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  • Is the New Eudora Bait and Switch?

    September 4th, 2007

    The other day, from out of nowhere, comes the first beta of the new open source version of that famed email application, Eudora. In case you tuned in late, the publisher, Qualcomm, best known for for building cell phone chips these days, has given up on this venerable application. The project has been handed off to Mozilla, as part of their Thunderbird project.

    Code-named, Penelope, the first beta of Eudora, version 8.0b1, has shipped, and all I can say is that it may be lots of things, but Eudora doesn’t seem to be a part of that list. That is, unless they expect us to believe that substituting a few toolbar icons and perhaps changing a few features somehow amounts to something significant.

    My initial exposure to the beta was uneventful. I barely read the release notes, preferring to experience everything at first hand, then see where it has been and where it’s going.

    As with other Mozilla apps, there’s no installation process involved on a Mac. The application ships as a disk image file, and you just open (mount) the image, and drag Eudora to the Applications folder. After that, you double-click the newly-installed application to get it rolling.

    In passing, I read an article the other day from someone praising the “portable” version of Thunderbird for Windows to the skies. You see, under Windows, a standard installation will toss files into places that are neither consistent, nor fully addressed by the Add/Remove Control Panel. Not a pretty picture, particularly when you end up with stray files in the Windows Registry, where all sorts of mischief can occur. The special version of Thunderbird puts everything in a single folder, sort of like we’ve had with many Mac applications over the years.

    To my surprise, the very first thing I noticed after the initial launch of Eudora was that every single element of my Thunderbird 2.x settings had been carried forward. In fact, the mail viewing screen, other than the distinctive Eudora icons, looked precisely the same as the regular version of Thunderbird.

    I realize that Penelope is at beta one and there may be other interface changes along the way, and perhaps some of them would bring Eudora closer to the application you all know and love. For now, it’s Eudora in name and icon only, and I feel quite disappointed that this was the best offering Mozilla’s programmers could provide after months and months of work. Maybe some of these people used to work for Microsoft? No, that might be an insult, but only if they inherited Microsoft’s peculiar methods of pushing software out the door.

    As far as this faux Eudora is concerned, it inherits the good things about Thunderbird, which include speedy performance and a rich array of settings to customize your email experience.

    Now I want to be perfectly fair about this. I was never enamored of Eudora in its original form, but I appreciate the fact that a lot of you prefer it to all other email clients, and have used it for years. Having an application survive under new management and perhaps gain some modernization along the way ought to be a positive development.

    On the other hand, Eudora 8.0b1 unfortunately inherits some flaws from Thunderbird that drive me crazy. You see, I prefer to view my messages from the top down, meaning that they start with the newest messages and go backwards down the list to the oldest messages. However, when you delete a message, the cursor moves up and not down.

    Why did they do that?

    The other problem is more serious, at least for my particular way of working. With Apple Mail and Entourage, when I want to reply to a message, I would select a portion of the text to quote in my answer, and that’s what’s displayed in the new message window.

    With Thunderbird, and the bogus Eudora, it’s all or nothing. Whether you select one word or all, the entire message is quoted, so you are forced to manually delete the contents you don’t want to use in your answer.

    It may well be that my particular objections, and they are minor, but nonetheless show-stoppers to me, won’t affect a lot of you. You may prefer the way Thunderbird manages your messages, and adapting Eudora to fit into the same mold may be a good thing.

    But I would also hope that Mozilla would work towards incorporating more of the traditional Eudora look and feel in future versions of the program. As a beta one, it is perhaps at the middle of its development cycle. Maybe things will change for the better over time. I surely hope so.

    Meantime, yet another possibility has come to light. A company called Infinity Data Systems has announced that they intend to develop a true successor to Eudora, with a beta promised by the end of the year. So stay tuned. This is one story that has yet to be fully written.



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    12 Responses to “Is the New Eudora Bait and Switch?”

    1. Michael says:

      ” Maybe some of these people used to work for Microsoft”

      No, Qualcomm:

      “The core members of the Penelope project are currently:

      Steve Dorner, QUALCOMM®, original author of Eudora for Macintosh
      Jeff Beckley, QUALCOMM, original co-author of Eudora for Windows
      Dale Wiggins, QUALCOMM, longtime Eudora developer
      Geoffrey Wenger, QUALCOMM, longtime Eudora developer
      Matt Dudziak, QUALCOMM, longtime Eudora project manager
      Mark Charlebois, QUALCOMM, Linux developer and Thunderbird user”

      http://wiki.mozilla.org/Penelope#Team_Members

      I don’t use the client — I’m an Apple Mail user — but I knew the page was there. It went up soon after the announcement in late 2006.

    2. Maczada says:

      What? Everyone doesn’t use GyazMail already?

    3. “Maybe some of these people used to work for Microsoft.”

      No, Qualcomm:

      The core members of the Penelope project are currently:

      Steve Dorner, QUALCOMM®, original author of Eudora for Macintosh
      Jeff Beckley, QUALCOMM, original co-author of Eudora for Windows
      Dale Wiggins, QUALCOMM, longtime Eudora developer
      Geoffrey Wenger, QUALCOMM, longtime Eudora developer
      Matt Dudziak, QUALCOMM, longtime Eudora project manager
      Mark Charlebois, QUALCOMM, Linux developer and Thunderbird user”

      http://wiki.mozilla.org/Penelope#Team_Members

      I don’t use the client “I’m an Apple Mail user” but I knew the page was there. It went up soon after the announcement in late 2006.

      I meant that in jest, of course, but it seems unfortunate that experienced Eudora developers are giving us such a lame introduction to their efforts in transitioning to the Thunderbird platform.

      Let’s all hope things improve in time.

