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4:30pm ET, 4/16


Top 5 e-mail programs

PC World

(IDG) --  • Speaking E-Mail Deluxe: Sit back, put your feet up, and relax while a little 3D character announces the arrival of your e-mail and even reads you the contents, if you so desire. This is primarily an e-mail notification utility, but it also reads header and message content and allows you to send speaking or nonspeaking e-mail messages and attachments. Recipients of speaking messages must have Microsoft Agent installed, as all the little charmers who do the reading are Agent characters. There are hundreds of talking characters to choose from, such as a clock, a phone, a banjo-playing hermit, and hundreds more, each with its own animations and sounds. You can also have this program read other text entries and Clipboard content, and you can have it launch your favorite full-featured e-mail client. Monitor up to 99 e-mail accounts, load the program automatically with Windows, and determine the interval at which the program checks for new messages. More than just a clever toy, this program can also be a useful tool for the visually impaired. INFOCENTER
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 • E-Mail UpWords: Expand your word-game skills into the third dimension with this multiplayer e-mail game. You and your opponents spell words with stackable letter tiles to score points. You can build words by playing letters across or down on the board, but you can also stack letters on top of already placed letters, thus creating different words from existing words. From "stink" to "skink" to "skins", it's that three-dimensional gameplay that makes UpWords so challenging. You score points for each letter in your word, as well as for every letter tile underneath. You can stack letters five tiles high, so your score can really add up fast. You and your opponents do not need to be online when you play; everyone can play their turn when it is convenient. An optional message feature allows you to send a note (be it challenging or chummy) along with each move.

 • E-Mail Effects: Enhance your e-mail messages with eye-catching pictures, images, drawings, and tables with this utility. This ASCII art creator uses the standard characters on your keyboard to cleverly outline and shade the images it renders, creating "text art" that's perfect for e-mail. You can have it render greeting cards, signatures, program flow diagrams, maps, and logos in this style. Choose your favorite picture, and the program will convert that picture into ASCII text art. If you've ever wondered how your faithful pooch's face would look rendered in the letters of the alphabet, now you can find out. You also get a library of clip art as well as help guides, and you can rotate and flip images, too. The program is compatible with the Mac OS and with Windows 95/98/NT/2000; it works directly with Entourage, Outlook Express, Eudora, Emailer, Mailsmith, or PowerMail (Macintosh), or with any MAPI e-mail client (Windows).

 • SpamKiller: Keep your e-mail diet lean and healthful by trimming off the spam with this powerful tool. Whether you just want to stop the onslaught or send a return volley, this program lets you do it quickly and easily. SpamKiller can apply its thousands of preset filters to any number of e-mail accounts for you, and those filters can analyze any part of a message. When the program is running, an envelope icon displays in the system tray, showing you what the program is doing and whether you have received spam or ordinary e-mail. When one or more spams have been detected, a flashing red cross displays on top of the envelope. You can have the notification window pop up whenever you receive new mail, and you can see detailed information about the new message and how SpamKiller has processed it.

If you want to fight back, SpamKiller lets you send automatic and manual complaints, as well as write your own messages. It will automatically find and suggest the relevant e-mail addresses in both headers and text, so complaining to spammers, system administrators, upstream providers, or anybody else just takes a few mouse clicks. To make sure that SpamKiller remains an effective tool, Novasoft publishes new filter sets on a regular basis. If you are a registered user, the new filters will download and install automatically on your computer. This program gives you so much power to respond, you might even begin to enjoy receiving spam.

 • Dreams II Animated E-Mail Stationery: Add greeting card-quality images to your e-mails with this collection of 20 musical, scrolling stationery designs for use with Microsoft Outlook Express or Outlook 98/2000/Me. The recipients of your e-mail need no special programs to enjoy these striking pictures and to hear the accompanying music. Included in this collection are pictures of white wolves, a sleeping puppy, a young girl, and other fantasy and dreamlike images. Other image collections are also available from CloudEight Stationery, including "A Tribute to Disney," "A Tribute to Rockwell," "Cherished Moments," and Valentines. There are over 1300 stationery designs to choose from, and all are self-installing files. Each version of Microsoft Outlook will have its own steps for getting the stationery to work correctly, but if you have any problems you can check the CloudEight help page.

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