Eudora 8 Goes Beta

Qualcomm has posted the first beta of Eudora 8.0, a now open source e-mail program based on the Thunderbird back end. However the front end should be much more familiar to Eudora 6 users than the Thunderbird frontend.

Eudora was my primary e-mail program for about a decade, and my wife still uses it as hers. I switched to Thunderbird a couple of years ago shortly after I switched to Mac OS X. Eudora had fallen behind the curve, and could no longer reasonably display a lot of the messages I was receiving. The transition was painful. I never did get all my archived messages into Thunderbird, and still have to open up Eudora when I want to review a message more than a couple of years old.

Eudora used to be free-as-in-beer, and then eventually Qualcomm bought it from the University of Illinois and took it commercial. I never could figure out why Qualcomm of all companies did that. I guess they were a different company back then. In any case, they apparently noticed that Eudora wasn’t really part of their core business, and they’ve decided to spin it out to the open source community.

To me, Eudora 8 looks like a mixture of both Thunderbird and Eudora. I can clearly see the heritage of both. Indeed you can’t run Thunderbird and Eudora at the same time, because Thunderbird recognizes Eudora as another instance of itself, and apparently they share some preference and data files. However, the menu structure is very definitely Eudora. In particular it has an improved filing system (though I’m more focused on labels these days than folders).

I haven’t had time to do more than launch Eudora 8 and look at a couple of messages, but it did seamlessly pick up my Thunderbird settings and show me all my mail. I’ll have to figure out if it can import my old Eudora mail too. It didn’t crash, and feels quite responsive.

There are a few glitches. There is a redirect command Redirect command in the menus, something Thunderbird has been missing for years; but it doesn’t seem to actually do anything yet. Furthermore one of my favorite Eudora power-features–Reply with Template–is M.I.A. There are also some blank spaces in the Tools menu. Maybe they’re placeholders for features yet to come?

Tools: Add-ons: Message Filters… Make Address Book Entry…

Finally, AppleScript support seems completely non-existent. Even Thunderbird has more AppleScriptability than this. Possibly, it’s just a missing dictionary. I hope so.

However, these are minor problems, and to be expected in a first beta. With a little more work on these and other details, Eudora could well do for Thunderbird what Firefox did for Mozilla: paint an attractive interface on top of a solid but ugly back end. It would be really nice to see Thunderbird/Eudora start cutting into the marketshare of weaker products like Outlook and GMail.

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