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Eudora, Penelope, Odysseus

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I've been using the Eudora email application for over ten years now. Sadly, development on Eudora was stopped sometime last year, after years of promising a major new release on the Mac.

Several Eudora team members set to work on a new project, Penelope, that basically consists of adding a Eudora-like front end to the Thunderbird mail application. The first Penelope beta was released in late August of this year, after about a year of development, and another beta was released sometime after that. Unfortunately, at the current rate of development it's going to be quite a long time before Penelope has features comparable to the current version of Eudora, and even then it's going to be based on Thunderbird, which I gather is pretty different from Eudora in its fundamental design choices.

And Thunderbird itself is facing some changes and uncertainty in development approach, as Mozilla focuses its attention on Firefox.

A lot of us Eudora users are beginning to lose hope. As one Eudora user put it: "I'd resigned myself to using Eudora until it no longer worked, then throwing myself out a window in despair."

So as Eudora gets older and creakier, and as I prepare to upgrade my MacBook to Leopard, I've been thinking about switching to either Thunderbird or Apple's Mail software. Both options make me a little cranky, but I figured it was worth giving them a try to see if they would suit my needs.

And then, just as I was about to start tentatively trying Mail, I learned about a new ray of hope:

A company called Infinity Data Systems is planning a new mail app, to be called Odysseus, that's intended to be a successor to Eudora, written by people who love Eudora, for use by Eudora users.

They make some remarkable claims. For example:

An initial beta will be released by the end of the year, with the final release due toward the end of Q1 2008. The final application will offer full backward compatibility with Eudora, utilize existing Eudora mailboxes and settings, and offer the features and functionality that Eudora users are accustomed to, while at the same time improving on those areas where Eudora lagged behind, such as HTML rendering and OS integration.

If they can pull it off, they'll win the undying gratitude (and cash) of the vast majority of the remaining die-hard people who for one reason or another haven't yet abandoned Eudora.

Their forums make me cautiously optimistic. I like their openness, their dedication to Eudora and its users, their plans for cross-platform compatibility, and most of all their remarkable projected speed of development.

Unfortunately, there hasn't been much word from the developers lately. And we Eudora users have been burned by easy promises of imminently forthcoming code for years now. It's possible that this, too, will come to naught.

But hope springs eternal. I'm going to cross my fingers, think good thoughts, and hope real hard that they can deliver what they say they can deliver, in roughly the planned timeframe. And if they do, then at last (though sadly) I'll be able to say bye-bye to Eudora.

8 Comments

Mail is ok if you only want to handle 2000 email or so. Which most people don't. I was sort of satisfied with it, despite its tendency to crash on me, until I activated gmail IMAP. Then I had to switch to Thunderbird. Thunderbird does the job, but I can't say I love it.
And yeah, add me to the mass of lost faithfuls who misses Eudora.


I remember Eudora sorta fondly from Swat, but I haven't used it since; by graduation I was reading everything in Pine. Still am (though I've been using GMail experimentally the past six months; everything still forwards to my domain name and gets read through Pine, though!).

I've avoided Apple Mail entirely for no actual reason (other than perhaps never having known anyone who used it and could sell me on it).

Big question: mail reading and the iPhone. If When I get an iPhone, I'm guessing logging into Pair/Swarpa and reading mail in Pine will not be an option. I assume GMail works fine, though, and is the easiest way short of Apple Mail to keep everything archived in one place? Actually, Apple Mail doesn't keep things on a server, does it--mail is locally stored?

(That's what Eudora does, too, no? I think that's part of why I stopped using it. Everyone carried a floppy disk with their email mailboxes on it around with them, so they could pop it into any lab or library machine they needed to use. Nice program, logically poor as I recall.)

So, I guess I'm sayin' please remind me why Eudora rocks (and explain the merits of it, Apple Mail, and GMail as pertain to having multiple machines with access to all mail and no synchronization required whatsoever).


I used Eudora under Windows for many a year, but when we switched to a Mac earlier this year I elected to switch to Mail rather than to the unsupported Eudora Mac (it would have been a migration either way -- Eudora Mailbox Cleaner made it simple). Mail lacks some of Eudora's sophistication -- I particularly miss the powerful Search feature -- but it has a similar philosophy of life and the integration with the rest of the Mac is refreshing. I have been quite happy with its performance and stability (this under Tiger on a brand new top-of-the-line iMac).


Thank you, Jed! You have just made my day.

Although actually on XP Eudora is working just fine, and as my plans to upgrade to Vista currently include phrases like "several years hence" and "only under torture" I can't see me needing a new program for a while.


Anna: :( re Mail.app not handling large volumes of email, and not handling Gmail IMAP well.

Wayman: Correct that the iPhone currently does not provide any kind of terminal application, so you can't log into a shell and use pine from an iPhone. However, Apple's opening up development for the iPhone (at least to some degree) this coming February, and I betcha there'll be a terminal app for it not too long after that. ...Also, if you're willing to "jailbreak" the phone, there may already be a terminal app for it, but I don't know anything about that; I'm waiting for official Apple support for third-party apps.

Gmail does work on the iPhone--you can use it in Safari, or you can use the iPhone's mail application to connect to Gmail, with either POP or IMAP. I don't know much about this, 'cause I don't really use it.

