SEPTEMBER 16, 2001
The bat: the best friend of the Internet user
We rarely comment on software. However, this one is so much superior to anything else we have tried that we feel compelled to let other people know. For years, we used Outlook Express, the e-mail client program which comes packaged with Windows. It was functional; it was there. With the formidable growth of viral attacks affecting Outlook Express (and its users) directly, we grew leery of relying on it. Various other factors led us to look into substitute e-mail programs (not the least being that Outlook Express truncates lines longer than 1000 bytes which is a problem for back-up records produced by CallWeb
Our quest stopped with The Bat!, a superb piece of software. The Bat! does what you expect of any e-mail client: it sends messages, it receives messages, it stores messages in folders, etc.. But The Bat! offers some additional features which are remarkable, and maybe particularly important to social researchers, among which:
- it offers superb protection against e-mail distributed viruses by recognizing a large array of them and by reminding the user of various good habits in handling e-mail attachments; also, The Bat! does not use the automation engine that is often used as an agent for the dissemination of viruses under Outlook Express;
- it automates a number of aspects of answering e-mails, making an intelligent copy of pieces of the original message, adding in-line text, etc.;
- it makes reformating the text of a message a breeze; no more having to edit double ">" so that the quoted text does not wrap mid-line;
- it supports the .eml message format which saves, into a single file, the message headers, the message body and the attached files; to our knowledge, it is the only piece of software, other than Outlook Express, to do so even though the .eml format is extremely useful for e-mail management and secure archiving;
- it has extremely powerful tools to handle incoming messages, filing them away, "parking" them so that they cannot be erroneously destroyed, etc.;
- it can handle personalized mass e-mailing which is crucial to the operation of Web surveys.
One example: new material placed on the Circum Web site (including Web survey responses, for example) is backed-up every hour and e-mailed to another location. A daily compilation of changes is sent during the night. The Bat!
stores the 23-hourly back-ups in a folder and deletes the messages in that folder every three days. This is done without human intervention.
The only drawback we have found to The Bat! yet (apart from the name, which we don't particularly appreciate, and the fact that you have to purchase a copy) is that it does not support sending HTML-coded messages (although it interprets correctly messages of this type it receives). This is not a big deal for us as we have made a rule NOT to use HTML coding in e-mails since several client software in wide use don't display them correctly if at all, but others may think this is an important limitation.
If you have the latitude of deciding which e-mail client program you'll use, give The Bat! serious consideration.
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