I don’t normally write about software and similar techie things, so if you chance upon this blog please don’t think that this sort of thing is the usual fare.
Email is important to me, as it probably is to most denizens of the Internet. I am also rather obsessive, as I have already noted, and email clients (the technical name for the program with which you read and write emails) are one of the things I am obsessive about. I have tried all the commonly available ones and am reasonably conversant with them all. It so happens that email clients are a microcosm of life in general, that is to say that all email clients have some good qualities but no one client has all of them. Naturally, they all have bad points as well and the user is therefore left in the invidious position of having to decide which basket of faults and virtues best suit his or her usage.
For some time, I have made TheBat! by RITlabs my main email client. It is very stable and very powerful. It also has a lot of faults, such as a rather poor editing system for filters (they have changed this many times but it is still bad) and a help that is hard to follow. It is very adaptable and is the client that comes closest to my ideal.
Nevertheless, like someone in a stable but boring marriage, I am always eyeing up alternatives. The one I like the best is a pretty little email client from Intervations, called MailCOPA. I first met it years ago when it was being marketed under the name NetcMail. I liked early versions but didn’t adopt it because the feature set was too sparse (jargon for “it didn’t do enough of the things I wanted an email client to do”). Since then, progress has proceeded at roughly the pace of a tired snail but there definitely has been progress and the latest version v 8.0.1 is a fine piece of work. I was really quite excited when I installed and ran it for the first time.
Before I go any further, I am going to say something I consider to be very very important: All human beings and all human institutions make mistakes; this is inevitable. Therefore, you do not judge an institution on whether or not it makes mistakes (it inevitably will) but on how well it deals with those mistakes.
On the above criteria, the people producing MailCOPA deserve the highest possible recommendation. Their response to users is a model that other companies should copy. Allowing for the time difference between London and Michigan, whenever I contact them about a problem I usually get a response within minutes and the response is both welcoming and helpful. Please keep that in mind as my tale continues.
MailCOPA kept crashing. So much so that I emailed to say I wouldn’t be able to use it. They were surprised: no one else was having this level of problems. That being so, you could hardly blame them if they had shrugged their shoulders and left me to get on with it. They didn’t. For the last few days, they have been working solidly on the problems and making alterations to the program. They even built me a series of special versions of the program with a built-in debugger so that when it crashed it would upload a report to their servers.
Gradually, the crashes were eliminated but now we are left with the most tantalising and annoying problem of all. Every now and again, for no apparent reason, the program exits. I call this “disappearing” because MailCOPA simply vanishes from the screen. Whatever is doing it doesn’t trigger the debugger so no report is generated.
This is as intriguing as it is irritating. MailCOPA is a flexible and highly configurable program but I am running it in default mode to keep things as simple as possible when I am itching to use all the bells and whistles. I really don’t know how this story is going to end. It is a cliff-hanger. When I know, I will let you know.
Update, August 22nd 2007
Nearly a year has gone by since I wrote this piece and a follow-up is long overdue. Simon Craythorn, author of MailCOPA, has done a huge amount of work on the program in the months that have elapsed, helped by an active and hard-working beta-testing team of which I have the honour to be the most junior member.
Rather than publish a new appraisal here, I think I should dedicate an entire post to the current edition of MailCOPA. Please read it. You will find it here.