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 mail.app, 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.