Apple's Mail.app and Eudora do indeed store messages locally, though if you enable IMAP the messages stay on the server. Me, I like having my mail on my local machine, and I really like not having to have Net access in order to read and write email (only to send and receive it). For example, that lets me reply to mail while I'm on the plane. Since I take my laptop nearly everywhere, I don't usually run into the problem of needing access to my mail from some other machine. And although I'm using POP, I've set Eudora to leave the past week's worth of email on the server, so if I do need access to that from another machine, I can ssh to the server and run mail there (pine never really fit my head). There's also a secure webmail interface to mail stored on Pair's server, but the way I have my mailboxes set up at the moment, I don't think I can access them via the webmail interface. And that interface (based on SquirrelMail) is pretty clunky anyway.

Also, I have about a gigabyte of mail now, about ten years' worth, which is a lot of space to take up on a server.

But yeah, if your primary mailreading mode is to read mail from a bunch of different machines, and you thus want all your mail to reside permanently on the server, and you don't want to do synchronization or use IMAP, then ssh+pine or Gmail is probably the way to go.

I like the idea of IMAP as a good way to both handle mail locally and keep it on the server, but in practice Eudora+IMAP (at least on some servers) is a pain; most particularly because Eudora's very fast search capabilities are lost when you have to do extremely slow searches on the server side.

Some of Eudora's capabilities that make it currently (I think) irreplaceable for me include: fast searching; powerful filtering; solid support for multiple "personalities" with separate return addresses (and ability to set return address by hand); ability to handle large volumes of mail; ability to open messages in individual windows (instead of within a unified single window); very good spam filtering; "stationery" that lets me quickly and easily respond to email with form-letter responses; the ability to sort any given mailbox window by any of several attributes (such as Subject, From, date, etc); the ability to option-click a Subject line or From line in a mailbox window and have it group together all the other messages that match what you clicked; and probably several other things I'm forgetting.

There's plenty to be unhappy with, though. Eudora/Mac's handling of HTML email and non-ASCII characters is particularly poor. And its handling of attachments is not so helpful once you get up to 20,000 attachments. I like its labels, but there aren't enough of them, and you can only apply one label to any given message. And so on.

But still, about 3/4 of the people who I see switching from Eudora to Mail.app or to Thunderbird say that those other apps don't support the kinds of power-user stuff they need to do with Eudora.

David: Yeah, I definitely like what I've seen of Mail.app's integraton with the rest of the system, especially under Leopard. I tried it a few years ago and was very unsatisfied with the filtering system (and with the single-unified-window bias), but that was two or three releases ago, so I may try it again. It's possible that I may try it again even if Odysseus does arrive on time. But if Odysseus turns out to be as good as it sounds, then I'll most likely be willing to lose the Mac system integration to keep something resembling the familiar Eudora GUI.

One thing I've been assuming was an advantage for Mail.app is that it stores each message as a single file. That avoids the occasional awful data corruption that happens when a Eudora mailbox gets into a bad state, and it allows Spotlight to index mail (which is unworkable with Eudora), and presumably makes Time Machine work better (than it does with Eudora). However, I've been hearing that the one-file-per-message approach leads to slowness (having to open a bunch of different files, with overhead for each), so I'm not sure whether I think it's a good idea or not. Odysseus is planning to work around this by using a new storage mechanism, essentially a database, and having a Spotlight plugin to do the searching; I'm cautiously optimistic about that.

Cheryl: Glad to hear Eudora in XP is working well! To be honest, it's more or less working well on my Mac, too; my desire to shift away from it is partly just a general feeling that several-year-old software isn't as good. But it's also because it uses Rosetta, Apple's PowerPC-to-Intel-translation system, so it's a little bit slower and a little less memory-efficient than an Intel-native version would be. And although I don't send HTML mail myself, it sure would be nice to be able to read it directly in Eudora without having to do "Open in Browser."


Someone attempted to post a comment this morning accusing IDS of being scammers. I would have contacted that person in email to discuss their comment, but they didn't leave an email address. So, Julie, in case you come back to look at this entry:

I didn't post your note, because it made some pretty serious allegations and I'm not clear on the legal issues around my hosting potentially libellous comments.

However, I can say that I'm one of the 500 members of the closed beta. I have tried two beta versions of the software so far. I haven't been thrilled with the progress the company has made so far, and they do have a penchant for announcing dates that they don't/can't meet. But I haven't seen any indication that they're not actually producing the software that they say they are.


They do seem to be producing something, but in such unpromising dribbles that nothing much seems likely to come of it. Meanwhile they greatly over-promise on the delivery schedule. What makes me have some sympathy with Julie's comment is that when I've complained about IDS repeatedly raising hopes then not delivering, my comments have been deleted from their forums. If you run a public forum, imho, you have to take what comes - not select comments to give the impression that you've got an admiring public.


Sorry I didn't approve your comment sooner--I've been having mail troubles, and didn't see it 'til now.

My feeling is that IDS's biggest problem is their consistently way-too-optimistic scheduling promises. If they had originally said that they'd be coming out with a beta in May or June, I imagine people wouldn't be nearly so disappointed. And they keep doing it--every week or two they'll say that the next beta is about to be posted, and then they discover another bug and hold off on posting it.

I'm very surprised to hear that your comments have been deleted. Various people have posted extremely critical comments on their forums, and I don't think any of the ones I've seen have been subsequently deleted. Every week or two, someone posts another comment pointing out that IDS continues to miss their self-imposed deadlines, and I think those comments remain on the forums. So my guess would be that your comments weren't intentionally deleted. If you know for a fact that they were (for example, if the IDS people have explicitly told you that your comments were intentionally deleted), then I'm really disappointed in IDS. But if you're not certain, then it might be worth following up to see whether there was a technical glitch or accidental deletion.


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