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===========================================================================
                            REVIEW: AIRMAIL 1.2
                           By:  Addison Laurent 
===========================================================================

Product Reviewed:
AirMail 1.2 (registered)
Danny Y. Wong
131 64 Ave N.W.
Calgary, Alberta
T2K 0L9 CANADA

Listed Price:
$25 USD ($35 CDN or equiv) to register
$10 USD ($14 CDN or equiv) additional for 1 year of product upgrades

Demonstration version available on AmiNet and finer BBSes with auto
UUencode/decode, user groups, spooled mail, and timed mailbox checking
disabled.

Listed System Requirements:
AmiTCP 4.x
WorkBench 2.1 or higher

Review:
AirMail is a utility program to receive mail for use with a SLIP/PPP
(Serial Line Internet Protocol/Point to Point) account on an Internet
Service Provider, where the connection is dynamic, and the user may not be
connected at any given time.   (The POP3 standard).  It also has the
ability to interface with a SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol) mailer on
a system to send mail.

It also allows for off-line message reading and creating.

Installation of AirMail is very simple.  Running the supplied REXX script
installs the 2 libraries it needs, and creates a subdirectory in ENVARC:
for variables.  The script does not check to see if these libraries are
already in place (translator.library and socket.library), so if you had
newer version of either of these, it would be overwritten by the install.

When run, the program prompts the user to configure the program.  The
program must be configured with the name of the mail host, user name,
desired editor, and in and out box paths.  While the documentation
describes AirMail as being "a stand alone program that does not required
[sic] any additional programs" there is no built-in editor, so one must be
configured if the user wants to compose or edit mail.   The example given
is for the C= editor, ed, but I tested with memacs and the demo version of
GoldEd also.

A very nice feature is the browsing ability to find the programs needed.
Next to the boxes to configure paths, editors, etc., there is a select
button which pops up an ASL requestor, allowing the precise path and file
name to be found.

A small window pops up, with 5 icons.  These icons have no text
descriptions on them, and I had some trouble remembering what several did.
I felt much more comfortable pulling down from the menu to do exactly what
I wanted, rather than trying to remember which box was the in and out box.
I suppose one could get used to this interface, and remember which icon
does what, but it seems that a one-word description in the icon would be a
very simple thing to add, and one that would make use much simpler.

The leftmost pops up a requestor to send mail.  The To: and From: addresses
must be filled in before the editor can be invoked, but there is no message
or error if you try to edit the mail first, just nothing happens.  I would
prefer to be told why something didn't work, and what fields must be filled
in to continue rather than having to guess.

The next button over is the address book.  Addresses can be added here, for
groups and for individuals, allowing point and click sending and
forwarding. 

The next two icons are the In and Out boxes.  Mail queues up in the out Box
until it is sent.  This allows off-line message composition, and then
transmission at one time. 

The last icon gets AirMail to check the POP3 mailbox on the host for new
mail.

Documentation of AirMail consists of an AmigaGuide document, which
documents adequately in most areas the use and function of AirMail.  It
falls short in some areas, notably the "Attach" ability in the send mail. 
In the AirMail/docs/ directory, there were several DPaint picture files.
These seem to be illustrations for the Preference Setup part of the
document, but both AmigaGuide and Multiview refused to follow these links.
AmigaGuide gave an error or "display: Unknown command" and Multiview just
did nothing. 

Documented are program-specific needs, such as the program UUxT for
uudecoding and uuencoding.

Use of AirMail shows some areas that need improvement.  In and Out Boxes
cannot be open at the same time.  While in the boxes, even though a item is
highlighted, the gadgets to perform actions are usually grayed out - the
item must still be clicked on, then the gadgets become accessible. 

The password for the POP3 system must be entered in the setup - there is no
option to require the password at the time of the actual reading of the
mail on the server.  This allows anyone to access that mailbox if the
system is left unattended.   The option to enter password only at the time
of access would be a great addition for security.

When my modem hung up once while checking mail, I could not get AirMail to
exit, forcing a reboot (could not stopnet and re-dial) The "cancel" button
did nothing.

When exiting many areas in AirMail, for instance, after exiting the
external editor, the screen will jump from the WorkBench screen where I was
running AirMail to another screen.  (In this case, the Final Writer
screen). 

Also, keyboard use inside fields was erratic.  To send mail, one must enter
the To: field, if the cursor is in a text gadget, the tab key allows
movement among the fields (as is very nice).  But if enter is entered, the
cursor disappears, requiring mouse use to regain the cursor.  But, in some
fields, if enter is not pressed, the field value is not accepted.  This
highlights a functionality problem inside AirMail - often to accomplish a
function, you must use a combination of keyboard and mouse, moving back and
forth.

A more serious problem I found was the "attach" field.  I could find no
documentation for this, and no matter what I tried to attach, (binary file,
text document, saved AirMail mail) each time, the program would display the
error, "Cannot open file" and remain hung - connected to the mail server,
and "Cancel" not cancelling.  The only recourse I found was to kill the
process with PriMan.  The file with the mail was also locked open, and
undeletable until after a reboot. 

To forward a mail, the user or group must be defined in the Address Book. 
There is no provision to enter the address(s) manually.

Conclusion:
AirMail has promise, but what it shows now is not enough.  Other products
exist now, that work better than AirMail, without the idiosyncrasies and
problems, doing much the same job.  These programs, however, are either too
limited, or have so much capability that their setup is difficult, leaving
room for a nice program that will send and receive mail.

The current version has many features that make it very interesting, but
the problems in using the program, both in minor irritants to larger
problems, detract vastly from the value of AirMail.

Since AirMail is in need of further improvements, and there is an
additional fee for product upgrades, (although the key file registration
scheme may allow for upgrade distribution through AmiNet and usual
channels), I feel that it would be a purchase hard to justify at this stage
in its development.

But it is a small, reasonably major bug free piece of software, with some
good ideas that I would greatly welcome if developed a little further
(particularly MIME attaching and encoding). 

If your needs are only a small mail reader for a dynamic account, and you
rarely send mail, (and are not enough of a UNIX person to do it manually),
it will do the job.