Review of FreeMail Extended Family Parent

review-of-freemail-extended-family-parent-photoThis was originally published on October 20, 1995. I barely remember testing this, but it seems like a neat idea.

FreeMail “Extended Family Parent”
PC Training Corporation

FreeMail is a different kind of e-mail program that allows you to set up your own private network. You install the main program from the ‘parent’ disk and then make copies called ‘child’ disks that you hand out to whom ever you want in your network. Each child can send and receive messages and files to the parent. An ‘extended family parent’ has the added capability of allowing child-to-child messaging. I tried FreeMail’s Extended Family Parent and loved it.

Installation was a breeze. I popped the 3.5″ disk in, double-clicked on the floppy disk icon on my Windows95 desktop, and ran SETUP.EXE from the disk. The setup program created a default folder (subdirectory) called FreeMail then loaded itself in. After filling in some information about myself (name, address, phone number, modem type, and user name), I was up and running.

FreeMail is very easy to use. The main screen seemed a bit busy at first. It contains the typical “Windows” menu at the top (with the options ‘File’, ‘Edit’, ‘View’, ‘Sites & Groups’, ‘Techie Stuff’, ‘Window’, and ‘Help’); then a row of eight large buttons for quick access to the program’s main features (get mail, send mail, compose mail, make child diskette, etc.); and two major viewing areas: one for listing “Received Mail”, the other for listing “Mail Waiting To Be Sent”. A floating toolbar also hovered upon the screen with six not-so-clear buttons of its own. Not to be intimidated, I clicked immediately on the Help option at the end of the menu. Within seconds, I was able to find good explanations of all the buttons whose functions alluded me. (Note: there are no Tool Tips when you point at a button, like in Word or Excel, nor any explanation at the bottom of the screen.)

The first thing I did with FreeMail was make a child disk. You do this by clicking on the large button with a picture of a disk being passed between hands. The only information FreeMail needs to make a child is which drive the disk is in and whether the new child will be local or long distance. I chose local because I was only going to a neighbor’s computer next door. I clicked the OK button and in less than thirty seconds I had offspring.

At the neighbor’s house, the child disk installed itself just as fast and easy as the parent disk at my house. To test my new “network”, I returned home and clicked on the “Wait for a Call” button in FreeMail. It’s icon is a telephone with arrows pointing toward it; the “Send” button shows a similar telephone with arrows pointing away from it. The “Wait” button sets up FreeMail and your modem to receive mail. It does this by first locating your modem then placing the word “Waiting” at the bottom of its screen. While in the waiting mode, you can go off and run other applications. When a message does come in, FreeMail answers the phone on the first ring.

Back at the neighbor’s, I proceeded to send myself a message and a WordPerfect file. Once again, no problem. After clicking on the “Compose New Mail” button, a screen appears that’s very easy to understand and use. User names are accessed with a drop-down list button and mine was placed in the list during the child-making routine. I clicked on my user name in the list, then wrote a short note, then clicked on the “Choose Files” button to add a WordPerfect file. The button used to actually send my note and attached file says “Mail” on it; I clicked it, and I was done.

When I returned to my office, the mail was there. My neighbor’s user name was automatically added to my drop-down list of addressees, as well; it apparently came in with the mail.

There are many other features found in FreeMail which I will tryout when the need arises like creating custom cabinets. Custom cabinets allow you to organize your mail anyway you want; by category, by client, by project, etc. There’s also a feature called Persistent Mail which sets up FreeMail to automatically send mail or files to anyone who calls you. You can also send Certified mail which automatically returns a confirmation when the person reads your message. There are more features than there is space in this review to cover them.

FreeMail really is “the application that brings E-mail to everyone.” You install the program onto your hard drive from one 3-1/2 inch disk. Then, you make copies onto other disks and give them to your friends, relatives, and clients. They install their child disk on their hard drive and there you have it! Instant e-mail. All you need to use this program is a computer with Windows and a modem.

Bottom line: FreeMail is a great program that delivers all that it promises.

List price: $595.95 30-day guarantee from time of purchase