Eudora Users: Odysseus Is Probably Our Best Hope

A new email package called Odysseus being developed by software design house Infinity Data Systems (IDS) is the new great hope for millions of Qualcomm Eudora users who were abandoned by the telecom company last year. Unlike Mozilla’s Penelope (Eudora v.8) development project, which is attempting to surgically graft Eudora-like functionality onto Mozilla’s Thunderbird email package, Odysseus is being rewritten from the ground up as the brand new successor to Eudora. It will offer cross-platform support for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

I spent a few hours earlier today reading through IDS’s Odysseus forums learning as much as I could about the company’s development plans. I came away very excited about IDS’s plans, design concepts, and goals. What I like best, in fact, is that while the plan is to start with a subset of Eudora features in the first release, the developers clearly know and love Eudora. Also, though, they’re not afraid to make changes. Eudora has been a hurting unit for several years — especially on the Mac platform, where some of the thinking has been quirky at best. The Windows version surpassed the Mac version quite a while ago and is more up to date. But Eudora in general is best thought of in 2001 terms. Some fresh thinking is definitely a good thing.

So, longtime Eudora owners (and I’m one) may be a little unnerved by IDS’s decision-in-process to make a break from Eudora’s Unix Mbox mailbox structure in favor of a SQL-based approach. But I wholeheartedly applaud this move. The process I went through to convert my Eudora for Windows mailboxes to Eudora for Mac mailboxes (you can’t get there from here) showed me just how painfully antiquated Eudora’s mail store is. I’ve also long had mailbox reliability issues (worse on the Mac) that I just don’t have with other email packages.

In this thread about the possible change to SQL, IDS’s Matt Milano assures forums denizens that the functionality of the mail store will be the same. Messages will be stored in separate mailboxes as they are now, mailboxes will be portable as they are now, and you’ll even be able to edit mailbox contents with an IDS-supplied tool for this purpose. And yes, attachments will still be stored in a separate folder. There are many advantages to the new database structure, but one of the best is the ability to access the mail store on one machine from another machine via the network — something I wrote about as a wish-list item for Eudora several years ago.

Another advantage of the SQL database approach is that IDS will be able to make Odysseus a true multiplatform product that works the same no matter what OS you’re using. Creating the product that way will make it much easier for IDS to upgrade the product and support three platforms simultaneously, the way Firefox and other products are produced.

IDS is planning a Mac UI variant that will look and act a bit more like Apple Mail (while retaining Eudora’s power). Hopefully it will also integrate with the Mac’s environment a little better. There’s a need for this in the Mac world, where Apple has spent a lot of time creating a gestalt among its products, such as iCal, iTunes, Apple Mail, iPhoto, .Mac, Address Book, iPhone, and other pieces. The level of integration creates a powerful advantage for Mac users. But it would be great to see third-party developers plugging into that environment.

From the start, I’ve had serious misgivings about the marriage of Thunderbird and Eudora, which have very, very different design goals. And the development process for Penelope is moving at a glacial pace. It hasn’t even reached version 0.1. The last Penelope update announcement dates back to August.

Contrasting that is IDS’s aggressive roadmap for Odysseus development. The Eudora successor was announced in September, and its makers expect to have their first working beta by the end of December and to ship the product by March 15.

I’m impressed by the orientation, decision-making, professionalism, honestly, and commitment that I sense from the IDS people posting in the forums. And the experience of spending time there has changed my future plans about trying to hold my nose and dip into Apple Mail, which is definitely lacking in the substance I’ve grown accustomed to. (I’m still thinking about making the switch from at least one main account to, though.)

I’m going to hold out now for Odysseus.

Thanks to Scot’s Newsletter reader George Palfi for alerting me to the existence of Odysseus.

12 Responses to “Eudora Users: Odysseus Is Probably Our Best Hope”

  1. Bud Turner Says:

    This is great news. I have used Eudora for as long as I have had e-mail, and my mailboxes are full of article and book manuscript research questions and information that cannot easily be converted. I even tried AskSam to extract data from Eudora’s mailbox structure, but it choked on the quantity and had problems with attachments.

    I am currently using the Windows version of Eudora 7.1 on my MacBook Pro on Vista running under Parallels 3.0 to keep it going. Hopefully, Odysseus will be able to convert my huge mailboxes to sql, and their tool set will allow me to extract the valuable data to other platforms. Your experiences in converting Windows Eudora to Mac convinced me to use Parallels and keep the Windows version instead.

    Thanks for the info…

  2. affidavit Says:

    If it’s not eudora it’s not eudora. If there are too many changes I would not switch and probably are many like me. Maybe I’ve been lucky because I’ve never had even one hiccup after all these years of updates and new versions. The bar is high and the shoes large to be filled. Having high hopes!!!!!!!!!

