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                           Review: MetaTool 40.4
  Roberto Agria                                         flash@pn.itnet.it
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These days most Amiga people have access to the Net, giving everybody a
vital opportunity to talk to each other (if they know the E-Mail address!),
and widely available e-mail is probably one of the main reasons the Amiga
was able to survive two years in the wilderness. 

There are now several mail programs available, most of them Shareware but
openly available on Aminet, including Elm, Thor, Voodoo (now included in
the AmigaSurfer pack) and MetaTool, which is freeware.  Of course, it's
also possible to write a message with any Text editor and then invoke the
appropriate sendmail-like program to send the mail to the destination
address.  However, unless you are a Net-expert or at least, a
Dos&parameters expert (and for the sake of your sanity) you choose a mail
program, that will do everything automagically (more or less). 

I will not write here about programs other than Metatool, because I don't
know their capabilities well, and because after I took a look at their
Gui's, I'm no longer interested in those programs.  Let's come to MetaTool
then !

Most of you know (I suppose) what the Mime format is.  But I'll explain for
those of you who don't know !  Standard e-mail can only send plain ASCII
characters because the mail gateways only handle 7-bit data, and also have
a fixed line length (usually around 70 characters).  The Mime format
(Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) gets around this by encoding 8-bit
data into a 7-bit representation.  This is just like uuencoding then?
Well, not quite because Mime also wraps the data with a header to identify
the type of data in the message so enabling the receipient's software to
display it in an appropriate form.  Mime also allows multipart messages
containing lots of different pieces of data to be sent and supports
splitting and merging of huge messages to allow them to be sent over
networks which limit the size of individual messages. 

As you guess, MetaTool is able to use the Mime format, and obviously the
normal plain-text mail format (rfc 822).

MetaTool's Gui is easy to understand and to use: the main window is the
Mailboxes window, where you choose a mailbox file to open from a list of
several MetaTool knows about.  You can also select a mailbox file created
by other programs and show them.  In fact, in the settings window, there's
a parameter called Message Boundary, that can be set to Compatible or
Custom.  In Compatible mode, i've been able to open Mailfiles created by
Elm with no problems.  I don't know about files created by Thor or Voodoo
(I suppose there will not be problem with those files also). 

When you choose a Mailbox, another window will popup with the list of
messages, their dates, the name of who sent it to you, the title of the
mex, and it's size in Kbytes.  Multiple mailbox windows can be open at the
same time and messages can be transferred between them.

Double-clicking on a message opens a Display window which shows the
message's parts, the header, that contains information on the writer
address, the destination address and other stuff, and the Mime type of the
part.  MetaTool uses a mailcap file (of the same format as Mosaic and the
metamail Mime package) to choose an appropriate viewer for the parts.

Examples:

audio/x-voc; play16 %s;label="A VOC Sample" (to listen audio samples)
image/jpeg; CyberView %s (should i explain ? ;-> )
video/x-anim; xanim %s; label="An IFF ANIM Animation"; edit=3D"DPaint"
application/x-lzx; Copy %s DOWNLOADS: ; label="An lzx Archive"

Choosing Reply or New, brings up the Compose window.  MetaTool has a
built-in Address Book that can contain the names of people that you write
often to (there's a menu option to automatically add addresses from
currently viewed or selected messages), you can use this to quickly fill in
the To: , CC: (carbon copy) and BCC: (blind carbon copy) addresses, or fill
them in by hand (Reply fills in the To: address for you). 

Adding the message contents is where the fun starts!  Any type of file can
be added to the message either by choosing it from a file requester or
dragging it's icon onto the Compose window; MetaTool automatically detects
the type of the data in the part using a combination of datatypes and the
file extension, and sets the Mime type for you (you can also do this by
hand if you so wish).  New text parts can also be added and edited, and
MetaTool will include and quote text parts in a reply and append a
signature (which could be a picture :*)) if enabled.

MetaTool uses Mui, a well known programmers tool, that give MetaTool a nice
Graphics Interface.  The nice Gui, added to the easy of use, makes of
MetaTool a powerful tool between Mailing Programs. 

You can find MetaTool version 40.4 on Aminet, under
comm/mail/MetaTool.lha. The author, Ellis Protchard, is reachable at
this address: efp90@nuke.dircon.co.uk (home) or
ellis@cam-ani.co.uk (work).
There's also a web page for MetaTool, the address is
www.users.dircon.co.uk/~nuke.