Will no-one rid me of this meddlesome email client? A horse a horse (or $500) for an auto-preview function in Thunderbird

Many years ago I took up the Microsoft email client Outlook. It’s a good program. At least in theory. It combines a powerful e-mailer with a few gimicks that I don’t use and a calendar that I do use. Oddly I don’t know any other email clients that offer that integration of calendar with email – as obvious and one would have imagined straightforward as the combination may be and as keen as you might imagine other companies might be to knock off Microsoft.

Anyway it was always puzzling, though somehow unsurprising that Microsoft would run a free ‘cut down’ e-mail editor – Outlook Express – alongside it’s pay for Outlook program. As an email client Outlook Express seemed technically superior. You could for instance search its contents and it would find old emails for you. The full on pay version of Outlook thrashed around for ages. Sometimes it would turn up what you asked it for, and just as often if you had a few months worth of emails in the client it would return empty handed. You would then go and retrieve the emails manually. They were in there alright. It was just that the program, having thrashed itself, had given up and wasn’t going to find them for you.

Oddly, Outlook Express and Outlook appear to share virtually no coding and one program even finds it difficult to read the way the other one codes an email. You’d think even for their own cost minimising purposes this might have been sorted out in ten years. but they’re still completely different programs with all the same compatibility problems.

After some bitter experiences I always assumed that none of these problems would be fixed as Outlook went from ’97 to ’98 and from ’98 to 2003. I wasn’t disappointed. In each case there were various extra features – some useful, some not, but few of the obvious problems had been fixed.

Then they fixed it in Outook 2007. Outlook 2007 indexes emails as they arrive. However now my usual 4 megs or 200 odd emails in the morning (most of which is spam) takes about ten minutes to download (though my ADSL2 would take less than a minute to download the lot). The program is busy indexing madly – or that’s what I presume, I really don’t know. I do know that I’ve tried this on two pretty up-to-date machines and the same thing happens on both machines. The indexing while it’s downloading emails also consumes so many resources in the machine that it is quite difficult to do other things with it while it’s downloading email.

Having persevered for a while, the system is showing definite signs of simply not being prepared to tolerate the large email files I want to work with. I try to keep up to 6 months of emails which builds up to a Gig or so by the end of the period, after which I archive all the emails and then start again. Outlook 2007 has started playing up so badly after storing just over one month’s emails that I’ll need to use something else.

I’m already on Google calendar so that’s sorted (though it isn’t as flexible as Outlook the calendar of which has been fine and it doesn’t have ‘tasks’ which is pretty important to me.) But there’s a problem with all the email clients I’ve checked out. The ‘auto-preview’ function in Outlook seems very hard to come across in the free email clients I’ve checked out. What’s so good about autopreview? Well if you have masses of spam and your spam checker generates the odd false negative, autopreview is a great way of casting your eyes down through the emails and giving it one last check. (See the contrast in the picture below).

I hoped for better from Mozilla Thunderbird – which has just been released as a 2.0 program. It seems to have most of what I’m after, and it is said to index emails quickly. But alas no auto-preview.
So does someone want to quote me to do a plugin for Thunderbird that will give me a good autopreview function within Thunderbird. Your code will go into the annuls. It may be being used in a thousand years! Perhaps one already exists – though I’ve had a search and not found it. And how come no-one else thinks that in these spam drenched days, auto-preview is not pretty much indispensable in an email program?

Outlook’s email display with (left) and without (right) auto-preview.

outlook.gif

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Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Why not just gmail for everything, Nick? I would except some sysadmins have a habit of blocking anything from gmail as spam.

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Actually one of the other things that’s a tad annoying about Thunderbird is the way it deals with calendar entries sent from Outlook Express. But I blame microsoft for that!

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Thanks, Jacques.

Nick, web based email has moved on fairly quickly and might be worth another look. You can get auto-preview in Google if you install a desktop alert. I find it much better in organising and searching for information than any conventional email client.

Alexander McLeay
Alexander McLeay
14 years ago

Nicholas, it probably doesnt help (because it’s for Linux), but Evolution does ave a built-in Calendar. I think the idea here is that Microsoft dominates Windows, so if you want to compete with them on coporate email, you’re better off doing it on Mac or Linux than Windows.

I’m not sure I understand what you mean by autopreviewif I understand correctly, then GMail does have it. At least, it showed the first sentence or so of an email straight after the subject in the inbox when I used to use it. Still, I, too, abhor webmailyet Im still looking for a good desktop email client.

Incidentally, does anyone know why the textbox for posting messages on this blog is wider than the space available for it? I don’t get a horizontal scroll-bar or anything, its just when I get towards the end of the line the start of the line (and my name and email addressand the submit button) disappears.

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Maybe you’ve to gmail configured differently to me, but when I look in the spam folder I can look at all the messages and see the first sentence which enables me to quickly determine whether they are actually spam.

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

I don’t get that much spam, and at the moment I’m only using 775mb (since March 05) so probably our email needs are different.

Francis Xavier Holden
14 years ago

Eudora – always the best email program is now completely free. And is going FLOSS via Mozilla I think. I have been using it since the early 90s. Download the full “sponsored” version. Since it not sponsored anymore it is the full version without any ads now. A small empty popup window which can be minimized permanently.

It’s the king of email clients. Logical. Searchable. Junk files. Can import from Outlook. You can choose where it downloads attachments to. You can open the saved emails as a text file too. Very handy in cases of corruption or whatever.

I have kept years of emails in it, although it is a good idea to clean out the in box every now and then and not let it get too big.

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Oh does Eudora used to exist? QUT used to have it as standard when I worked there in the 90s. I loved it.

Mark Bahnisch
14 years ago

Does Eudora still exist, I mean to say! Tired!

Alexander McLeay
Alexander McLeay
14 years ago

Jacques, here is an example or two. Note that to change the view for the second example, I put my cursor in name field and pressed “Home”.

http://www.imagehosting.com/out.php/i997507_troppo.png

David Rubie
David Rubie
14 years ago

Preview is bad. I always turn it off in Outlook.

The reason? The HTML sent in email can do some potentially nasty things via various backdoors in browser display code (which is getting called when displaying HTML email). Some of the spam you receive inevitably contains attempts to grab information off your machine (cookies etc) or execute something malicious.

Get a good spam filter (I used to use spamassassin with outlook) if you aren’t behind a corporate firewall.

Francis Xavier Holden
14 years ago

nic – I’m not sure – from memory you just click on ok and it all works ok.

Francis Xavier Holden
14 years ago

It says that the special spam plug in is disabled in the “sponsored” mode but mine works ok but then I have a filter on my mail server as well.

One approach which works great is to have your mail go directly to (or be forwarded to) Gmail, [ I have some accounst that are forwarded after spam filtering from my server to my gmail account then filtered agin by gmail before being forwarded again to another account which I download as IMAP – I then have copies on gmail, to get from any computer in the world and also on my own server – its all painless – sounds more complicated than it is] which not only has a dynamite spam filter of its own, but also lets you download mail to Eudora, like any other POP server, and even collect mail from other POP servers, while remaining also a web-enabled client you can use from anywhere, yet still send mail with any “From:” address of your own — and it’s all free

James
James
14 years ago

Lightning (the calendar extension for Thunderbird) does have a Google Calendar plugin. There are two open bugs for the autopreview functionality:
https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=364090 and https://bugzilla.mozilla.org/show_bug.cgi?id=307070 so you might want to post your bounty there.