Mulberry: A powerful, multi-platform email client

First Published:
Date Published: April 29 2002
Copyright © 2002 by Kevin Savetz

Email clients are a dime a dozen. A good one is a little harder to find. A good one that works on three operating systems is downright rare. Mulberry is just that -- a graphical email client that runs on Linux, Windows, and MacOS.

Mulberry is a full-featured mail program -- there's not much more that even a jaded email addict could ask for. It includes a spell-checker, email rules, address books, and powerful search and sorting tools. It also supports plug-ins -- these add support for the GnuPG PGP implementation and the ability to fetch email using SSL.

Mulberry supports both IMAP and POP3 protocols as well as local Unix mailboxes -- you can have multiple mailboxes open simultaneously, mixing and matching protocols. If you're sick of email programs that seem to implement IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) as an afterthought, you'll love Mulberry. The developers are apparently crazy about the protocol. In fact, IMAP came first in Mulberry -- POP3 support is a relatively recent addition.

Rich text and file attachments are handled well: All versions of the program support MIME, uuencoding, Binhex, AppleSingle, and AppleDouble encodings, making it painless to exchange files with associates using any platform. However, I had some trouble automatically decoding uuencoded attachments. The program lacks a preview pane function -- that is, the ability to see what's in a message before you open it. It's a function that I can't stand in other email programs, but somebody must enjoy that sort of thing and might miss it in Mulberry.

Mulberry offers plenty of obscure functions, which will make email geeks happy. You can request a return receipt when your message is delivered, but I couldn't figure out how to create arbitrary X-whatever: headers even though the Web site says this is possible. You can copy messages between mailboxes simply by dragging them. LDAPv3, Whois++, CSO, and Ph address lookups aren't supported yet, but are "coming soon," according to the company.

Although source code is not offered, binaries are available for a wide variety of platforms. The *nix version of Mulberry officially supports Red Hat 5.x and 6.x running on x86, LinuxPPC, and Solaris running on Sparc and x86 processors. Unofficially, it works on other *nix variants, including FreeBSD, Debian, and SuSE. The MacOS version works with 68K and PowerPC Macs running System 7.1 to OS X -- the latter version is Carbonized, so there's no need to mess around in Classic mode. The Windows version requires Win95 or later on a 486 or faster machine.

If you use more than one operating system, you'll be happy to know that Mulberry is consistent across platforms. Buttons and functions are in the same place from OS to OS, but the program never feels like a port -- the Windows version behaves like a Windows program should, and the OS X version behaves like it should. You generally won't notice a function in one version on lacking in another, but there are minor differences that take into account special features of each operating system. For instance, the MacOS version includes support for Internet Config and the ability to speak messages aloud. The Windows version can be configured to use rooted or independent floating windows.

Mulberry?s built-in help is inconsistent from platform to platform: the Windows version is the only one with a truly helpful help system. Help in the Linux version is minimal, mostly links to the Web site; and help is missing altogether from the MacOS X version. This is a minor quibble, because the program is fairly intuitive. Mulberry?s lack of help is redeemed by its Web site, which provides OS-specific FAQs and mailing lists for discussion and news.

You can try Mulberry for free for 30 days -- after that, you've got to buy it. A single copy costs $34.95, plus $4 if you want PGP. Multi-user licenses are available.

All in all, Mulberry is a great email client -- stable, easy to use, and filled with features for power users. It might not be the perfect email client for you, but it is definitely worth checking out, no matter which operating system you use.

Articles by Kevin Savetz