Thunderbird logo with The Bat logo as a stampWorking in the technology industry can be very frustrating. Every day it seems that I’m wading through a quagmire of information to find the “needle in the haystack” that will solve the problem at hand. If it’s an obscure glitch, or a quirky solution, I expect that there will be some pain and suffering in trying to find a solution. However, often times it seems that I do nothing more than beat my head against a wall for even the most basic of needs. My current “pain du jour” is e-mail. You’d think that given it’s popularity that anything you’d like to do with e-mail could be done with a number of software applications, but unfortunately I’m finding that it’s not. I feel like after asking for directions, I’m being told, “you can’t get there from here.” >(

I’ve been using Thunderbird for well over a year now and have been quite happy for the most part. All of my e-mail accounts are IMAP based, as discussed here, and Thunderbird is one of the best IMAP e-mail clients I’ve found. The SPAM filters are top-notch, the program runs quickly and handles large amounts of e-mail with aplomb, yet there are two features that I’m looking for that simply don’t exist. These two features have sent me on a quest to find a new e-mail client and I simply can’t find a proper solution.

Feature #1: E-mail Forward Via Filter
I use a great many filters for my e-mail. Filters allow me to manage my e-mail more easily and they take some of the burden out of the process. There is one filter that I need though that isn’t present in Thunderbird and that’s the ability to automatically forward an e-mail in a filter. For example, I would like to have a filter that says “If any e-mail comes in and matches a contact in my Clients Address Book, forward the e-mail to my mobile phone.”

Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? You’d think this would be built-in, but alas it’s not. According to a few posts in the Thunderbird Support Forums, such as this one, it’s a feature that will be added in version 1.1. As of this post, Thunderbird is at 1.02. 🙁

Feature #2: Broadcast E-mail
The other feature that I’m looking for is the ability to send individual e-mails to a group of contacts. I have several groups that I work with and I’d like to be able to send the group a single e-mail, but I don’t want to display everyone’s e-mail address by adding it to the “TO” field. One solution is to simply address the broadcast e-mail via BCC. In other words, instead of using the “TO” field, use the “BCC” field. That is a possible solution, but unfortunately due to the way e-mails addressed via BCC are handled, I can’t be sure that the e-mail will be delivered properly.

Unfortunately, no one appears to be working on a plugin for this because most people think of it as a SPAM tool. Of course broadcast e-mails, or mass mailings have become the bane of the e-mail world thanks to spammers, but there are plenty of legitimate reasons to use a mass e-mail as well – being able to individually address a broadcast e-mail to all my clients is but one.

The Bat To The Rescue?
My first thought was to go back to the e-mail client I used before the switch to Thunderbird. I used to use a program called The Bat!, which is an extremely powerful e-mail client. It’s powerful because it allows you to customize just about every aspect of your e-mail client. There are templates galore, including the ability to assign templates to individual contacts in addition to all the usual suspects. In addition, you can perform a broadcast e-mail using templates and actually create individual e-mails to each recipient. There’s also support for forwarding e-mail via filters, so it seems like the perfect solution right? Well, almost.

IMAP support has been a little lacking with The Bat, which is what prompted me to switch to Thunderbird in the first place. I noticed that RITLabs came out with a new version of the software and is now at version 3. I bit the bullet and purchased the $40 upgrade and crossed my fingers that the improvements would be worth it. It’s a little better, but it’s no Thunderbird.

The first thing I noticed was that the SPAM filters don’t come standard. It’s a 3rd party solution that you have to download separately. It’s free, but it still requires some extra hurdles to get it all up and running. Afterwards you have to train it and even then, it doesn’t appear to be as good as what comes standard with Thunderbird. IMAP support is a little better, but not by much compared to previous versions of The Bat. Certainly not worth the $40 price tag.

To add insult to injury, today The Bat won’t launch anymore. After clicking the shortcut, the program begins to boot, displays the splash screen and then promptly disappears. No error message, no entry in the error log, no hung process that I can kill. Rebooting didn’t fix it either. It’s DOA.

What About Other E-mail Clients
There’s a plethora of e-mail clients out there, so why not try something other than Thunderbird and The Bat? Well, I have and here’s my two cents on the one’s I’ve tried in short order.

  • Outlook – bloated crapware. I try it every so often and always regret it.
  • Eudora – I used to use it as my primary e-mail client, but it’s showing it’s age and lacks too many features.
  • Pegasus – Much like Eudora in that it’s dated and I didn’t care for it’s IMAP support.
  • Barca – this product looked very promising, but fell way short. It’s a nice alternative to Outlook and even may sync with Palm OS in the future, but I found it kludgey and simply wasn’t impressed.

There’s plenty of other clients to sift through, but there’s only so many applications you can demo and try before you throw in the towel, which is what I’ve done.

Open To Suggestions
So at this point I’m caught between a rock and a hard place. Thunderbird get me 90% of the way to e-mail nirvana. The Bat provides the last 10%, but the isn’t as nice as Thunderbird and is fraught with issues. At the time being, I’m bouncing between the two e-mail clients, but that’s hardly a solution.

So I’ll continue pounding my head against the wall until I can find a proper solution. Until then, it would appear that I can’t get there from here, but I’m open to suggestions. Know of a good e-mail program that might fit the bill? I’m all ears. 8)