At a Glance
More than ten years ago, Qualcomm's Eudora was one of the first programs to put a Mac interface on Internet e-mail. Eudora has continued to grow as e-mail has gone from a curiosity to a necessity. It has more power-user features than any other e-mail program out there, although they're largely buried under an interface in desperate need of an overhaul. While version 6.0 offers only a halfhearted attempt at improving that interface, it does make one great leap by adding an impressive junk-mail–filtering feature called SpamWatch.
Any Eudora user who's frustrated by the rising tide of junk e-mail -- and that has to be just about every user -- will appreciate SpamWatch, the biggest feature addition in Eudora 6. At its heart, SpamWatch contains two spam-filtering systems. The first lets Eudora interact with server-based filtering systems such as SpamAssassin. The second involves a content-based junk-mail system that you train by providing examples of good and bad messages (it's similar to Apple's Mail). Suspected spam is automatically sent to a Junk mailbox, and you can select any message and choose Junk or Not Junk to help train Eudora's built-in filters.
But SpamWatch is also a plug-in architecture that allows other spam-filtering applications to have the same control over Eudora as its built-in filters do. When I bypassed SpamWatch in favor of Michael Tsai's $25 SpamSieve 2.0 with Eudora 6, it worked quite well. Although I found that SpamSieve was a more effective spam blocker than Eudora 6's built-in filters, users who don't want to spend the extra money for an add-on filter such as SpamSieve will find that Eudora's filters are excellent as well.
A Grab Bag of Features
The other new features in Eudora 6 pale in comparison with SpamWatch. People who prefer the multipaned, one-window interface of a program such as Microsoft Entourage will find that Eudora can now emulate it -- a new feature lets you display all of Eudora's mailboxes in a drawer attached to your current mailbox. Clicking on another mailbox places its contents in the same window.
Fans of mailing lists may find Eudora 6's new Content Concentrator feature helpful: it lets you see a stripped-down version of an e-mail thread in a preview window. When combined with a little-known Eudora feature that lets you group like messages by option-clicking on them, it makes navigating long threads easier by eliminating boring message headers and other wastes of space.
Eudora 6 comes with a completely redesigned application icon, and the icons in the program's toolbar are rendered much more attractively at the large icon size. The program has also finally been modified to support proxy icons (small icons, in a window's title bar, that you can drag into other windows or out to the Finder), a concept introduced in Mac OS 8.5.
However, these minor changes are the exceptions that prove the rule: Eudora's interface is outmoded, largely unchanged since the mid-1990s. Its toolbar is positively ancient and quite ugly. The program has almost no support for contextual menus, either in mailboxes or in messages themselves. Even worse, many powerful features are hidden away in one of the numerous settings panels or, more obscurely, in a secret stash of X-Eudora-
Settings URLs available via download from the Eudora Web site. If you know that these features are there, they're great -- but only the most hard-core Eudora expert will ever know of their existence.
Although e-mail with formatting and embedded images has become commonplace, Eudora is still quite limited in its ability to render HTML mail, mangling most e-mail newsletters beyond recognition. We're hopeful that in the future Qualcomm will update Eudora to use Apple's Web Kit framework to provide Safari-style display of received HTML messages.
Perhaps the program's biggest flaw remains unchanged in this release: its mail-filtering interface is simply awful, limiting you to only two match items and four actions per filter. Given the powerful sets of mail rules available in Entourage and Bare Bones Software's Mailsmith, Eudora's meager filtering is an embarrassment.
Macworld's Buying Advice
Eudora is an undeniably powerful product. It's fast -- especially when searching thousands of archived messages -- and quite flexible once you take the time to learn its quirks. Its new spam-filtering features are first-rate, especially since they support third-party spam-filtering tools.
But many Mac users have been using OS X for some time now, and Eudora's interface feels stuck in the days of System 7. With a thorough update to its interface, it could be the hands-down best e-mail program on the Mac. Instead, it's a cult favorite with a face only its mother could love.