      Peace,
      Gene

    4. Link33 says:

      What cracks me up about all these mail apps is that their hasn’t been the ideal mail app yet. I mean it’s taken Apple 5 years to get to where Window’s users have been for email formatting. And Apple’s isn’t even out yet.
      I’ve used Eudora, Claris Mail, Outlook Express, Mail, and Thunderbird. I stick with Mail because it works better than the others but not as good as it should. The version of Mail with Tiger is great. Much better than previous ones. But we’ve had OS X for how long now?
      I like MailSmith from Bare Bones. But it’s expensive for not being pretty. (What do I expect right?!) And it’s archaic in these modern days in it’s terminology.
      Narrow-mindedness across the board. Either too complicated or not complicated enough. Or too assuming in the users hardware capabilities. Or not advantageous enough.
      This isn’t my idea. I read about it a few years ago: When I read my mail, I read message by message, one after the other. Why can’t the program anticipate that I am going to read the next message and cache the message with all it’s images for instant access? If not all unread messages at least the next likely messages to be read.

    5. Fritz says:

      How Dorner, Beckley et al could release this under the name “Eudora” has got me baffled. That’s like sticking a horn on my dog’s nose and trying to pass him off as a rhino. I appreciate the hard work everyone’s done on the project, but I’m increasingly certain this isn’t going to produce any sort of Eudora as we know it.

      I know it’s an early beta, but, jeez, it represents nearly a **year’s worth of work** on the project.

    6. Sven says:

      I have used Eudora for years and still do but when I tried the new beta it wouldn’t transfer anything (error messages) from my existing Eudora. So for me, I will try it out when I can transfer my old Eudora stuff to the new Eudora.

    7. Aaron says:

      I think that they made a mistake calling it a beta. They should have called it an Alpha and there would have been less expectations. In fact IMO it is really an alpha and I’ll treat it justly.

    8. Michael says:

      Doesn’t it show just how difficult developing software is, Gene? All those people working for all that time and yet from what I’ve seen no Eudora users are pleased with the result. One wonders how much work has gone in to getting the importers alone to work — since, IIRC, there’s a comment on the site that they’re “still a bit rough”. But there’s a function people might only use once.

      I was reminded of Scot Rosenberg’s _Dreaming in Code_, which is subtitled: “Two Dozen Programmers, Three Years, 4,732 Bugs”. Of course, it’s more years than that now. Rosenberg could have added “and several million pounds … and still nothing usable”. The book is about Mitch Kapor’s super-ambitious and almost comically complex PIM client, Chandler.

      I think Qualcomm were between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, many home users are switching to webmail; on the other, business users want integrated calendar and tasks (although, obviously, nothing as ill-organized and complex as Chandler). They’re not the only ones: Cyrus Daboo, the developer of Mulberry, had to file for Chapter 7 bankruptcy; and David Harris recently announced Pegasus Mail, a real pioneer in the field and once the client for Novell NetWare, was closing down, only relenting after fans begged him to keep it alive. Mozilla itself seems now to be looking for a way to get shot of Thunderbird.

      It’s a shame the promised “Cocoa Eudora” never saw the light of day. It’s not as if Apple’s Mail hasn’t got its share of problems. One list I saw recently mentioned: “lost folders, clipped text, text and scroll bar remnants, ‘text tokens’ that don’t work right, munged menu bars, message windows appearing behind the document window, plain text inserted as rich text, accessing the wrong pasteboard …”. I suppose to that one could add no ability to subscribe to particular IMAP mailboxes and no PGP/GPG support

    9. I appreciate the difficulty in developing software. On the other hand, most of the issues you mention about Apple Mail are not a part of my experience. It’s not the best and could use certain features that aren’t present yet, but still it works well for most.

      The best IMAP implementation, to my way of thinking, is still Entourage 2004, which isn’t getting mentioned much in these comments, except by me.

      Peace,
      Gene

    10. George Berger says:

      Well, we always can go back to Pine

      George (The Old Fud)

    11. Rose says:

      I have been trying to figure out what to do – what I like about Eudora is that all my emails, drafts, sent and rc’d are all resident on my computer. I can access them even if the internet is down, I can compose even if I am not online.

      The Thunderbird app seems to be just like Hotmail – or is it, I can’t find anything anywhere talking specifics – just that its a new Eudora – no real instructions so far that say how to GET the Penelope ‘extension.’ I qualify as a “regular person” user, not real techy, but pretty good at getting around and figuring things out, so maybe I’ll get there but so far I have to say it’s not easy, and I’m wondering if any of you guys can give me answers.

      What does the Penelope app do besides, as you mention above adding recognizable icons – does it turn Thunderbird into a hard drive resident e-mail app?

    12. I have been trying to figure out what to do – what I like about Eudora is that all my emails, drafts, sent and rc’d are all resident on my computer. I can access them even if the internet is down, I can compose even if I am not online.

      The Thunderbird app seems to be just like Hotmail – or is it, I can’t find anything anywhere talking specifics – just that its a new Eudora – no real instructions so far that say how to GET the Penelope ‘extension.’ I qualify as a “regular person” user, not real techy, but pretty good at getting around and figuring things out, so maybe I’ll get there but so far I have to say it’s not easy, and I’m wondering if any of you guys can give me answers.

      What does the Penelope app do besides, as you mention above adding recognizable icons – does it turn Thunderbird into a hard drive resident e-mail app?

      All right, let’s get this straight. Thunderbird as an application, such as Mail or Entourage, whereas Hotmail is an email service.

      The Penelope project is designed to craft features from Eudora onto the Thunderbird underpinnings. Thunderbird has always been a hard-drive resident email app.

      Peace,
      Gene

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