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Migrating from Messenger to Pro 3

By Alex Macfarlane Smith. Published: 14th Dec 2004, 16:21:01 | Permalink | Printable

Painful memories or smooth ride - we decide

Messenger logoMessenger 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.

Import windowIt 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.

Import windowOne 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.

Import windowI 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.

Import windowIn 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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The 'double click with Adjust on a message to close a folder' is in 2.59 at least - I can't check all the way back to the public release version 1s but ISTR it was there.

One nice thing about it, though, is that if you have any message windows open from that folder then the window is the only thing closed - you can adjust-close the message and the window re-opens, or you can just double click the folder to reopen the window and you're back where you were, with all the messages selected that you were already selecting. The minor difference is that it does not have to talk to the server application to re-obtain the folder list because the list is still 'in memory'. This comment applies to 2.59 and I suspect some earlier versions too.

For comparison, 2.59 here takes around 1.5 seconds to open a 371 message folder (I don't have any folders of around 500 messages; this is the closest I could get without jumping to 1931 messages), although this is through Newsbase which makes quite a difference.

Presumably there were no problems with any other transports you had installed and all the filters you had were all brought forward properly then ?

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 14/12/04 5:10PM
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Doh, you did say about the filters not being transferred. Sorry.

 is a RISC OS UserGerph on 14/12/04 5:26PM
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When I attempted to upgrade from Messenger 1 (which last time I checked didn't appear to be avilable for download) to 2 it failed because it wouldn't accept my TBAFS image files as directories. So I installed it at work instead, I never really got used to the menu restructuring so never bothered to upgrade at home.

 is a RISC OS Usermavhc on 14/12/04 8:37PM
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SpamStamp integrates very well with Messanger Pro 3 and the installation instructions are exemplary....

I stopped using Messanger for email as I was worried it was a 'dead' product. The latest version could tempt me to move my Mail back onto RISC OS from my Mac.

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 14/12/04 10:39PM
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The freeware Messenger 1.41d is available from [link] The fix for groups.google display of news articles has appeared on the messenger-l mailing-list and changed for future versions. Adjust-clicking viewers had recently broken - it used to open the parent window and has been fixed to do so again in future versions. I upgraded to 3 from the previous version and am pleased I did so.

 is a RISC OS Userxyzzy on 15/12/04 1:24AM
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How does this software compare to the likes of the recently released Thunderbird 1.0? I've only just started using it, but it is miles ahead of Outlook certainly. MessengerPro should be as good as this, right?


 is a RISC OS Usersascott on 15/12/04 2:45AM
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I did try subscribing to the messenger-l mailing-list from the Utilities->Subscribe messenger-l link, which sent an email, but I never seemed to get a response. Any ideas?

 is a RISC OS Useraardvark on 15/12/04 9:23AM
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Unfourtunately SpamStamp does not work with RemoteNB, so if you use the online version of MessengerPro you get substantially less functionality, as IIRC MessengerPro also disables filtering and scoring (and thus mailing-list handling). Because of this I have moved to Mozilla/Thunderbird long ago.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 15/12/04 10:06AM
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Re-reading my last comment, I realise it might be unclear what I mean.

When using the RemoteNB backend of MessengerPro Online, MessengerPro disables its filtering, scoring and mailinglist handling.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 15/12/04 10:15AM
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JG zimmele - erm you are wrong. Maling list handling works just fine - I tried it just last week. And, if you don't have filtering/spam services on your *server* then you (probably) shouldn't be using IMAP. The purpose of IMAP, at least as far as MPro is concerned, is to display messages resident on a remote mail server - eg. a work mail server, or a university mail server. Thus to have filtering in this context, in the *client* would seem to be a nonsense. I have seen IMAP used as a fetch protocol on some platfroms, with the results stored locally. In this context, filtering would make more sense. However, MPro's philosophy is for mail to remain on the server.

To use the Mailing List facility, you need a folder on your server to contain the mail list postings, exactly as in offline Mpro, then mark said folder as a "mailing list".

I suspect in your case, it sounds like you need a more flexible/better configured server. Even Mpro server would allow you to configure filtering etc. server side to avoid your problems. I appreciate you may not have server access, but really that's not MPro's fault.

Actually thinking about it, what you need is the ability to apply some kind of "effect to messages already received" which is what scoring is all about, but currently scoring is non-destructive (ie. won't move stuff around).

Oh, incidentally, I think scoring works with IMAP too, since it is part of Mpro client, not the MsgServe server.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 15/12/04 10:24AM
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PS, if you need more flexibility, then I'd advocate using something like NetFetch/Hermes to fetch to local store via POP, but leaving messages in tact on server - if this is an option. Althuogh this means you have to fetch messages, you would gain all the filtering/antispam options, without impacting on the files on the server. Its just a thought, and I know using POP doesn't appeal to everyone, but it would give you maximum control over your mail, I suspect.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 15/12/04 10:31AM
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Why hasn't anybody ported Exim/Dovecot to RISC OS yet?

