16 Mar Google and Mozilla e-mail apps offer more space, escape from viruses
Thunderbird, an e-mail program developed by the Mozilla Foundation, is offering beleagured e-mail users an alternative, less virus-laden existence.
Following close on the heels of Firefox, the open-source Web browser whose launch included a full-page community-sponsored ad in the New York Times, the open-source e-mail program Thunderbird reached its 1.0 version recently.
Thunderbird includes built-in filtering for junk mail, and it can encrypt messages (as long as the other party has support for the PGP encryption standard.) It is also not susceptible to most e-mail viruses, which target Microsoft Outlook’s scripting features.
You can organize your mail the way you like it by using “saved searches,” folders that contain all messages that match certain criteria (such as “less than 3 days old” or “sent by Joe,” or any combination).
Thunderbird, like Firefox, is available for Windows, the Mac and Linux. While the interface is not as smooth as my personal choice, Apple Mail, it has been getting better and is a strong contender on the Windows and Linux platforms.
Don’t expect an Outlook killer just yet. Alternative e-mail clients can’t yet interact with Exchange groupware servers the way Outlook can, so they may have trouble in corporate networks. On the plus side, your computer stands a much lower chance of being taken over by hackers and used as a relay for spam or other unpleasantry. Thunderbird is a fine choice for a personal mail client when you need “just e-mail.”
In the long run, companies may find that the Outlook/Exchange approach isn’t the only way of doing things. But competitors will need 100 percent compatibility – or close to it – with Microsoft’s ubiquitous software in order to take away any serious market share.
It’s one of the interesting lessons of the software market: The more you work “with” your competitors’ products, the more you can draw customers away from them. In the case of groupware, this is happening slowly.
Google pushes Web capabilities
Google, Inc., announced recently that it will be opening up its GMail service – Web mail with lots of room and an advanced interface – to a random sample of Google searchers. Formerly, GMail was only open though invitations from people already signed up for it.
GMail was the first service to offer one gigabyte of storage space in every account – every free account. Meanwhile, other providers were offering a few tens of megabytes. Yahoo has since upped its free accounts to 250 megabytes (with two-gigabyte premium accounts). Hotmail will give you 250 megabytes if you live in the United States and are willing to wait for activation (you start off with 25).
Google’s take was that a gigabyte per user meant nobody would have to delete their mail. Instead, they could just shove it out of the way and, if they ever needed anything, search it. That allowed Google, fundamentally a search company, to put existing technology to work.
The result is a Web mail service that’s not quite like anything else out there. In addition to the emphasis on search, GMail has a more responsive interface than many Web-based applications, allowing you to do many things such as categorize messages without any page reloading.
Officially, GMail is still in “beta” testing phase, though Google has a well-known approach of keeping services in beta well after they are widely and publicly used.
While you’re at it, another relatively new Google technology to try out is Google Maps, which uses some fancy programming to allow users to interact with maps in real time. You can drag the map around and zoom in and out without any page reloads.
And since this is a Google application, the ubiquitous search box is up at the top of the page, allowing you to find an address or a business. WTN is right here. More on Google Maps and other rich Web applications next time.