Archive Reviews

Review: Mail Steward - Email Backup for Macs

I have a love hate relationship with the Mac Mail program. I love that I can gather all my e-mail accounts in one program and click one button to check my mail. I love that I can access my other tools in Mail; i.e. Address Book & iCal. I hate Mail because it’s the one program on my Mac that seems to go screwy every so often. (There was another, but I switched to Firefox). Usually it’s a .plist problem, easily solvable. Even so Mail is not as full feature as say, Entourage; Entourage is so full featured it makes me dizzy. Gmail (and if you don’t have a web mail account, to be ISP independent, get one now!), is the newest mail set-up I’ve tried. It seems to have a lot of tools, though is ‘G’ centric. Unfortunately, it doesn't have a way to backup your email locally. In Mail, you can set up folders and mailboxes, you can save e-mails for off line viewing. That is fine for the likes of me, with my 2 dozen a day e-mail habit. What if you’re running a podcast or business, where you traffick in e-mails all day long? Mail’s Folders and Mailboxes (smart as they are) are not high powered enough to help you keep track of your e-mail. MailSteward is here to help!

What Does it Do?

When you open MailSteward for the first time, what you’ll see is a little widget, with ‘settings’, ‘archive’, ‘search’ and ‘browse’. There’s also a menu at the top of the screen to access some of the database and in-depth features. It’s very Mac like, pretty intuitive and easy enough to understand, when you know what archive means. Here’s what archiving means to MailSteward -- saving all your e-mails and attachments in an easily searchable database. By default the database will hang out on your desktop. I’m anti desktop for most things, so I opened ‘settings’ and moved my archive to my data drive. In settings you can add/delete the mailboxes to be included in the archives. You can ‘include attachments’, store raw copies, include HTML, change fonts, include the ‘trash and junk boxes’ and check for updates. Adding attachments, means you have a back-up copy of the files sent by your boss. You can choose an attachment size limit. Best of all, you can schedule automatic ‘Stewarding’. SettingsSettings Once your e-mail archive database is built, you can ‘search’ it or ‘browse’ it from the MailSteward widget. When it's time to update the database, you can easily add to the archive, since MailSteward tracks the dates of previous archives for you. Did I mention that you can schedule automatic archiving in the settings. Each e-mail is given an ID number and can be searched via date, attachment, sender, receiver, subject and mail account. Once you’ve archived your mail, you’ll see the window, with the big list and a few other buttons. In the bottom window any selected e-mail is viewable for reading. BTW, since this is a native Cocoa, all the cool Mac services we expect, work. For instance, I can see Japanese text in my e-mails, though it mysteriously turns to gibberish when I look at e-mails elsewhere.

Is that it?

The first set of buttons are- ‘print’, ‘save’, ‘delete’ and ‘export’. You can print, save and delete by database or by search parameter. You can export in tab format, mbox, MailSteward (to another copy of MailSteward) and SQL file. I read in the help files that you can also do a bit of SQL tweaking as well. The second set buttons include- ‘reply’, ‘tag’, and ‘raw’. Tagging, is the new web 2.0 feature that is great for folks like me who think in their own special way. Add your own tags, in your own language and that too, can be used for ‘search’. It’s also nice to be able to reply from MailSteward, so when you review the weeks mail and notice you forgot to reply to Grandma’s dessert invite, you can. Let’s hope she saved you some cake! Storing and being able to look at the raw source of the e-mail means you can track down the guy sending anonymous insider tips. Raw e-mail data is becoming an important resource to protect yourself from phishing and should be looked at whenever you get something ‘fishy’. (See the 'View' menu in Mail, to view raw source). For me all this would be enough, but there’s more. In the 'File' menu, you can tweak your database. You can compact it, convert it, merge it, back it up, restore it, and make a report of it. I’m guessing if you’re into databases, you know how great that is. If I had thousands of e-mails and attachments, I would find that very useful. Export Options: Click to enlargeExport Options: Click to enlarge You can create separate databases for different accounts; since MailSteward comes in an office pack version, that means you can keep track of a roomful of computers with a network of accounts. You can also import & export ‘mbox’ files, which are the standard among non-proprietary e-mail clients.

Stamp Of Approval

For a cute little download, you get a powerful Mail managing and back-up tool. Pricing varies depending on the version you select.
  • Free - MailSteward will manage up to 3000 emails in your archive. Included in the free version is the tagging, exporting and database management, that comes with the full $49.95 version.
  • $24.95 Lite version, will archive your unlimited e-mails, but not let you tag, export or do database management
  • $49.95 version, will archive and manage unlimited e-mails. It does it all.
  • Conclusion: I have nothing bad to say about the program itself, the folks seem to know what they’re doing. Since my needs are not as high powered as a multi-computer, heaps of e-mail company, I can’t speak to the need for massive file management. 5 out of 5