Mac e-mail showdown: Which program delivers?

Our reviewer weighs the pros and cons of Mail, Entourage and Thunderbird to see which one gets his stamp of approval

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Creating and sending messages

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When it comes to creating messages, the similarities among the programs are greater than the differences. For instance, regardless of the program you choose, you can compose plain text or formatted messages; use To, Cc and Bcc address fields; select recipients from your address book based on partially typed names or addresses; insert clickable hyperlinks, such as Web addresses, into messages; enclose attachments; specify a message priority; end a message with a saved signature; and create and receive encrypted mail.

You can switch between a plain text and a formatted message by choosing a command. In Entourage, you can also click a convenient button in the message window's tool bar. When composing and editing formatted messages, both Entourage and Thunderbird provide a formatting tool bar. In Mail, formatting options must be selected from less convenient, floating Fonts and Colors palettes.

Special features Thunderbird has two unique send options that you may find useful. First, you can request a return receipt for important messages. When the recipient selects the message for viewing, a dialog box appears with the option to click OK (or Yes) to send an acknowledgment e-mail to the message's author. Second, after installing the SendTools add-on, you can set any message to be sent at a later date and time. For example, you could write a birthday greeting whenever the mood strikes and specify that it be mailed on the appropriate date.

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