Reviews

TechByter Worldwide: "The Bat: Still Flying High After All These Years"

06.09.2015

Author: Bill Blinn, Technology Editor
Original review: http://www.techbyter.com/2015/0906.html

"I first wrote about what I thought was an interesting e-mail program that showed promise around 1997. It was version 1.0 of The Bat from Moldova. Since then, The Bat (the developers call it "The Bat!" with an exclamation mark) has continued to advance. It has a substantial following in Europe, but it's not well known in the US. That's too bad because it's the best e-mail program available.

The just-released version 7 has only 3 new big features, but one of them is a blockbuster. The Bat now supports the Exchange Web Service (EWS) protocol, which means that it can be used to connect to Microsoft Exchange Server Web services. You still can't hook The Bat directly into an Exchange Server, but support for EWS makes it possible for business users to connect to their company's EWS server with The Bat instead of using a browser.

The other new features in version 7 are a new dialog for setting up accounts and better support for automatic configuration. That feature could help new users set up their accounts, something that is perennially a problem because setting up an e-mail program involves dealing with protocols and ports. These aren't complex things, but the terminology scares people away. And there's now support for the CardDAV protocol that makes it easier to synchronize address books.

Users who maintain information about contacts on various devices (and these days who doesn't!) will appreciate the new address book synchronization feature. CardDAV technology allows syncing The Bat’s address book contacts with Google and Icloud contacts as well as with other servers that support the protocol. Make a change on any CardDAV device and it will be reflected on all others.

There are various other smaller improvements and bug fixes, too.

Why Use an E-Mail Client?

You might think that Google is all you need because it offers a Web interface. I've never liked Web interfaces for e-mail. So although I have a G-Mail address, I've set up IMAP access and use The Bat to collect mail sent to that account. (Learn how from Lifehacker.)

But why? Three words: Ease of use. Yes, the G-Mail interface is pretty, but working with messages requires an inordinate amount of clicking. An application running on the local computer seems to me a far superior way to deal with messages. If you deal with dozens (or hundreds) of messages every day, webmail client will be even more cumbersome.

My preference is to avoid services such as G-Mail, Yahoo, AOL, and others by registering a domain name (blinn.com and techbyter.com) and setting up e-mail accounts that are unique to me and aren't tied to any service provider. As long as I pay the annual registration fee for the domain name ($10-$20) and pay for the hosting service (around $150), I have an address that will not change. If you need just a domain name and some e-mail accounts, the cost for both the domain and the accounts will be around $50 per year. If you're running a business from AOL, G-Mail, or Yahoo, your clients might wonder how serious you are.

Why You Should Consider The Bat

Not three words this time, just one: Versatility.

In more than 15 years of working with The Bat, I've never encountered a something that I wished The Bat could to that it couldn't. In 2000, I wrote "If you're looking for an e-mail program that can easily work with any number of e-mail accounts (POP or IMAP) and can be customized to work the way you want it to, take a look at The Bat. It doesn't hurt that this is the fastest e-mail program I've ever seen or that the program takes less than 4MB." It takes about 15MB these days in its 32-bit version. I haven't installed the 64-bit version because I'm not convinced that it would be any better. I'll probably give it a try, though, and will let you know what I find.

Setup is astonishingly easy now. Here's what's involved in setting up a G-Mail account for use with The Bat. I filled in my name, my G-Mail address, and my G-Mail password. Then I set the protocol type to automatic (meaning The Bat will try to figure it out) and clicked Finish. Later, I returned to the settings panel to rename the account and to modify some of the automatic settings, but none of that was necessary.

The Bat supports secure connections for both sending and receiving messages. Here I've set up my website provider's account to send and receive using TLS. The other options are STARTTLS and plain text. STARTTLS is an extension to plain text communication protocols that offers a way to upgrade a plain text connection to an encrypted (TLS or SSL) connection instead of using a separate port for encrypted communication. Most services support either STARTTLS or TLS connections these days and that's what you should use.

One of the most useful functions The Bat offers is the ability to examine incoming our outgoing messages to determine what should happen to the message. For example, you might want to consider any message that sets text to white on a white background as spam. That's what the rule shown here does.

Users can define any number of rules and the rules can be simple (such as the one I've shown) or involve groups of conditions combined with "AND" or "OR" rules.

Another of my favorite functions is the ability to define templates for new messages, replies, forwarded messages, and reading confirmations. The template can specify literal text, text that is inserted based on what the developers call "macros", graphics, and text formatting.

There are dozens of macros and all of them are described in a comprehensive help file that has been substantially improved over the years.

If you send or receive e-mail messages, you need The Bat. Yes, it really is that simple.

I've never understood why The Bat's market penetration in the United States is so low. It's simply the most versatile e-mail client available and regardless of what e-mail provider you use, this is the application that will let you take control of every aspect of sending, receiving, and storing messages.
Additional details are available on the RIT Labs website."