Entries Tagged as 'email'

Windows Mail (Vista)

Microsoft has several generations and families of email programs.

  • Outlook is targeted for the corporate market, and until recently the only viable choice for Windows if you wanted to keep “PIM” data (and still the only choice if you want to synchronize with a mobile device — but hopefully that will change).
  • Outlook Express became Windows Mail on Vista and Windows Live Mail if you want to run the same program on different operating systems (or you want to interface to Hotmail / MSN / Live accounts and don’t want to pay for enhanced services).
  • Entourage is the email program for the Macintosh.

I actually use all of the Microsoft email programs for different tasks:

I need Outlook to synchronize my Moto Q and Moto KRZR (actually I don’t have to use Outlook for the KRZR, but there aren’t any options for the Q).

I use Outlook Express, Windows Mail, and Windows Live Mail for various tasks; and I use Entourage on my Macs (I also use Apple iMail, but I’m haven’t drank Steve Job’s kool-aid, so I prefer to choose the program I like the best).

One of the downsides I’ve found with the Microsoft email programs in the Outlook Express, Windows Mail, Windows Live Mail family is that they’re so busy changing the name and interface that they don’t focus on making it work.

At one time Microsoft did IMAP much better than any other email reader; unfortunately, the bugs they had years ago, they still have — and most of the other email readers have gotten better.

The two problems I see over and over and over with Windows Mail (and the other’s in it’s family) deal with subscribing to IMAP folders.  Here’s some scenarios you might be familiar with:

You create a new mail folder and you get an error; you try to create it again and it tells you that it already exists, but can’t be shown.  I haven’t figured out what’s happening here, but I do know that the IMAP server creates the folder, and sets the subscribed FLAG (and that other email clients have no problem with the folder); but for some reason Windows Mail refuses to show it (and will continue to refuse to show it even if you delete the account and recreate it).

The only work around to this I’ve found is creating a folder with a single character in it’s name, and renaming it to what you want (that seems to always work — but if you recreate the account you might find that some folders aren’t listed any longer).

The other thing I’ve found that Microsoft hasn’t fixed is cleaning up the local message store (I have no clue what they do when the compact the database, but it doesn’t seem to really achieve the desired goal).  What I do here is I export my accounts, remove the accounts, shut down Windows Mail, then delete the left over message store.  Start up Windows Mail, import the accounts, and then let it re-download the information from the server.  This works well for me, since most of my messages are on a local server (for archival); and I don’t keep much on remote servers (so it really doesn’t take that long), and it keeps the size of the local cache down to something manageable (you will really notice what a poor job Microsoft does on cleaning up the local IMAP store when you defragment your disk with a tool that shows you what is going on).

To find your local data stores, you can use any of the following paths:

  • %USERPROFILE%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • C:\Users\%USERNAME%\AppData\Local\Microsoft\Windows Mail
  • %LOCALAPPDATA%\Microsoft\Windows Mail

 The folder for the IMAP store should match the display name (well — it may be what Windows Mail originally chose for you, but the first time you do an export / import you will get the name you chose — and that’s a good reason to do this once right after creating the account).


If you want to know my opinion on which email program from Microsoft is the “best” — well hands down it’s Entourage.  Why they don’t use that as a model to build an email program for Windows is beyond me — and why they don’t use common code for all their email programs and actually fix the bugs they have rather than continuing to change the name and look is also beyond me.

I would say you’re better off using Mozilla Thunderbird, but it still crashes with an IMAP store as large as mine.

I guess I could just start using my Mac for all my email.  But seriously, if you know of good options I’d love to hear from you.

Originally posted 2009-02-09 01:00:35.

Does your mail provider really want to eliminate SPAM?

I’ve been actively working to stop SPAM (that’s also known as UCE – Unsolicited Commercial Email) for a very long time, and it’s great to see how many of the “free” email providers talk about preventing SPAM and provide users with filters to prevent SPAM from reaching their inbox.

