Riddle me this: What’s the single most useful, and at the same time most maddening, thing in the whole world? No, not hot wet-wipes, we’re talking email. It’s crucial to our lives and yet a massive burden too. Over the years we’ve tried numerous ways to improve things, including email abstinence (doesn’t work), filters, rigid routines and worse, and failed to make even a tiny dent in our message overload.
All of which makes the EmailTray freeware email client an interesting find. We switched to Thunderbird from Outlook Express a few years ago, and while it was great for a while, eventually we dumped it because it lost our whole email database not once, but twice. Which is not bad going really. This unreliability is not a great thing, and so we view all email programs with suspicion until we’re sure they work well over the long distance.
There are a number of features of EmailTray which make us feel a little more comfortable about using it. Number one, it comes with an incredibly clean and simple interface. There’s none of the feature bloated menuing system of Thunderbird in evidence here. From the moment you see the Add New Accounts wizard, it’s clear that these developers want to keep things as simple as possible. Which is superb.
The program installs in seconds, and you can add as many email accounts as you want in about 20 seconds, after which the program will configure itself, and more importantly it will start to learn about your personal email habits so it can prioritize your messages more effectively. The main message reading window is also very clean with the conventional three pane view, but only a few buttons to worry about and dead simple navigation.
You get a choice of three tabs at the top of the screen – Top Priority, Low Priority and No Priority, which sort incoming messages as you would expect (it will take some time to learn your important contacts etc). There are also three ways to sort the message view, via Date, Sender or Email Accounts. This makes it a snap to locate messages from particular people or times, and also keep an easy overview of your different email accounts with just a single mouse click. Nice.
The search is live and works really well, and the contact address book is reassuringly comprehensive, there’s even a slot to store obsolete email addresses so you can keep track of your more peripatetic friends and colleagues. Another reassuring feature is the full message backup, which also lets you set up regular scheduled backups (say every 10 days) and also keeps up to 3 copies in the location you choose.
There are features which you do not get with the free version, however, such as a customizable signature (you’re limited to an EmailTray branded signature) and also you don’t get password protection for the whole program, which makes it less secure on a family computer. For this reason you may want to consider stumping up the $14.95 a year or $69.95 for a lifetime license.
For those who like the complete experience, there’s also a free Android email client available, which looks to feature the same clean interface and easy to use functionality. In summary we find EmailTray to be a great looking product, and it comes with the perfect balance between features and complexity. It’s superbly easy to get started, nice to use and really does seem to organize your messages in an intuitive way once it learns from your email habits. Very nice indeed.