After spending about two weeks using VersaMail 2.5, this program has become an important part of my PDA use. I had long ago given up working with email on my first PDA, because my response to messages went something like this: “Got your file, will read it when I get back to the office. My correspondents never got the plain-text hint. They persisted in sending HTML-formatted email, Web links, documents, and photos.
VersaMail 2.5, available for $34.99 for Palm OS version 4.1 and higher, promises to help PDA users get real work done with email. The program ships standard with the new Palm Zire 71 and Tungsten C, which might leave Tungsten T and W owners a little miffed about shelling out money to upgrade from VersaMail 2.0. Is it worth it? You will have weigh the benefits of the new features in 2.5 and consider your own email usage. Oddly enough, VM2.5 is not compatible with the Palm i705.
I tested VM2.5 on a Palm Tungsten T. I did not compare it with any competing programs, and I had not used VM2.0 much previously. Tungsten T and W owners not interested in purchasing the upgrade can download a free VM2.0 Attachment Update from Palm that will better handle files larger than 50KB in size and will permit, with a third-party viewer, JPG/JPEG files to be viewed on the device from within the VersaMail application.
VM2.5 instantly got my attention with its good looks and charming handling of the majority of my attachments (notable exceptions discussed later). HTML mail comes out clear and uncluttered, with some new fonts not included in VM2.0. Email addresses and URLs show up as hot links, so if your connection is “live, you can instantly connect. Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files are converted to Documents to Go files by synching with the desktop.
But, alas, this is not a perfect email program. VM2.5 can be user-friendly one moment, and totally uncommunicative the next. The relationship requires patience. Of course, it’s Palm’s fault for any disappointment, because VM2.5 promises the world. With this program, you can:
- Send and receive email from eight different accounts, using POP, IMAP, APOP, or ESTMP protocols.
- Use any network connection including Bluetooth, 802.11, GSM, SPRS, modem, IR or Bluetooth-enabled PDA connected to a Bluetooth cell phone.
- Automatically retrieve email with notification, every 15 minutes to once a day.
- Synch email folders.
- Filter messages. Sort and display options.
- View basic HTML and hot web links.
- Use four new fonts.
- Receive SSL email (Palm OS 5.2 and higher only).
- Use 128-bit AES encryption for account passwords.
- Open ZIP files and Voice Memo files.
- Save MP3 and Kinoma video files.
- Synch with Microsoft Outlook, Outlook Express, and Eudora, as well as server-based sync with Exchange, Lotus Domino, IMAP, and POP–and now local Lotus Notes mail.
- And so on.
You can do a lot with VM2.5, but unless you are completely familiar with Palm software, don’t forget to download the manual. Also, bookmark the Palm VM2.5 support web page. I suspect some user discussion forums will crop up around this program, as well, unless it is eclipsed by a much easier-to-use email program.
Installation and Set Up
Installation and initial set up are fairly standard. The program automatically transfers VM2.0 settings. Next, you have to go into the Hotsync Manager in the Palm Desktop, select “custom, then select “VersaMail and manually make the changes to allow your PC and VM2.5 to synch. This can be easy to overlook. After that, for almost any major change you want to make, such as selecting email folders to synch, you use the Hotsync Manager. This program will need to become your friend.
A truly useful feature is the ability to select which folders you want to synchronize finally! I have email folders for each of my two children, to hold all of those emails from school, sports, and other activities, so I don’t get frazzled by those distractions when I’m trying to work. This could also be useful for getting rid of junk email.
Account set up can be tricky, at first, but once you understand how this program works, it’s easy. I wanted to set up my accounts to be “sync only,” since I am away from my PC rarely, and I don’t have a modem, WiFi card, or a Bluetooth device. VM2.5 automatically synched anything that came into Outlook, no matter what the address my personal email or the two other addresses I use for my business.
I also use Yahoo, so in VM2.5 I set up a separate account for my Yahoo mail. I entered “Yahoo” as the account name and, after entering my username, VM2.5 plugged in all the proper Yahoo settings. Nice! It includes settings for other common providers, as well. However, you can only have one account active on the handheld at a time, so you can’t synch Outlook and download Yahoo mail at the same time. You have to do one, then go into Hotsync Manager, change the active account, and synch again. Not so nice.
