Jeff Carlson gives the Eudora e-mail program the boot and finds there's much to like about Apple's Mail program.

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After more than a decade, I’ve switched e-mail programs.

This shift is more than just substituting one piece of software for another. I interact with e-mail almost every day, all day — it’s my main professional connection to the outside world. (I know, I need to get out more.)

But the old program, Qualcomm’s Eudora 6.2.4 (www.eudora.com), just wasn’t working anymore in a number of ways, so even though it feels at times as if I’ve had a brain transplant, the change had to happen.

There are plenty of e-mail programs for the Mac, but I decided to go with the home team: Apple’s built-in Mail.

Eudora remains a capable e-mail client for now. That’s actually surprising, as Eudora has not been actively developed or supported for a couple of years. The plan is that Eudora’s functionality will be rolled into Mozilla Thunderbird, but the progress on that front has been extremely slow; a beta of Eudora 8 is available, but it’s not ready for regular use.

Eudora still works mostly well on my Intel-based MacBook Pro, but it’s brittle, crashing occasionally for no reason. At some point I’m sure it will no longer work, and I don’t want to be stuck when that day arrives.

It’s not just obsolescence that has pushed me away, though. I’ve also rethought the way I deal with my e-mail.

I had reached a point where filing my e-mail was bogging me down. Years of building a folder-based file system meant that filing a message occupied just enough time and effort to get in the way. Eudora’s filing approach is all menu-specific; to file a message from a Seattle Times reader, for example, I had to select the message, go to the Transfer menu, highlight my Seattle Times sub menu, then choose my Practical Mac mailbox. The alternative was to have all my mailboxes open in one window and drag the message to the right one. That’s just too much mousing.

In this sense, Mail isn’t much better, requiring that I drag messages to mailboxes. However, I solved that problem by installing MsgFiler (www.tow.com/msgfiler/), an $8 shareware plug-in that gives me the capability to press Command-9, type the name of a folder, and hit Return. (Finally, the best feature of the dear departed Claris E-mailer returns.)

The other problem was that I wasn’t processing my e-mail in a timely fashion, so my Eudora Inbox would swell. Important e-mails — which I kept in my Inbox so that I’d act on them — fell off my radar.

Now, I’ve subscribed to what is known as an “inbox zero” approach, where the goal is to deal with e-mail as quickly as possible by acting on messages or filing them.

Following the advice of my colleague Joe Kissell, who wrote about taming e-mail in a recent issue of Macworld Magazine (see www.macworld.com/article/133950/2008/06/emptyinbox1.html), I now dump everything into a Filed folder. Everything.

Instead of my folder hierarchy, I use Mail’s Spotlight-based search to find old messages. I’ve also created a handful of Smart Mailboxes, which can search for preset criteria such as all messages from family members during the past week. I had to resist the temptation to replicate much of my old filing system; the messages are all there, so the computer can do the sorting for me.

To be honest, I’m working more on an “inbox five-to-ten” approach, where something that can’t be dealt with immediately is still in front of me. That’s a huge improvement: When I pulled the plug on Eudora, I abandoned 700 messages in my Inbox.

In addition to being a modern, actively supported application, Mail has data-detection technology I’ve found to be helpful. It can identify common text formats like addresses and phone numbers and give me the option to add that information to Address Book. And although I far prefer text-only e-mail, Mail does a far better job of displaying HTML-formatted messages.

There’s also a lot that I’m happy to ignore for now, such as To Do items and templates for decorative outgoing messages. I’ve also turned off Mail’s built-in junk mail filter in favor of Michael Tsai’s $30 SpamSieve (c-command.com/spamsieve/).

Undertaking this shift wasn’t easy, but I’ve found it to be liberating. Eudora and its messages are still on my hard drive, so I didn’t bother trying to move my archived mail to the new program. I effectively nuked it from orbit, and my life is better off because of it.

Jeff Carlson and Glenn Fleishman write the Practical Mac column for Personal Technology and about technology in general for The Seattle Times and other publications. Send questions to carlsoncolumn@mac.com.