The Bat Home Edition: So-So Message Management at Home
At a Glance
You don't have to be a high-level executive or small business owner to feel overwhelmed by email. Everyone gets far too many messages these days, even those who use email primarily for personal reasons. That's where The Bat! comes in: The Home Edition ($35, thirty-day free trial) of this email client is designed to help you handle all of your email with ease. But like its Professional Edition counterpart, using it can feel a whole lot like work.
Installing the Bat is easy, and adding your email account (it supports POP3, IMAP4, and MAPI accounts) is relatively painless. Because The Bat is not as widely used as rival email clients like Outlook and Thunderbird, finding the right settings for your account can involve a bit of searching online--and the client's setup wizard doesn't offer much help. After a few Google queries, I was able to find the right settings for using The Bat to check my Gmail account, but I did have to rely on unofficial advice from a third party.
The Home Edition of The Bat features the same interface that its Professional Edition sports. With tabs and panes for viewing accounts, folders, message lists, and message previews, navigating it is pretty easy. But its icons are a bit simplistic, giving it a dated look, and when the icon's function isn't immediately apparent, hovering over it doesn't bring up any text to clue you in. That's why I found using The Bat involved a bit of trial and error, especially when I was getting started.
The Bat's tools for streamlining your email management were a bit easier to use, but again feature something of a learning curve. I like The Bat's ability to set up labels, folders, and virtual folders (which contain references to messages, not the actual message itself), all of which make filtering and finding the messages you need easier. I also liked the Inbox Analyzer, which is designed to organize your newsletters and frequent correspondents with folders and filters, though I found some of its findings odd. While it did a decent job of identifying some folks with whom I frequently trade messages, it did mislabel messages from a few friends and colleagues as "Newsletters," though, and, oddly, it suggested mail sent to myself from my own email address (including photos and other documents I needed to save), was a newsletter, too.
The Bat also includes tools for streamlining the sending of messages, including postponed sending, macros, and Quick Templates. You can use these last two features to insert pre-prepared text into the body of messages. And, lest this feature raises any red flags about spam, the folks at RITLabs say The Bat is absolutely not a tool for spammers. While there have been reports of some organizations blocking incoming mail from The Bat because of the threat of spam, RITLabs says this blocking is an error and should be reported to them.
Unfortunately, The Bat Home Edition lacks the security features of its Professional counterpart. While the $45 Professional Edition includes encryption and authentication options, the Home Edition does not. It's too bad, since home users could benefit from some of these important features.
Once you get past the hurdle of getting The Bat up and running, and become comfortable with its many features, this email client is a serviceable tool. But so, too, are its rivals, such Outlook and Thunderbird. The $35 price tag of The Bat Home Edition is downright cheap compared to the $140 that Microsoft charges for a standalone version of Outlook. But you can get Windows Live Mail and Thunderbird for free, making the price of The Bat! Home Edition very hard to justify.