But, the bottom line is, that unless you actively report SPAMmers nothing will ever really change.

Some providers (very few) actually will generate automated SPAM reports for you [that’s great, more email providers should make it that easy]; however, most will do nothing more than use an email that you mark as SPAM to refine their filters [which might prevent you from seeing the SPAM, but it doesn’t stop the SPAMmer].

The really interesting thing is that many of the “free” email providers actually inhibit you from reporting SPAM by preventing you from accessing the “raw message” (you need all the headers and the body of the email to file an abuse report with most carriers).  What’s really funny is that some of the providers who are most vocal have actually changed their web-mail interfaces to prevent you from accessing the raw message [essentially insuring that you cannot take action against a SPAMmer].

Now if you can access you email via POP3 or IMAP4 or load it into an email client using a proprietary connector (well, at least the only ones I could test) you can access the raw message and file a report; but remember, many of the free email providers don’t give you that type of access to your email unless you pay them.

What a great message… it’s OK to SPAM free email subscribers because they can’t do anything about it!

I’m not going to provide an extensive list of those providers that do and do not actually enable you to report SPAM; I’ll just mention that Yahoo! (one of the largest free email providers, but waning) doesn’t allow free subscribers to access raw message (or if they do, I certainly couldn’t figure out how); and of course Google (GMail) and Microsoft (MSN/HotMail/Live/Bing) do allow access.

One other thing to keep in mind… there’s no such thing as free email — you’re paying for it some how some way.

Originally posted 2009-08-17 01:00:04.

IMAP Utilities

I generally prefer to interface to my mail via IMAP, and I store my mail archives in a local IMAP repository (which allows me the ability to search the repository quickly using Windows Search).

With the old email server I was using it was fairly straight forward to make a backup of the IMAP store and preserve the IMAP folder paths; the new mail server I’m using stores messages far more efficiently and uses a database to record the IMAP folder association of every folder and message.  Yes I could backup the files and the database, but that seemed fairly rigid and a solution that would likely not be portable in the future.

And before I sat out on writing my own tools, I prefer to look at what’s out there — either to use it as a solution, or learn from it.

I happened to stumble upon IMAPSize by Broobles, and while it’s not exactly what I was looking for it has a number of useful features.

It’s billed as the “Swiss Army Knife” of IMAP utilities by many reviewers.

Rather than go through all the features it has, I’m just going to talk about some of the things that most everyone will probably find useful.

The first thing it does is show you how much mail is in each mailbox, so if you’ve got quotas you can figure you where you need to prune.

  • I has some search capabilities (particularly useful if you don’t have your own IMAP server, since IMAP search, even when properly implemented in server and client, isn’t all that powerful).
  • It allows you to do regular IMAP management (much the same as your client will do).
  • It allows you to copy messages from one account to another (there’s lots of scripts that will do that as well).
  • It will do incremental backups of folders or entire accounts.
  • It will search through and flag SPAM.

The program is a fairly straight forward GUI application for Windows, and probably my biggest complaint is that it doesn’t allow command line options to use it in a script.  Personally I would prefer to do my backup on a schedule, unattended.

I will probably write my own tool to do backup; I’ve already written an IMAP object library — so I really only need to decide how to store the configuration information (probably in an XML file); but this is none the less an extremely useful program, and if you use IMAP you should take a look at it.  And it’s FREE to try, and FREE to use, but you might want to donate something to it’s author, particularly if you’re going to ask for an enhancement.

Originally posted 2009-02-18 01:00:07.

Windows Live Mail

Part of the Microsoft Live Essential software suite available either from Live.com (see link below) or through the Microsoft Update is Live Mail; a simple, fairly versatile email client.

Live Mail allows access to POP3, IMAP4, and Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail.

Live Mail is a replacement for Outlook Express and Windows Mail (from Vista).

It’s nicely polished, and for the most part works without any major issues (like any software, it has bugs and annoyances).

One thing you may not like is the fact that Live Mail hides the menu bar (you can enable it; but even that seems to be made purposely difficult in the latest version).

