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Goin' Postal: A Utility Program That Does One Thing Well-Receive and S

Goin' Postal: A Utility Program That Does One Thing Well-Receive and Send Email

If your only online activity involves receiving and sending email then this tightly woven program will do what you want with a minimum of fuss and bother.

by Conrad Cox

Most Palmtoppers I speak with believe that no matter how much storage space their pocket companions have the space tends to become occupied with programs, databases and other files. So long as a given program has the needed functionality, a smaller program is a better program.

Steven Lawson kept this size idea in mind when he wrote Goin' Postal, a shareware email client for the 100/200/700LX. Despite a name which is either meant as a joke or is somewhat lacking in sensitivity, Goin' Postal (GP) does a good job of providing email online automation and off-line writing, reading and replying in the smallest of palmtop footprints.

According to the author, GP will take up as little as 115kb of space on the palmtop. The memory and storage footprint requirements allow even a 1 megabyte 100/200LX to do off-line reading and replying while keeping the PC Card slot free for a modem.

GP accomplishes some of its size magic by concentrating on electronic mail and nothing else. Some palmtop mail clients combine email, telnet, ftp, and web clients into one, all-inclusive package. If all one needs is email, the other features use up precious storage space and require more system memory to run.

To make the program as small as possible author Steven Lawson did not use a graphical interface in GP. Instead GP uses a "text-based" menu-bar somewhat like the menu bar seen in the palmtop's built-in applications. According to Lawson, leaving the graphical interface behind saves that much more space.

Because GP is not written with the graphical interface, it is not compliant with the 100/200/700LX Zoom (Fn-SPACE) function. This means that some parts the screen will be lost if Zoom is used. If you are like me and want to see the entire screen, this could be a detriment when trying to read mail in less than adequate light conditions.

On the plus side, some parts of GP will display most of the critical data using the middle font. In any event, the use of a third party font (like Andrew3) is a good idea.

Installation

I downloaded the evaluation copy of GP onto my 2 megabyte 100LX from its home page at http://home. earthlink.net/~sdlsaginaw/. The file expands into a main directory and a sub-directory. The sub-directory contains several non-essential files like alternate editors, viewers and text files containing registration and setup information. GP can be configured to work with many editors and viewers. This flexibility lets the user decide whether to choose a small editor (less space at the cost of fewer features) or a larger editor (more features, but taking up more space.)

I found GP to be fairly easy to set up. First, an additional line must be added to the AUTOEXEC.BAT file to make the program aware of the local time zone. The SETUP.TXT text provides easy to understand instructions on what the line should be.

The documentation also provides instructions on how to add an Application Manager entry, an important setup step if GP will be run from within System Manager. The documentation suggests allocating 300kb of memory to GP. But you'll need to add more if you use a large editor. I tried to use D&A's PalEdit (PE) as my editor. The 300kb allocation just wasn't enough memory for GP and PE under System Manager. Even 350kb isn't enough when my Phone Book and Appointment book are open. When I terminated System Manager and ran GP from DOS; PE and GP ran just fine. However, I performed all testing while in System Manager on my "stock" 2 Meg 100LX. The author suggests using a DOS memory enhancement like MaxDOS to maximize available program memory which is probably a very good idea.

Setting Up Internet Providers and Locations

Before going on line, Internet Service Provider (ISP) or host computer information must be entered into GP. The supporting screens are fairly self explanatory. The SETUP.TXT file gives some tips on where to find the information one needs. Of course, your ISP customer service department or the host computer's system administrator is the best place to go for that information.

GP will handle multiple ISPs and mail hosts. The program can easily switch between access points, such as dialing from home, dialing from Texas, dialing from Las Vegas, etc.

Being able to select different access points has benefits. It's easy to change ISP prefix and calling card parameters just by selecting or creating a new access point. This is especially useful for those who must access three or four host computers while traveling (see Screen 1).

Screen 1: The Locale screen customizes ISP information for dialing from a specific location. Specific prefixes and calling card information may be entered. The order that the prefix, the phone number and the calling card are used can easily be changed.

Most screens in GP have context sensitive Help available by pressing F1. Also, many screens have a Hint field which gives more information about the field currently being edited. I really like the Hint fields. Sometimes these setup screens aren't accessed for months and the hint may provide enough of a memory jogger to avoid having to look at the more wordy Help screen ( see Screen 2).

Screen 2: Goin' Postal's Address screen is simple and easy to understand. The Hint message at the bottom of the screen displays a different message when the cursor moves to a different field.

