A few months back, Marc Bizer asked me if I could do a review of Emailer 2.0; I decided to wait a tad longer to get a copy of Organizer 2.0 and include an evaluation of its integration with Emailer as part of Claris' new efforts to provide internet capabilities between its products. I had started compiling my results but, meanwhile, Apple dropped Mac OS 8 on us and I decided to "play with it" for a while and see how Emailer and Organizer "behaved" with the new OS. Following are my experiences with these two products.
Claris remains true to form: both products ship in high density floppy versions, a boon to older Mac users who still resist the urge to jump on the CD bandwagon. Hardware requirements are relatively modest: Emailer requires a 68020 or higher Mac running system 7.1 or later, 4 mb of RAM (3 mb if you don't need on screen help), and 9 mb of available drive space for the full install; Organizer requires system 7.0 or higher, also runs on a '020 Mac, and also requires 4 mb of RAM (8 mb for Power Macs). Owners of 12 inch monitors rejoice: Emailer will run on them. Both packages come with small, simple and clearly laid-out user manuals, but the mark of a good Mac product is the ability to avoid reading the manual, and you probably won't need to refer to them if you're at ease with an earlier version of either program.
Installation is straightforward, both products use the standard Claris/Apple installer and prompt you with the easy or custom install options, giving you the choice between 680x0 or PowerPC installations. I ran in the installer on my trusty Power Mac 8100 and was up and running in no time.
Moving from version 1.0 of both products to their new versions was an interesting experience. Both product's interfaces have been revamped in a major way. Claris is standardizing the graphic user interface of its new line: toolbars are very similar between both products, and the menu's commands are still clean and well laid out.
Emailer's new browser interface adds a few twists to the program: you can now create subfolders and the program makes full use of the Mac system's drag and drop capabilities. Message management has also been greatly improved: messages are now stored in a database, rather than occupy a ridiculous amount of space as was the case with the previous version which greatly contributed to drive fragmentation problems by creating individual files for each message. While this makes the program less "drive hungry" space wise, I would venture that it also increases the risk of a major data loss in case of a crash: I haven't had to try to recover the message file since my system has been very stable for the last few months, but I suspect that if the data file is corrupted, there goes your message archives. Regular backups are therefore a must, but with Emailer's smaller drive "footprint", this will be a fairly painless procedure. Also, you can now define 20 categories in the "Priority" feature, as well as customize as many different signatures as you may want or need. Defining mail actions is also a simple process but be careful to configure actions properly: I had setup a "spam killer" filter action but made a mistake in the third line of the action's configuration and ended up moving all incoming messages to the deleted folder while automatically replying to everyone to stop bugging me with unsollicited email. (Many apologies, Kyle!)
Emailer remains clean and avoids visual pollution by keeping the interface simple yet elegant. Besides the main browser window, Emailer sports the address book and connection status windows, as well as an error log window where you can scroll through the list of connection problems experienced during your email sessions. There is also a folder list window, but I haven't the foggiest idea what it is used for: there is no mention of it in the program's documentation, and it doesn't add anything to what is already available in the browser window. It could be a viewing option for owners of small screen Macs, letting them view the folders only and double clicking on them to get a message list.
Retrieving your mail with Emailer is still a painless experience. Users of Mac OS 8 will find that message scrolling is better than under 7.6, thanks to the new finder. And if, like me, you're a Geoport user with an older PowerMac, you'll find Emailer 2.0 responds better under OS 8. Sending mail also remains an easy task, and you can still select your choice of attachment encoding, should you need to send something to one of those poor, suffering Wintel colleagues who have problems handling binhexed attachments. And for those having multiple email accounts, Emailer remains the best option to maintain multiple configurations, offering settings for every major email system from America Online to UUCP.
Organizer has also been revamped. I'll pass on the cosmetic improvements and agenda features concentrate on the internet integration within the contact management side of the program. Opening a contact window, one immediately notices new fields in the other information box, namely spaces for email and web addresses. Organizer 2.0 is designed to work directly with Netscape Navigator and Emailer: clicking on the email or web buttons by these fields launches either program and opens the appropriate window. In Navigator, it sends you straight to the site, while Emailer opens a new message, filling in the name and email address of your correspondent.
Both email and web link features work fine, as long as your email and browser program choices are Navigator and Emailer: users of Microsoft Explorer and Qualcomm's Eudora will be left in the cold, since Organizer doesn't support the Internet Config system which lets you specify other support programs.
All in all, Claris did a fine job in these updated products. Both remain efficient and use fairly little system ressources. If you need a stable and elegant Mac solution to handle your email needs, Emailer will do the trick. If you're already running the Organizer 1.0 personal information manager, Organizer 2.0 offers good integration with Emailer and Netscape if your contacts are on the net or you have a list of professional or commercial contacts which also have web sites. However, not being able to change the browser link in Organizer to use Microsoft Explorer is definitely a shortfall: many users have switched to Explorer due to its more modest ram requirements, and Claris should acknowledge this by letting users define which programs they use for web access. My wish list for a future versions? In Emailer's case, a more visual built-in recognition for email, FTP and HTTP addresses in the messages' body (à la Eudora or Netscape); in Organizer's case, adding an FTP address field, and configuration options to define other applications for web access.
Comments or questions on the review? You can reach me on the H-Mac list or email me at email@example.com.
Christian Dupuis is a macintosh technician and support specialist living in Montreal. He has been testing and reviewing Claris and Apple products since 1994.