Microsoft's Outlook Express and Netscape's Messenger stand out among the crowd of Mac OS-based Internet e-mail applications because they are included with their respective browsers and offer a plethora of additional features.
This latest release of Outlook Express is refined by support for multiple signatures and coloured quotes, drag-and-drop installation, and Microsoft's self-repairing feature. Plus it adds some usability and e-mail management features.
However, even though Outlook Express still lags behind Messenger in some areas, this version's expanded feature set and mail management flexibility give it a leg up over Messenger.
When receiving e-mail, Version 4.5's new message-list features make it simple to quickly view the full text of entries within headers via the Screen tips.
By placing the cursor over a column, a pop-up window displays the full text - such as a long subject line. Also helpful are the Message Action indicators, which let you quickly view the status of a message. This is particularly handy when you want to quickly see whether you have read, replied to, or forwarded a message in your inbox.
Opening an e-mail message using the new Automatic Text Format feature makes it easier to view messages because you can straighten quotation marks, rewrap paragraphs, remove ">" characters, and convert uppercase to lowercase or vice versa.
I welcomed Outlook Express' capability for formatting newly created messages using HTML fonts. Plus the added integration with both Office 98's background spelling checker and mail merge are a big help: you can even send mail by selecting the Send command in Office 98 applications.
However, Outlook Express still lags behind Netscape Messenger in this area. Although Outlook's integration with Office 98 is helpful, Messenger is more capable when creating more complex HTML-based messages and provides table creation features.
I could also drag and drop images into my messages and view them right within Messenger: Outlook Express interprets this movement as a file-attachment action.
Messenger offers more file-attachment options - letting you attach files, file aliases, or Web page URLs, but Outlook Express offers more types of attachment encoding. Outlook Express also lets you preview attachments prior to sending them, whereas Messenger simply lists them within the attachment tab.
Both Messenger and Outlook Express include excellent tools for automating message handling for incoming mail. Still, Outlook Express does a better job with its Rules feature than Messenger with its Filters capability because Express is superior in incorporating AppleScript-based rules.
Outlook Express also provides superior support for multiple user accounts compared to Messenger, and adds support for multiple Post Office Protocol and Internet Message Access Protocol.
Lastly, Outlook Express can be launched separately or from within Internet Explorer, whereas Messenger must be launched from within Communicator.
The differences between Internet e-mail applications are often a matter of personal preference. Still, with Outlook Express' latest enhancements, I would recommend it over Messenger.
The Bottom Line
Outlook Express 4.5, Macintosh Edition
This simple-to-use Internet e-mail application for the Mac OS offers many enhancements that make an already solid product even better.
Pros: Usability enhancements; capability to fix poorly formatted messages; Office 98 integration; better support for Apple technologies.
Cons: Lacklustre HTML e-mail composition; lacks stationery; cannot create tables.
Platforms: Mac OS 7.5.5 and later (Mac OS 8.5 recommended).
Price: Free download; included with Internet Explorer 4.5.
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