The biggest annoyance I have with Live Mail is that it will not import an IAF (that’s an export file) created with Outlook Express or Windows Mail (thank you very much Microsoft for paying such close attention to customer needs).

If you have a Hot Mail / MSN Mail / Live Mail web mail account you will probably want to choose this product as an email client on your computer; if you don’t you may want to look at Thunderbird (part of the Mozilla project, as is Firefox).

The feature I like most about Live Mail (and it’s predecessors) is the ability to drag an email out of Live Mail onto my local file system and put it back (Thunderbird doesn’t have any convenient way to put a message back).  This isn’t a feature that should be a deal breaker for most anyone (if you need to do it, you know how to do it with Thunderbird — it just won’t be quite as easy).

Overall, Live Mail is a descent program, and it’s priced right — FREE.

Windows Live Essentials

NOTE:  GMail content can be access by either POP3 or IMAP4; simply follow the instructions on GMail to enable it and add it to Live Mail or any email client that supports POP3 or IMAP4 over a SSL connection (and allows you to specify the port numbers).

Originally posted 2009-11-24 01:00:40.

EMail from my domains…

As of 1 March 2010 all of my domains should have both SPF and DKIM support in order to help receiving servers verify that the email is not SPAM.

If you are having problem receiving my email, or my email is ending up in your junk folder, please contact your email provider and query them about this.

Originally posted 2010-03-30 02:00:58.

Windows Live Mail Bugs

Make sure you’re sitting down, I wouldn’t want you to fall over — but there are bugs in Live Mail.

I actually did the Beta for Live Mail quite some time ago, and reported several bugs during the course of that — from my experience you’re wasting your time reporting bugs to Microsoft, each and every bug I found made it into the first release, and almost all of them are still there.

Here are two bugs that really need to be fixed.  Both are annoyances (they won’t result in the loss of data for sure); but both of them speak to the attention to quality and detail that simply isn’t part of the Microsoft culture.

The first bug which really needs to be fixed has to do with viewing a folder in an account.  Many times when you perform and operation (like deleting a folder for instance) Live Mail will repaint the folder view; however, it repositions the view port at the first item (but leaves focus where it should be)… the problem is if you have more folders that fit vertically on the screen, you’re looking at an entirely different time zone than the one that has focus.  A simple fix — save the view port position before the operation; restore the view port position after it if and before the repaint.  I guess the programmer that did this code was sleeping during Windows Programming 101.

The second bug which also really needs to be fixed has to do with dragging an email into the file system.  Windows Live Mail will create a file system safe name for the container file from the subject; however, if the subject ends in “…” (and probably many other character sequences) the file doesn’t get a “.eml” file extension, but rather a “._eml” file extension.  I guess the programmer that did this code figured it was right to make the file name file system safe after appending the extension when he should have made the base name file system safe and then appended the extension of “.eml”.

Like I said, these are simple issues — with very simple fixes… but they are fixes that shouldn’t be been necessary since this code should have never gotten out of Beta with these problems (they were reported).  In fact, I could argue that these problems should have never made it into a code build — they should have failed unit tests.

But these problems made it into release code; and these problems have existed for quite some time in release code — all I can say is that the commitment to quality I see in Microsoft software is similar to that that I see in Open Source code… so hopefully Microsoft will begin giving away more and more of it’s software at no charge so that the cost basis and the quality are on par.

Originally posted 2010-01-23 01:00:12.

Free Hosted Email

If you have your own domain and you really don’t need web hosting you might want to consider hosted email servers from Microsoft or Google.

Both of them provide free hosted email services; limited to 500 accounts (which can actually be increased — but for free hosted email that’s probably fine).

I generally recommend that you consider just getting a hosting package that gives you a free domains, web space, and email — often on the order of $1.99 per month.

Microsoft Live Hosted Email (Free):  http://domains.live.com/

Goolge GMail Hosted Email (Free):  http://www.google.com/a/

Originally posted 2008-08-12 23:12:04.

