capsule review

SnapMail 5.0

Organizations such as schools and medical offices frequently need simple stand-alone messaging systems that can keep internal communications secure and free from spam and viruses. SnapMail 5.0 provides a simple way for organizations of any size to implement cross-platform, peer-to-peer e-mail and file transfer, and it adds several nice touches missing from conventional e-mail programs.

After installation, SnapMail automatically displays a list of users on your network. If your company has multiple sites (or multiple network segments within a site), you can configure SnapMail on one computer in each area to function as a server, relaying messages to other locations and queuing messages for users when they’re offline. Although users can set up remote access to their messages, SnapMail does not easily accommodate changing IP addresses, so the technique doesn’t work well for travelers.

I was able to pick up the basics of using SnapMail almost immediately, without consulting the manual. In a few respects, I found the user interface slightly odd. For example, SnapMail makes no real distinction between a message’s subject and its body; the subject is merely the first line of the message, which may optionally begin with the word “Subject.” And some menu commands are found in unusual locations (such as Print, which appears in both the File and Mail menus). But these are quibbles, and on the whole, the user interface is significantly improved from earlier versions.

In addition to simple messaging, SnapMail offers the following: the ability to schedule messages for later delivery; drag-and-drop file transfer, which works across platforms (including OS 9 and Windows); pop-up alerts, called Snaps, to which you can send prewritten responses (SnapBacks) with a single click; templates for new messages that can even include recipient names; and return receipts so you can tell if the recipient got the message. Each user can set up individual groups of recipients. In addition, an administrator can send to any or all users organization-wide options, such as groups, templates, and networking settings. For security, this requires a slightly unusual process, in which the administrator must enter the organization’s registration code for SnapMail, but it works well and helps to maintain uniformity among many users.

Nevertheless, SnapMail 5 has fewer features than version 3, which ran only under Mac OS 9. It no longer supports real-time voice and text chats (features now offered in a separate product, called SnapTalk), styled text, or the ability to save drafts. It’s also no longer possible to connect SnapMail to a gateway to enable messages to travel to and from the Internet. If you must exchange messages with the outside world as well as within your organization, you’ll do a lot of copying and pasting between SnapMail and your regular e-mail program. The company says that it expects to provide better integration with conventional e-mail programs in the future. The program currently runs natively on Macs with PowerPC processors, but the company says a Universal version is in the works.

Macworld’s buying advice

SnapMail 5.0 offers secure, simple interoffice messaging and file transfer. If you’re looking for a no-frills internal messaging system, this fits the bill. But be prepared use an entirely different system for communicating with people on the outside.

[ Joe Kissell is a senior editor of TidBITS and has written numerous e-books about Mac OS X. ]

SnapMail’s single-window interface lets you send and receive messages based on templates you create.
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