During setup I created a log-on script. The script language is uncomplicated. The SETUP.TXT provides a sample script which can be adapted and modified as needed. I used the provided script without change.

Features

I was surprised to see the array of features available in GP. For example, GP will accommodate as many Internet hosts as you need. The easy access to these multiple hosts will please Palmtoppers who log into several hosts. Loading GP will display the Current Program Status screen which tells whether there are unread messages to retrieve. It also shows the current mail host, amount of free disk space and more.

By pressing the ONLINE key (F9), GP goes online to do the user's bidding and gives the user extreme flexibility in how mail is captured. Several setup defaults determine whether to download full messages or just the headers. GP can be set to download messages that do not exceed a user-defined size. Other download features include the ability to download only new messages or download messages while keeping the messages on the computer host (Screen 3).

Screen 3: At a glance one can tell how many new messages have arrived, how many headers have been downloaded, and how many messages are queued for sending.

GP's In Box and Out Box provide plenty of information about the downloaded messages. The In Box shows what messages are new or read. If only headers were downloaded each header will be marked by the user to get or skip the message, or to delete it (Screen 4, 5).

Screen 4: The In Box provides data about incoming messages. The data and time are converted from the sender's local time as defined by the setup file. Column with ? mark shows whether the message is New or Read.

Screen 5: Out Box is formatted like In Box. The ? column tells which messages are Queued for sending, have been Sent, or are in the process of being Written. Function keys afford access to the most used functions.

One feature I sorely miss is the ability to sort information by subject or by the "from" address. For someone who receives less mail than me this missing feature is no great loss and not having it saves space.

Messages may be saved in the SAVED box. Messages that are deleted will either be removed from the Palmtop or moved to a trash folder for disposal later.

GP has one address book which has room for up to eighteen entries. Each entry may have as many as four individual addresses. This lets you use an entry as a small mailing list. For example, one can set up an entry called "Family" containing up to 4 email addresses for Mom, Dad, Aunt Mary and Uncle Jim. GP's address book capabilities may seem somewhat small. But for personal email needs, it should meet most people's needs.

Dialing Configurability

GP makes it easy to activate and deactivate prefixes and suffixes in the dialing string. Prefixes include things like *70 to turn off Call Waiting and 9 to get an outside line from inside a hotel. Suffixes include calling cards dialed after dialing the computer modem number.

I especially like how the calling card information can be placed either before or after the ISP number. For international travelers, this makes changing a configuration a snap.

Filters and Rules

GP also features the use of filters. Through the use of filters, the user can choose to ignore any or all mail that can be defined in advance. With GP, a text file is used to create and store formulas, or "rules," which tell GP what to do with mail that matches a certain criteria.

For example, to ignore all mail on the server except those messages from anyone at work, you would write the following formula: GET IF FROM HAS "my_work.com"

The rest of the mail will stay on the server or follow whatever additional rules have been defined. Separate rules may be defined for each computer host or Internet provider. The rules help me prioritize my mail. This is especially important since I subscribe to several mailing lists. Sometimes these lists generate hundreds of messages. I need a way to separate my "normal" mail from all the mailing list messages. Although not documented in the SETUP.TXT file, I found a way. I created another mail host with a different name (Hp-lx) but the same parameters as my default mail host. I then created a different rules file telling GP to download the mailing list messages. Now I have two mailboxes: one for my "normal" mail and another for my mailing list messages.

To keep stored files as small as possible, GP internally compresses the messages until the mailbox is opened for reading. This feature can slow the process of opening a mailbox, so GP can disable this feature if the user wishes.

For the Technically Minded

GP includes diagnostic software should there be trouble getting the packet drivers to load and run. GP uses external packet programs. These freeware programs come with some documentation as well as some batch files provided by GP author Lawson. The user manual provides complete information on using the diagnostics.

Conclusions

I was surprisingly pleased with Goin' Postal. It has features that travelers will find indispensable. It's easy to use and can easily be modified to do whatever you want to do with your email.

GP is targeted to the palmtopper who needs the most email power in the smallest memory footprint. While it falls short in a few areas (no Zoom, a small but adequate address book, and no sorting in the in and out box views), Goin' Postal's power to size ratio cannot be beat.

Goin' Postal is shareware. A 30-day downloadable demonstration is available. The demo is a full version of the registered program. After 30 days, a "nag" screen reminds you to register. Support is provided by the author via email. The Shareware fee is $29. Upon registering you receive a registration key and a printed user manual which is the same size as the 200LX. The registration fee is good for a lifetime of product upgrades.

Shareware/Freeware mentioned in this article

iPhone Life magazine


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