your e-mail, you need a client; read on.
In an e-mail client, you get a tree structure, usually on the left, with an index of mail boxes. With a deft click of the mouse, you pick the In box. On the right pane, up pops a mailbox summary. Double-click a row in the summary and the message window opens. Now let's look at the Out box. Ah, but that closes the In box.
With Eudora there are multiple windows on display at a time. In, Out, Urgent Replies, Sales Prospects, whatever. Strategic visibility.
With Eudora (and to an extent with Thunderbird), the more adept user can move things around. Import legacy files, or messages sent from another computer, and have them sit side by side, mix them into a common mailbox. The user decides what works best, and it takes only moderate file management skills.
If you need to ask, you don't need to know. It's handshaking data exchanged between the client (your computer) and the server, to protect your information, password, etc, as it travels between the two systems. A modern e-mail client handles all of that for you.
But move on to what? I installed Thunderbird and put it through some paces. Among other problems, it would not import Eudora files, so I'd have to start clean. It wasn't my favorite day.
While researching ways to import those Eudora files, I came across a reference to Pandora. Ha ha! Cute name. Not much of a corporate web site, no search engine presence to talk about. What sort of malware might lurk behind it? But then I saw a screen shot, it looked remarkably familiar, so I downloaded a trial.
Remember your first really thrilling ride? Roller-coaster, dodge-em car, Air Force One, whatever, where you just spontaneously went “Wheeeeee?” Remember that scene in Ratatouille [youtube.com/watch?v=rLXYILcRoPQ], when the rat bites into this gourmet cheese, and his dark world explodes into colored swirls?
How do you spell s-e-a-m-l-e-s-s? Without the seams: seamless. Ctrl-1: In box. Ctrl-0: Out box. Ctrl-M: Fetch mail. Ctrl-E: Send message (with a slight difference). Wooooeeee! Ctrl-L: Insert a link. A few things are slightly different, mostly for the better.
Like Eudora, In and Out are assigned a folder each on disk, and every mailbox is similarly a folder containing a content file and index. When you have to import, migrate, archive, restore, etc, you have the power to get the system working the way you want it.
Like Eudora, Pandora data files can reside anywhere, on a thumb drive if you like, and you can specify that location in a command line argument.
And there are the Eudora classics: set the font and size, one for the mailbox summary, another for the message. But with more fine tuning. You have the option to store settings in the Windows Registry, or in a configuration .ini file — which I much prefer: copying settings to another computer is a cinch, and a snafu wrecks your e-mail, not the entire operating system.
Pandora is the upgrade that Eudora needed. Here are some differences.
Pandora controls online content. What's that? Surveillance and worse. You get an e-flier from your department store. That backyard awning going at 20% off. About 20 product pictures. The pictures aren't part of the e-mail, they're on a server, fetched in real-time when you open and view the e-mail. Each fetch request tells the store that you opened the e-mail, at 9:26, went back for a second look at 11:37, etc. A marketing e-mail contains pieces from multiple servers: not just the store, but from a data-harvesting crew that tracks and consolidates your responses to different e-mails and sticks digital tags on your forehead. Even if marketers' silent, intrusive tactics don't bother you, malicious content from spammers should. Pandora has a button at the bottom of every message, that lists all the referenced servers, and you can pick and choose: all servers, none, or specific trusted sources. There's an option to enable all if the sender is in your address book.
Surreptitious plants in our e-mail are unfortunately becoming the rule rather than the exception, and pretty much every e-mail client looks the other way. Pandora exposes them. Bravo!
In response to my suggestion, Pandora has a perhaps-unique feature, to transform an incoming message into an outgoing message. Why? I'm on the road, and send a message from my phone. To keep a copy in Pandora, I bcc myself. When that message arrives in Pandora, it's incoming. But logically it's outgoing, right? Now I can switch its headers to outgoing. That means I can use any device, iOS, Android, even as a guest on someone else's e-mail device/client, to send mail, and still have it on file in Pandora. That's a big deal: it lessens my need to carry a Windows device, and closes the gap between IMAP and POP3. I got this feature added to Pandora because I asked for it. Couldn't do that very easily in Eudora.
