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Catching Messages on the Web

By Karen Bannan (9/23/96)

E-mail is the killer app of the nineties. Business people, bankers, even teachers have e-mail accounts at work. But all too often, mail is subject to search and seizure by overzealous network administrators. The letter from Mom, that recipe from Aunt Sue, or your Fantasy Football lineups can mean trouble in the workplace. Enter Swanlake's Valise e-mail system, a free-of-charge e-mail account available via the Swanlake home page.

Signing up for the service is easy. From the company's home page, select the first hyperlink: Valise (BestMail) e-mail System. From there, you are taken through a simple setup process in which you are asked for your country of origin, a log-on name, and a password, plus asked to enter your date of birth and the first four letters of your mother's maiden name for security purposes.

Next, you choose the type of service you want. Although the basic e-mail account is free, you can also choose either a Regular or a Professional account. The Regular account carries a $8.95 yearly fee, while the Professional account will set you back $18.99 a year. The main differences between one account and another are not significant for the casual user. For example, the free account supports up to 4 mailing groups, 8 mail folders, 100 pieces of mail combined in all folders, and a 250K maximum storage limit. It does not support group mailing. The Regular and Professional accounts feature, respectively, 8 and 32 mailing groups, 16 and 50 mail folders, 200 and 600 pieces of mail in all folders, and 500K and 2MB maximum storage space. Unless you are sending and receiving a flurry of mail, the basic account should provide enough storage space and features.

Sending and receiving Valise e-mail is easy. All of the page's functions are icon-driven and well-labeled. You can check and compose mail with one click and manage your address books and mailing lists from the same menu. In addition, you can change and update your user profile on-screen, including your password and alias, and set a signature file that can be added to every outgoing message.

You can take advantage of another useful function, Forward All Mail--a real benefit if you know you will be traveling or otherwise away from a Web browser. You can even check incoming mail on another POP mail server by entering the name of the POP server, your user name, and your password. Once this is set up, you can check it automatically by clicking on the Check Other Server icon.

You can send password-protected mail to any recipient--a smart idea in the age of shared workspaces. The recipient will receive a message pointing her to a Web site, where she can enter a preset password to access the e-mail. In addition, you can designate your message as an HTML file by typing as the first column of the first line in the message body. Valise automatically adds the additional necessary tags. The service also supports sending and receiving Web-based file attachments from any platform or program.

The best feature of Valise--as for other Web-based e-mail services--is portability. Never again will you have to worry about logging on to a network server or finding a PC that has your online service software installed. All you need is an Internet connection and a Web browser, which should become easier, with Web cafes and Internet kiosks sprouting up all over the country.

If you decide you like Valise, a $10 security deposit is required within a month of signing on. The deposit is fully refundable upon account cancellation, although the program is so versatile, you may end up using Valise exclusively for all your e-mail needs.

List price: Free with $10 refundable deposit.
Requires: Any Web browser with an Internet connection.

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