It’s increasingly common for many of us to have more than one e-mail address on the go. By the time work, home, webmail and mobile addresses have been taken into account, the theory runs that you’re dashing between different accounts just to keep up with everything that’s going on. So the thinking behind The Bat! is to consolidate all of these accounts on just one screen.
It’s not fresh thinking, to be fair, although The Bat! does have heritage. It’s up to version 4.1.1 now and has been going for well over a decade. Yet with the likes of Windows Live Mail and freeware tools such as Pop Peeper doing this kind of thing effortlessly now (about time, in the case of the former), where does The Bat! fit in?
Its creator, RTL Labs, has endowed the product with an abundance of features to answer just that question. Thus it supports multiple accounts as well as features such as message templates, support for MIME, Uuencode, PGP and APOP, spell checking and encryption. It feels a little underwhelming at first, though, and you can’t help but feel that it lacks a bit of spit and polish. And yet it has one or two real advantages.
The first is that the interface is actually very clean. The main screen is well organised and, while it’s easy enough to further customise it, we were impressed with what we found from the off. Emails, as you’d expect, support formatting functions well, and if you must add smileys to everything, they’re present and correct, too.
Where we found that The Bat! really hit its stride, though, was when managing more than two or three accounts. A small number of e-mail accounts is perfect fodder for something like the aforementioned Windows Live Mail, yet go much above that and The Bat! is simply a better bet. Each account has its own folder and it’s simple to manage it from within there. You could feasibly managed a dozen or more accounts, and the program makes this as easy to do as you could probably hope for.
On the downside, actually setting up our accounts was a little fiddly. The settings for Gmail were automatically picked up, but we had a bit of a job to get Hotmail to be recognised. It’s do-able, but just takes a little work. Furthermore, the program did crash once or twice on our Vista installation, although we’ve not heard of compatibility issues elsewhere, so we suspect that’s tied to our machine, though still worth mentioning.
The Bat! is available in both Home and Professional editions, and either way it’s at the least worth a try. It might not instantly hand-hold you in a way that you’d get from a glossier tool, but it’s not a resource hog and is an efficient and tidy way to manage your e-mail accounts, just with a slightly raw edge or two.