In response to another suggestion, Pandora now has a command-line interface. From a DOS window, type:
C:\> C:\Progra~1\Pandora\Pandora sendto:firstname.lastname@example.org?subject=Meeting^&body=How%20about%20tomorrow%20at%20nine?
[This is standard mailto syntax, and techies will recognize the escape characters: ^ before &, and %20 replacing spaces.] Now you can send e-mails from a batch file, or from a command shell in any programming language (without the ^ escape character in the latter case). Pandora could be running or not when this command is issued. It launches if necessary, and the message goes out. There are syntax extensions for personality and stationery. There's also a queueto option in place of sendto, in which case the message sits in the Out box awaiting editing and further action.
Powerful possibilities: mailing lists, automated notifications.
Pandora provides for an incoming and outgoing server and port number for each personality. You can have a secure personality on ports 995/465, co-existing with an insecure personality on a different server using 110/25 or whatever you choose. Eudora had one in- and one out-port, and dealing with personalities at different security levels was troublesome.
This is not a complete listing of features/differences, just some highlights.
Is Pandora ready for market? Having used it as my primary e-mail client for 10 months, I say a certain YES!
It has its problems of course. As does every other software package. I've seen the program crash, messages disappear, and mailbox indexes corrupted. The program can be re-started, and corrupted indexes can be rebuilt. But lost messages are not tolerable (that problem has been fixed as detailed below, but I wanted to start this section by looking at the product quite brutally, for unbiased comparison).
Which raises the question: is any other e-mail client tolerable, considering that you have to click 4 times instead of once, 30x/day? Do others crash? More than a decade after Word came on the market, I lost work in corrupted .doc files. Similarly, I could easily write a couple of pages criticizing the iPhone mail app, Google products, or just about anything else. It boils down to what you stand to gain by choosing a product, and what risks you're willing to take. Once a product passes basic tests of functionality and stability, I put a large part of my judgment on the character of the people behind it. The corporate value statement if you will, not the words on the web site but the way they're practiced.
With Pandora, you the customer are on the Board of Directors, for practical purposes. Pandora is the creation of Brana Bujenovic of E-Gadgets (his past creations were various e-mail-related utilities). Bug report or suggestion for a new feature? His replies are prompt, intelligent and constructive. If he won't put in a feature you suggest, he'll have a reason why, not necessarily convincing, but thoughtful. If the solution to the problem is to set an option, he can often send a link by e-mail, e.g. "x-pandora-settings:datetimecolumnalign=1", click it and the option is activated. Technically slick, plus refreshing re-focus on the U in UX.
I exchanged 25 e-mails with Brana in the first 2 weeks, and during that period two minor upgrades were released, with responses to some of my bug reports and suggestions. There have been about 20 updates in under a year. This is not just exemplary. It's a class of its own.
Sure the program crashes, maybe every 5 months on average. Nothing gets lost in the process, so I can live with that. The lost-message problem was due to the way some options were set and implemented. An e-mail exchange with Brana, a couple of software updates, and the problem has gone away. There will be more crashes, and mailbox indexes will get corrupted again, as surely as autonomous cars will get into accidents. Life's like that.
In summary, this is more feature-rich, and no more buggy than any other software. Bottom line: whatever problems there are, whatever new problems arise, I'm confident that they'll be resolved, and soon.
Pandora is almost free. At $14, a license costs about the same as a nice sandwich and soda (Eudora was more like a nice dinner with wine). Minor upgrades are covered, e.g. 2.1 to 2.2, but you'll need a new license to step up a major version, e.g. 1.9 to 2.0. This is standard practice. Eudora did it. WinZip does it.
There's a free version too. It has only one personality, and a couple of other features are limited.
But why not fork out a sandwich worth of small bills to fund E-Gadgets and its magnificent project that makes our lives easier? Support a developer who restores the best customer-focused design and standards in the software business. Even if it's with the selfish motivation that we can't let Pandora go away and have to find another e-mail client that works.
Better still, put in some time. Write some help text. Contribute a user experience. Help to develop momentum for this product. Do your bit to make this not just a mainstream e-mail client, but the standard. It deserves to be.
I thought of a way to help: I wrote this. Can you come up with something?