You've got (too much) mail
December 2, 1998
by Michael Desmond
(IDG) -- PROBLEM: You have several e-mail accounts but no central place to manage them.
SOLUTION: Use one of the latest e-mail packages or a Web-based service to aggregate your accounts.
Brian Bock of Burlington, Vermont, has a problem: He's inundated with e-mail. And we're not talking the useless spam variety, either. Bock, owner of an Internet marketing and Web design firm, maintains 22 separate e-mail accounts.
"It seems excessive," he says of all those accounts, "but it's really for clients. I'm monitoring their orders, catalog requests, and other things to see what's happening."
How does he manage them all? "The initial [idea] was to have multiple versions of Eudora 2.0 running," Bock says. "One version would check [clients'] e-mail and another would check mine." But as business grew, Bock found he had to launch three or four sessions of Eudora just to download, send, and view the various accounts. And because he couldn't easily organize information from the different in-boxes, he ended up forwarding messages to himself across accounts.
Get it together
Bock's situation is not unusual. In a recent survey by Internet research firm Jupiter Communications/NFO, over 30 percent of respondents said they use multiple e-mail accounts. Maybe you have an account at work, another at home, and one from a Web site that offers free e-mail, such as Yahoo Mail. Remembering to check them all can be a pain. You must also remember to send business correspondence from your work e-mail address and personal messages from your home address.
The good news is, makers of e-mail software have gotten the message, so to speak. Microsoft's free Outlook Express (included with Internet Explorer 4.0) and Qualcomm's $39 Eudora Pro 4.0 let you send and receive e-mail using several different accounts from one central mailbox. Netscape Communicator 4.5, which was still in beta as of this writing, will also offer this feature.
To set up multiple e-mail accounts in Outlook Express, select Tools, Accounts and choose the Add button. In Eudora Pro 4.0, select Tools, Personalities, then right-click in the Personalities window and select New.
If you use Outlook Express or Eudora, you'll need to know something about your e-mail servers to set up your software. The servers must conform to one of two major e-mail standards: Post Office Protocol 3 or Internet Message Access Protocol 4. Virtually all Internet service providers use POP3 to let their users retrieve messages from their servers. But some, most notably America Online, do not. If you have an AOL account, as Bock does, you'll need to check your AOL e-mail separately.
Once you know that you have a POP3- or IMAP4-compatible account, you need to tell your software the name of your mail servers. Typically, a POP3 e-mail account will have an address in the form of pop.yourisp.com for incoming e-mail and mail.yourisp.com for outbound mail. (Check with your ISP for specific instructions, since server names can vary.)
After you've entered this information, you'll also need to provide your user name and password to get your e-mail.
If you want to corral the e-mail account you use at work, you'll probably need to ask your network administrator for server addresses. But don't be surprised if you're out of luck. For instance, although Lotus Notes has a feature that allows it to use POP3 servers, some companies may choose to leave the feature turned off. This means that you won't be able to access your e-mail from a program like Outlook Express or Eudora.
What if you don't like Outlook Express or Eudora? What if you prefer to manage your e-mail over the Web, using services like Hotmail, RocketMail, or Yahoo Mail? You still can. Many free e-mail -- or free-mail -- services (including those just mentioned) let you access several POP3 e-mail accounts, but not necessarily IMAP4 accounts. This capability could come in handy if you like to check your e-mail anywhere you happen to find a Web connection--from libraries to airport kiosks.
Free-mail has its limits
But unless you are already a convert to Web-based e-mail, you may discover that free-mail services have too many limitations to be satisfactory. For instance, they rarely permit you to access more than three or four different POP3 accounts. And if your company's POP3 server is protected by a firewall, services like Yahoo Mail won't be able to access it. Moreover, free-mail's Web-based interfaces and rudimentary filtering tools are often cumbersome, and managing folders and messages over a slow Internet connection will soon try your patience.
In the end, Bock upgraded his Eudora software to help manage all his e-mail. "It was the solution I was looking for, and it still serves me today," he says.
If you decide to use Outlook Express or Eudora 4.0 to aggregate e-mail from various accounts, take advantage of the software's other features. Filters, rules, and other in-box management tools help manage the flow of e-mail. For instance, messages sent to your personal account can automatically go to a "Personal" folder, while messages from a client might be funneled to a work folder.
"I have a huge number of messages that I check to make sure everything is going okay," says Bock. "But a lot of it I just don't have to see." Bock says he directs each client's e-mail into its own folder and checks on it when he has time.
The identity you want
Keeping multiple e-mail accounts lets you establish multiple identities online. Depending on the account you're using, you can apply different signature lines, return e-mail addresses, and user-friendly e-mail names to each account.
For Bock, who often deals with his clients' customers on their behalf, these capabilities are indispensable. "I want to appear as if I am part of the client's company," he says. "So if I reply to one of those messages, the response looks like it comes from firstname.lastname@example.org, for example."
All these results can be achieved with a single e-mail software program, but sometimes it takes a little work. Bock complains that it can be difficult to dig around in Eudora's account configuration windows. Still, he's come a long way from where he started. Says Bock, "I remember thinking back then that it was kind of silly I couldn't do all this in one application."
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