Email Addresses

Ever go to a web site to enter your email address and find that it wouldn’t fit in the field they provided?

It’s amazing in a world of standards that companies (and individuals) continually ignore them and decide for themselves what’s acceptable.


User names (or local part of the address) can be 64 characters long, and domain names can be 255 characters long.

Here is an example of a reasonable well written validation for email addresses — if you want to see poorly done ones in action it doesn’t take too much effort to find ones that limit the entire email address to less than 30 characters!

<?php function isValidAddress( $email, $check = false )
# PHP Email Address Validator
# (C) Derrick Pallas
# Authors: Derrick Pallas
# Website: http://derrick.pallas.us/email-validator/
# License: Academic Free License 2.1
# Version: 2006-12-01a
if (!ereg(”
. ‘^’
. ‘[-!#$%&\’*+/0-9=?A-Z^_a-z{|}~]‘
. ‘(\\.?[-!#$%&\’*+/0-9=?A-Z^_a-z{|}~])*’
. ‘@’
. ‘[a-zA-Z](-?[a-zA-Z0-9])*’
. ‘(\\.[a-zA-Z](-?[a-zA-Z0-9])*)+’
. ‘$’
, $email
) ) return false;
list( $local, $domain ) = split( “@”, $email, 2 );
if ( strlen($local) > 64 || strlen($domain) > 255 ) return false;
if ( $check && !gethostbynamel( $domain ) ) return false;
return true;

RFC822 superseded by RFC2822.

User names (for email) may contain:

  • A to Z letters, upper and lower case.
  • 0 through 9 digits
  • . (fullstop, period) but not as the first or last character
  • ! # $ % & ‘ * + – / = ? ^ _ ` { | } ~ – all are permitted.

The maximum length of the user is 64 characters; the domain is 255 characters; so with the @ a valid address could be up to 320 characters.

Further, did you know that user names are case sensitive (but domain names are not).  Of course many email systems treat user names as case insensitive.

For information on domain name limitation you should see IANA.

Now you know more than most developers who write code that accepts or uses email addresses!

Originally posted 2008-08-25 22:12:27.


SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) are two methods to help indentify email which is likely not SPAM.  SPF was originally proposed in 2003 by Meng Weng Wong and Wayne Schlitt (SPFv1 RFC4408) as an open standard (SPF is backed by the Sender Policy Framework Council); DKIM originally merged and enhanced DomainKeys from Yahoo and Identified Internet Mail from Cisco (RFC4870 superseded by RFC4871) forming an open standard (DKIM is backed by an industry consortium).

Both SPF and DKIM attempt to provide information to receiving SMTP servers about whether or not a particular email message is authentic.

SPFv1 uses a very simple approach where a domain’s DNS server provides a root level TXT record that supplies information about SMTP mail servers that are permitted to originate domain email.

DKIM uses a more complex digital signature on each message (information about which is stored in a sub-domain in domains DNS containing self-signed keys).

You can read up on the specifics of each through the reference links provided below.

SPF (Wikipedia)

Microsoft SPF Record Wizard · OpenSPF Wizard

DKIM (Wikipedia)

Originally posted 2010-03-06 02:00:56.

Federal Express is a SPAMmer

Yesterday evening I received an Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE, aka SPAM) from Federal Express in violation of the California Professions and Business Code Section 17538.45.

Apparently Federal Express has taken to harvesting email addresses used in requesting tracking services and subscribing them to their marketing mailings lists without obtaining the permission of the owner of the email address (California law prohibits OPT-OUT policies, and requires that advertisers use OPT-IN methods).

Not only have I send a demand to Federal Expresses marketing campaign company and Federal Express demanding immediate payment of the fifty dollar fine specified by California Law; but I will no longer do business with Federal Express PERIOD.  That means I do not ship via FedEx, and I do not accept packages via FedEx, which means I don’t deal with vendors that use FedEx.

Originally posted 2009-02-19 01:00:25.