  3. The Janitor Says:

    See! I told you years ago that The Bat! was the best! It’s even better now. 🙂


  4. Scot Says:

    It’s not better for me if it doesn’t run on a Mac — which it doesn’t. Odysseus is multiple platform. The last time I looked at The Bat! it was missing several key features and one of its lead execs basically blew me off when I talked to him about it in email. Yes, this product has a cult following. But so do many other email products, like Pegasus and Thunderbird. But for those who use Windows, I think PocoMail comes the closest to delivering the features that Eudora users want. Unless either Mozilla Penelope (5 years from now at the rate that project is going) or Odysseus does a better job.

  5. paulrw Says:

    Glad there is at least some hope. When I built a Vista PC I decided that since Eudora was dying I would try Thunderbird/Penelope. What a mistake! Thunderbird production release seems to me to have all the characteristics of an early alpha release, so full of bugs it is hard to thimk of it as the companion to Firefox. Amongst the many, many problems, the worst is the way it gives phantom mail notifications, leaving me unsure whether it is getting mail then losing it (as the feeble support forums seem to suggest), or just providing random notifications. It seems to me that Penelope is doomed to fail working on such a poor foundation.
    Unfortunately, it leaves me without a viable email client (and with a raft of emails stuck in a format I want nothing to do with). Fortunately Vista is so poor that I am having to continue to run my XP machine as well, despite trying valiantly to move away from it, so it looks like back to Eudora for the time being.
    PS one of the REALLY annoying bugs in Vista for someone in my position running 2 PCs on a KVM is that is when Vista goes into sleep mode, unless the monitor is connected when it wakes it won’t see the display.

  6. JanCounselor Says:

    Just finding all this on Odysseus today. Please, does anyone know if this software is out of Beta testing, and if it’s being made available for the PC. Big disappointment to discover Eudora has left us high and dry!

    Thanks for any current info. I’ve explored on Google and gotten nowhere since something in February ’08.

  7. Scot Says:

    I’ve been considering an update on Odysseus. Infinity Data Systems is now saying that the product code-named Odysseus will ship on May 12. A public beta should be released in the very near future just prior to the shipping product being released. Check out pricing, FAQ, and screenshots at the link above. But for more detail, see the forums.

  8. ody2sad Says:

    As excited as I was about Odysseus when I recently found out about it, unfortunately it looks like it’s unlikely to happen- and the developer(s) are perhaps not being 100% forthcoming about the situation as well.

    The developer and company (Matt Milano, Infinity Data Systems in Georgetown, KY) apparently have recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. You can find Matt and Infinity’s name under the Chapter 7 listings for Lexington here:

    Oddly enough, this listing was posted on Apr 14, the day before IDS started accepting pre-registration payments for Odysseus (at least according to IDS’s website, the pre-reg started Apr 15). It also seems odd that, the last few days, they have been promising in their forums that they have an open beta done that will be posted shortly and was delayed last week primarily due to a “server upgrade”.

    By the way, Chapter 7 means that a trustee is appointed and assets are sold off.

    I’m sad to be the bearer of bad news, and really dissapointed if Odysseus doesn’t happen. But I think people are getting their hopes up for nothing, at minimum. And worst case, people may be sending in their pre-registration money for something they might not see for a very long time if ever.

  9. Scot Says:

    Wow, this is disappointing. Has someone posted this on the IDS forums to get Matt Milano’s reaction?

  10. ody2sad Says:

    I wanted to post in the IDS forums and ask about it before saying anything anywhere else, but haven’t been able to get the registration approval yet. Apparently that requires manual approval by a person first. Same with the Qualcomm Eudora forums, I’m registered but not yet “authorized” and so can’t post.

  11. ody2sad Says:

    Just to follow up, I’ve had some private communication back and forth with Matt Milano now. He assures me that the bankruptcy is his personal situation, that it doesn’t affect IDS, and that he was “shocked” that the listing I pointed to even mentioned the company. After a little research, I’m not convinced the situation is that clear-cut about it given that he is the sole legal “member” of IDS as far as the State of Kentucky is concerned. So I don’t really know what to think at this point, but am going to give him the benefit of the doubt and adopt a “wait and see” attitude.

    He has sent me a link for a beta download (which I unfortunately can’t use because it’s the wrong version for me) and indicates that his forums will be updated and the beta release links made public shortly.

    Hopefully this will all work out the way we all want it to.

  12. Scot Says:

    I had a similar conversation with Matt Milano in email, and he convinced me that he believes IDS is protected.

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