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Too many users settle for Outlook without even being aware there are other--often better--e-mail programs out there. One such program is The Bat!, an email tool which has been around for many years, constantly improving. The current version has a very impressive feature list.

The Bat v4.0 has everything you'd expect in a modern email tool--it supports multiple servers, it stores mail in folders, and so on. It also has some features seen much less often--for example, it has powerful templates which let you define different formats for outgoing messages. These can be set on a folder-by-folder basis--use a formal template with a professional signature when replying to 'business' mail, and a more laid-back style when replying to a family mailing list.

The Bat also features a strong emphasis on security; various versions of PGP can be integrated with the program. You must download and install OpenPGP yourself, but The Bat is designed to take advantage of it.

The Bat also deals well with large amounts of mail. I subscribe to many mailing lists, so filtering list mail into its own folders is invaluable. Most programs do this, but The Bat has unusually powerful filtering tools, including nested and/or/not conditionals. In addition to the usual 'outline tree' interface, it also supports tabbed mailboxes, making it easy to flip between sets of mail. Lastly, there are backup tools so that you can preserve your mail easily against calamity.

I encountered only one possible bug in my testing. When I set it up to download my GMail account via POP, it did so in short spurts of a few hundred messages each, instead of getting them all at once. This may be a problem specific to GMail, however. A minor additional issue is that the English in the program is sometimes a bit broken, though never to the point of incomprehensibility.

Overall, I am very impressed with The Bat in its current incarnation, and it is giving Thunderbird, my current mailer, a real run for its money. Well worth checking out if you're at all interested in its features and tools.

--Ian Harac

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