Migrating from Messenger to Pro 3By Alex Macfarlane Smith. Published: 14th Dec 2004, 16:21:01 | Permalink | Printable
Painful memories or smooth ride - we decideMessenger and Newsbase form the backbone of the freeware RISC OS Internet suite, having been tried and tested by many users over the years. However, recent developments have tempted Alex Macfarlane Smith to migrate from his Messenger and Newsbase installation to Messenger Pro and concisely write up his impressions of the software.
This is my first 'Pro' version of Messenger as I've been using 1.41d and Newsbase up until now, so I decided to switch over to Messenger Pro 3.02 and MsgServe. I'd recommend taking a backup of your existing NewsDir if you're upgrading, although it appears that the upgrade process doesn't actually change any of the original Newsbase files, so it shouldn't actually be a problem. There's always the ring bound Messenger Pro manual to flick through beforehand to let you know what you're about to get yourself into.
When you run Messenger Pro for the first time, it asks you which sort of server you want to use. Messenger Pro comes in two flavours: offline and online. With the offline version, all your email and news is stored on your local computer, and with the online version, the mail and news is instead kept on a remote server. As I'm using the offline version, there was a choice of Messenger Offline Database or Newsbase - I chose the offline database option.
So far so good. At this point, I hit a bug present in 3.02, which is now fixed in version 3.03 - an update should be in users' inboxes now according to R-Comp. The bug meant I had to look inside MessengerPro and run MsgServe manually to continue the installation. R-Comp says the bug only affected a small number of customers: those installing Messenger Pro 3 from scratch.
It then asks you to insert some details about your email and hostname setup, most of which it can autodetect for you anyway - which certainly is a lot more straightforward than when I was setting Newsbase up for the first time. It then reported that it has detected my installation of Newsbase and offers to convert it to MsgServe format. I opted for 'yes', as I want to switch over entirely. At the time I thought that this would be a good point to go and make a cup of tea, however I noticed that the machine is still pretty much totally usable at this point in the installation, so you'll find you can start the install and go back to whatever you were doing beforehand. Some advice: I strongly suggest you expire all your newsgroups, delete any unwanted messages and so on, before you start the install, as otherwise it'll convert a lot of stuff that you didn't really care about.
When that's done, Messenger Pro asks you to login with your username and password - if you've upgraded from Newsbase as I've just done, this'll be the same as it was before. It then shows you all your mail boxes, newsgroups and discussion lists in one list, whereas previously I never saw my 'sent mail and news' folders unless I explicitly selected Folders from the menu.
Choices wise, everything can be configured from within Messenger Pro now, there's no separate configuration window for MsgServe, which means everything is nicely centralised. The one thing it doesn't seem to automatically import from Newsbase is the filtering rules I had set up for filtering things into different mailboxes, but that shouldn't take long to set up again.
One thing that's much nicer is deleting messages happens 'multitaskingly', allowing the rest of the desktop to carry on smoothly while the software works in the background. Firstly, if you delete a message, it just gets marked as 'deleted', then secondly, when you close the window, it then opens a FilerAction-esque window to actually do the delete, which means you can continue using your machine while it deletes the messages, something which the original Messenger/Newsbase combination couldn't achieve. It also seems to be a fair bit faster at opening folders, only taking about a second to open a 500 message folder, which would easily take Messenger 5 or more seconds.
Another nicety is when reading news messages, you can just Shift+click on a Message ID, and it will automatically jump to that message provided it's been downloaded to your local machine. Alternatively, Ctrl+clicking will open the message in Google Groups, however this feature appears not to be working at present - it looks like Google have recently changed their news service slightly, so I imagine this will be easy enough to fix.
I found that I had to hand edit the Messenger Pro choices file to enable MsgServe to run with Messenger - something which has been reportedly fixed in version 3.03. Another minor annoyance is that double-clicking the right button on a message closes your mail folder (if you're marking a number of messages for deletion and you double-click by accident), and opens the message (which I guess is Filer-like), but then if you right-click the Close icon of the message, it then doesn't go back to the mail folder - so I think, personally, I'd prefer it didn't close any windows.
In summary, I feel it's a very useful and well put together product, and the ease in which it's configured makes it much simpler than setting up Newsbase for the first time, and it's certainly quicker than the combination of Messenger and Newsbase. There's a few minor niggles that have been come across as mentioned above, but I suspect these will be relatively straightforward to resolve by R-Comp.
R-Comp website - further details on Messenger Pro 3, pricing, etc. R-Comp say they have full time coders working on Messenger Pro now, in a bid to push forward an area that RISC OS is historically strong in: email and news.
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