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Old 06-14-2007, 12:06 PM   #1 (permalink)
Entropy666
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Smile Prerelease Review: BlackBerrySmart Email Viewer Beta

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BlackBerrySmart Email Viewer Beta "BlackBerry Email Revolution"
Rating: 9/10
Link: Home
Cost: Unknown (Will be released this Monday 7/18/2007)
Compatibility: v4.0.2 Blackberry OS or higher
Supports BlackBerry models newer than the 7230

Well we promised to deliver a review on the new BlackBerry Smart Email Viewer, so here it is. The BlackBerrySmart Email Viewer is one of the most innovative improvements in the way you view your emails on your BlackBerry. Most BlackBerry users have given up on ever viewing images or human friendly links in their email. Finally there is a solution to be able to configure your native BlackBerry email client to view images and human friendly links in your email. As you can see from my comments below the solution is not yet perfect but it is well on its way to be a must have application for all BlackBerry users. So now lets get down to the review.

The first thing you have to keep in mind is that this is not a solution endorsed by BlackBerry. The developers had to work within the bounds RIM has set to make this Email Viewer work. RIM strips out all HTML, except for hyperlinks and image links, from your emails before the email even gets to your device. Thus the only HTML you will see in this email viewer is images and improved human friendly links. Reqwireless had previously created and abandoned a HTML email client for BlackBerry since they could not provide such functionality within the native BlackBerry email client. Rather your email had to pass through their servers and be viewed in their program without push support, thus reducing the appeal and security of their program. The BlackBerrySmart email client manages to bypass the security hurdle by using the native client but they had to sacrifice the full HTML compatibility that RIM strips out.

Installation:

eZainny from BlackBerrySmart has provided me an OTA link to install this software. There are two versions one for 4.2 OS device owners and one for all other devices. The only difference between the two versions according to BlackBerrySmart is that in older devices there is no option to forward, reply, or reply to all from the viewer. Supposedly in versions of the OS before 4.2 there were no reliable system functions to perform these actions. Once you install the software you will be prompted every time you open an email with a message along the lines of "Do you wish to view this email with BlackBerrySmart Viewer. Your options are obviously yes and no but they also give you the option to never be asked this again. This will remember you selection and apply it to every other email you open.

On to the configuration:



As you can see from the images above you have quite a few options to customize how the viewer looks on your BlackBerry. First of all you have the option to show or not show images. If you just want to have the cleaner interface of the viewer without images then remove this option. The next option is my favorite. You have the option to set the viewer as the default email viewer. This means that every email you open on the BlackBerry will open with the viewer. I personally liked to uncheck this option. If the option is unchecked then you can open every email normally and then if a HTML viewer is necessary you can alway choose to use it in the options menu. Preferable this would be a hotkey you could press when you view the email in the native email client. Next you have the option of showing the full details header on every email you open with the viewer. When this is unchecked you will only see abridged details on the sender and subject of the email. You can always view the full details by clicking that option in the menu. Last of all you have the option to view full email links in your viewer. When this is unchecked all links default to the link titles. When it is checked you will actually see the full hyperlink.

The next configuration options are all about the style and background of the text in the viewer. You can modify the font, font size, font color, and background of the viewer. I found this extremely useful in configuring my email viewer to my tastes. Next you have to setup which transport you want the BlackBerry viewer to use to connect to the internet. Your options are BES/MDS, TCP, and WAP. The last option is a matter of cache for the viewer. The default setting of 1 week was fine in my experience.

Now on to the actual viewer:



As you can see from the examples above the first thing you will notice is the large header that is added to every email the viewer. This is one of my major complaints with the viewer. I could live without seeing an advertisement for the BlackBerrySmart.com website that takes up a fifth of the screen when you first open the email. Now on to the goodies. You can see how clean and organized the emails look compared to the native BlackBerry email client. Links like the ones in the screenshots above do not show up in the weird double fashion that they do in the native client. Rather they show up as the text that is meant to be shown. The viewer also add a bit of flair to the original message break line as you can see in the image to the right. One of the issues with this viewer is that once you open the email, if you hit back you will go back to the native email viewer. This just another step of having to hit two key presses to get back to the message list. All in all the viewer is a vast improvement that will improve your BlackBerry email experience, all it needs is a few tweaks here and there.

Hotkeys and controls:

BlackBerrySmart has added shortcuts to the common functions such as reply, forward, and reply to all. They have also put in support for hitting the space bar to go down a page and the "T" and "B" buttons go to the top and bottom of the page respectively. User might notice the fact that you cannot delete emails by hitting the delete button, rather you have delete it through the menu or by hitting back to go to the native client and then delete. Also selecting text in the viewer cannot be done by just hitting the select key and scrolling. Rather you have to go to the menu or back to the native client to select. You will automatically be taken back to the native client when you choose to reply or forward an email.

Images and Links:



As you can see in the screenshots above, images have a progress bar when they are downloading an email. This can be canceled during image downloads. Images are resized to fit the screen of the BlackBerry and I found no option to see the full image without going to the browser. One of the issues with images is that 90% of the images I receive in emails are just spacers titled "Spacer.gif". In one email from Dell there were over 30 of them. An example of this is on the right. BlackBerrySmart should provide an option to exclude such images in later versions. Also when you open an email with many images that you have previously opened you will run into a progress bar like the one on the left. This is quite annoying sometimes and is the main reason that I configured the viewer to not automatically open every email. Otherwise images in the email has been a great benefit of the program with a few tweaks here and there. As you can see the email is formatted in a clean and concise manner that is not possible with the native BlackBerry client.

Pros:
  • HTML Image and Link support for BlackBerry emails
  • Clear and concise viewer for emails
  • Configurable interface to your tastes and style
  • Ability to cancel image downloads
  • Option to not use the viewer as the default email viewer
  • Basic hotkey support such as reply, forwarding, and page scrolling
Cons:
  • Missing extensive hotkey functionality found in the BlackBerry email client such as delete and select
  • Spacer image downloads
  • Large banner on top of every email
  • Slow opening of previously opened emails with many images
Verdict:

The BlackBerrySmart Email Viewer will revolutionize the way people can view emails on their BlackBerry devices. There are a few pain points when compared with the native email client but hopefully they will be addressed by the developers soon. I recommend this software since it is an evolution to the BlackBerry that has been a long time coming. Hopefully one day RIM will wake up and provide us such functionality out of the box. They have made great strides including a spell checker in the Curve so this may just be a possibility. The BlackBerrySmart Email Viewer addresses the security concerns that Reqwireless could not years ago. The only security concern I can see is that many mailing lists and spam lists use images that track if the email is opened. This may lead to increased spamming of your address that would previously not report the opening of the email with the native BlackBerry Client. It may seem like I beat up the Email Viewer in my review but my intentions were to point out the areas for improvement on this pioneering software. I personally think users will be delighted with the BlackBerrySmart Email Viewer when it is released this Monday.

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