Review: MailForge 3 email client turns back the clock—and stays there
If you used email in the late ‘90s or early 2000s, odds are you are familiar with Eudora. Even after its maker Qualcomm officially decommissioned this trusty email client and dorm room staple, a loyal cadre of fans kept it alive in open-source form. But when Mac OS X Lion spurned all PowerPC-based programs, Eudora was effectively banished from the Mac.
Macsimize Software’s attempts to revive this dear old email friend with MailForge 3.2.2, a Mountain Lion-friendly software program. But unless you’re a Eudora diehard, MailForge may convince you that the past isn’t quite as great as you remember it.
We’re gonna email like it’s 1999
Of all the email clients available for the Mac, MailForge is, well, certainly one of them. It sends, receives, and displays messages from both POP and IMAP accounts. You can filter messages according to a limited set of criteria and Boolean commands, store custom signatures and stationery, and search your messages.
But right from the start, MailForge lacks any of the modern refinements that have made email on the Mac less of a hassle since the Clinton administration. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by programs that can configure an entire account with nothing more than an email address and password, but MailForge made me grumble when it insisted I look up a username, password, and incoming and outgoing mail servers for every account. If you’re hoping to import messages from Apple Mail, you’ll have to wait for a future version, according to the developer. Right now, the program can only import Eudora mailboxes.
In a small concession to modernity—at least, modernity as of two or three years ago—MailForge offers a “unified” interface with a mailbox list, mailbox contents, and a message preview pane all in one window. True purists can resurrect Eudora’s classic, screen-hogging multi-window interface. I didn’t enjoy that trip down memory lane, and I don’t recommend it.
In several messages I tested with, MailForge didn’t display threaded conversations and didn’t show inline images—or any attachments at all, really. It took several seconds for MailForge to load individual IMAP messages, and checking for new mail could occasionally seem slow as well.
A tabbed interface lets you switch quickly between multiple open mailboxes, except that you can already do that with the mailbox list on the lefthand side. And by default, clicking on one of those mailboxes opens a new tab, whether you want it to or not.
Want to read one mailbox while another is loading messages from an IMAP server? Tough. MailForge will switch you back to the mailbox that’s adding messages, and keep doing so until those messages are all loaded. Even trying to close the tab won’t keep it from popping back open and resuming loading.
Searches take place in a huge, obtrusive window all its own, rather than displaying within the main interface. While I was able to successfully find messages from a certain sender by looking for their name in message headers, I couldn’t do likewise when searching for the same name in the From field. You’ll also have to switch between one pane to set search queries, and another to see their results.
I also wasn’t bowled over by the graphically ungainly window for composing new messages, which seems to have, um, freely borrowed its massive swath of icons for formatting message text from the PC version of Microsoft Word. The MailForge Help link in the Help menu takes you to a registration-only, password-protected site where you can submit bugs or request feedback. The MailForge Forums link under the same menu proved more helpful, summoning Macsimize’s online forums, where MailForge representatives courteously and quickly responded to user questions.
If you can’t live without Eudora, MailForge will likely have you turning cartwheels. I’m glad that the program’s meeting an unmet need; everyone deserves to use software they understand and feel comfortable with. But I can’t recommend MailForge for anyone else. With plenty of better designed, less expensive, more convenient options for Mac email, there’s no reason anyone should have to live in the past.