When I first set up VM2.5, it kept telling me that attachments were too large to download. I couldn’t figure out what was happening, since VM2.5 supports sending and receiving attachments of up to 2MB (1.5MB of raw data). When the account setup asks you how many KB to allow, the default is 50. Why the default couldn’t be set to the largest possible is beyond me. Most of us non-geeks don’t know right off how many kilobytes there are in a megabyte. Luckily, I found the solution on the Palm web site. Poets and writers, take note: In the Hotsync Manager, enter 2048 in the KB field, and you will be good to go. However, that means that you might download all of cousin Mindy’s pictures of her dog playing Frisbee, while the last email of the day, the important contract from the publisher, will be cut off in mid-sentence if the text is embedded in the email, or not downloaded at all if it is a document.
Again, you have to work with the settings. If Mindy persists in sending you jpegs of Jumper, you can set up a filter to block her email from being downloaded to your handheld. If you are expecting a contract from Ed Itor at Haphazard House Publishing, you can set up a filter to make sure the Tungsten T downloads it and dumps it in whatever folder you specify.
During my test, I received a lot of Word and Excel files, and VM2.5 handled them well, even one email that contained three heavily formatted Word documents. Just like your desktop email, you click on a symbol to get the attachment. Again, however, VM2.5 gives you so many options for viewing, downloading, installing programs, and saving files to handheld or card that it takes some practice to make the right selection. VersaMail integrates well with Documents To Go, which is a required piece of the puzzle to handle MS Office files.
For files other than those opened by Documents to Go, you will need a third-party application, such as Adobe Acrobat Reader for Palm OS for viewing PDF files. I have the Adobe reader and have been able to convert PDF files from my desktop to the Palm. However, the Adobe software on my Tungsten wouldn’t open PDF files directly from VM2.5, because the files need to be properly “tagged for Palm. I suspect that a properly tagged file would work, but never got a chance to test this.
VM2.5 supports sending any file attachment type, from the handheld or the expansion card, including Address Book contacts, something I found to be very useful. Another nice feature is the ability to copy text from an email for use in another application.
According to Palm, VM2.5 is installable on Apple Macintosh computers running OS 10.1.3 and higher. However, Mac users can’t synch email between VM2.5 and Mac email applications. VM2.5 includes the needed prc files for the handheld only.
Synchronize with Outlook, with many options for folder selection.
Download from other accounts, such as Yahoo.
Download most of the files I receive and integrate with Documents to Go.
Attach and transmit same files.
Copy text from an email for use in another application.
Somewhat steep learning curve for working with attachments.
Still could use better integration and support for attachments besides those that Documents to Go can handle.
Only one active account at a time.
Another Opinion and Wireless Tools
Since Kirsten didn’t have the chance to test the wireless features, I thought I’d weigh in briefly with my thoughts after using the Tungsten C and VersaMail 2.5. Setting up accounts is a breeze, but like Kirsten said, only being able to sync one at a time is a little bit of a pain. I set up three accounts and switching back and forth gets old.
An important feature for those not syncing accounts, but actually pulling the mail off the server, there are a number of delete options to consider. My favorite is the setup where I can delete items from my Tungsten C and manually decide to leave them on the server or delete them as well. We all hate SPAM and there’s no reason to delete it twice. Alternatively, if I want to save an email or take some other action in the future, I can delete it form the handheld but not the server, so my laptop finds it when I check using Outlook.
The WiFi email checking works like a champ, the best feature being the ability to check email on a regular schedule. You can set an agent to check mail as frequently as every 15 minutes. Further you may specify the time start and end for the agent, as well as days of the week for it to run. This is a great improvement over prior versions and will be worth the cost of the upgrade to some.
I do have one major complaint though. There is no profile management for WiFi or Bluetooth users. This is a problem in that depending on the network you are using, the outgoing email server will be different. Most email servers do not allow relaying, so using your work outgoing server at home or your local Starbucks will not work. The solution is to manually edit your accounts to reflect the server change. What I would like to see in the near future is a way to indicate which profile you would like to use when you launch VM. I’ve made this request to Palm, let’s see if they listen.
Overall, I think VersaMail is the best email application on the market and I’ve used just about everything out there. I find it to be substantially better than Sony’s product and is actually the app I use the most on the Tungsten C. You can’t go wrong, just check the new features list to determine if the upgrade is cost effective for your needs. For Zire 71 and Tungsten C owners, consider yourself lucky to have such a nice mobile email application.
VersaMail 2.5 is available from Handango for $34.95 with a free trial available [product link]