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 15/12/04 11:43AM
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Because some like to try out their own efforts first, nun ;)

 is a RISC OS UserhEgelia on 15/12/04 12:06PM
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aardvark: Is the SMTP you rely on in someone's RBL? Your message could be silently blackholed by the mailing-list server inside gradwell.net I guess.

Have you tried again, possibly even from a different address/server?

Change the URL003 line (line 282) in !Messenger.Resources.UK.Messages2 from [link] to [link] to get the article via Google groups working again.

 is a RISC OS Userxyzzy on 15/12/04 1:11PM
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I've upgraded from 2.62, and am very glad that I did. Most noticeably, MPro 3 seems a lot slicker to use. Folders with heaps of messages open faster, and things like 'reorder according to sender' seem quicker too. As the article mentions, it's the multi-tasking filer that's one of the highlights: as an extreme case, opening my wastebin took 37 secs before upgrading (MPro 2.62); now it takes just 2 secs. Deleting selected files from the wastebin also took an age, and it was very unclear as to what was happening; with the new multi-tasking engine it's great.

Of course, this is only the beginning. I'm really looking forward to seeing the new features that are implicit in the roll-out 'subscription' scheme. RComp have a good record in this regard, so my advice would be to upgrade now if you're wavering ;-)

PS Random tip of the day: Holding down Ctrl and dragging is a quick way to select multiple messages.

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 15/12/04 1:25PM
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I use both Thunderbird and MessengerPro extensively (althought I've not yet upgraded to v3). Thunderbird *is* very good, and has some features that MPro doesn't have (like HTML emails and hierarchical folders).

However, in use my preference is for MPro. I find it faster and slicker, and more configurable to my taste. And in terms of features, there isn't a great deal that MPro won't do.

 is a RISC OS Userflypig on 15/12/04 2:46PM
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@arawnley: I have fill access to the server and I know I could do filtering with Cyrus IMAPd. The problem is, that not all users are able to use the filter language. We use the IMAP server to ensure every user has the same mail environment on any client (we have different OSs here so simply putting MsgServe on a fileserver would not work). Thunderbird uses the IMAP server just like a fileserver for mail. So it fetches all messages, analyses them and applies all the filtering etc. and performs the necessary changes on the IMAP server. So when I open Thinderbird, it opens my inbox and analyses all new messages. When it finds one wich it thinks is spam, it moves the messages from my inbox on the server to my spam folder on the server. It does similar things with mailing list messages. Of course this is not ideal. Ideal would be a kind of protocol wich would enable the client to edit the servers filtering rules. But I don't think there is such a protocol.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 15/12/04 3:22PM
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The problem is, that with RemoteNB some funtions of MessengerPro do not work. It has been a while since I last used it, so I can't remember exactly wich functions were effected, but I do remember that there was some problem with the search funtion (searching for messages and certainly the filtering.

 is a RISC OS UserJGZimmerle on 15/12/04 4:35PM
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In reply to nunfetishist:

Useless trivia: the author of Exim, Philip Hazel, is (or was) actually a RISC OS programmer. He also wrote PMS, a RISC OS music typestting program that I like (and has recently rewitten it as PMW for Unix). I believe he also did some work for Acorn on Printers and MakeModes. So if anyone was going to port Exim, no-one would be better placed to do the job than the author himself. (Not that I consider it very likely that he'd want to spend his time doing that.)

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 15/12/04 4:35PM
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RichardHallas: One assumes he's also somewhat out of practice.

 is a RISC OS Usernunfetishist on 15/12/04 6:28PM
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I wouldn't know about that; I can't see any reason to jump to the assumption that he's not up to the job any more. He spent well over a decade working on some excellent RISC OS software, after all, and he was into Unix for much or all of that time as well. Exim was started (I believe) in 1995, when he was still very active in coding his music typesetting program on RISC OS as a hobby. I don't doubt for a moment that he'd be able to do a conversion without any significant technical difficulty if he chose to do so. I just don't think he'd have either the time or the inclination now.

 is a RISC OS UserRichardHallas on 15/12/04 7:53PM
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arawnsley: "And, if you don't have filtering/spam services on your server then you (probably) shouldn't be using IMAP." - I have to use IMAP, so that my mail is accessible from everywhere (POP/leave-on-server is definitely not good enough), and I don't have access to my server, so client-side IMAP filtering is mandatory. "I appreciate you may not have server access, but really that's not MPro's fault." - obviously not, but I don't see any reason why MPro shouldn't cope with people in this situation. As it is, I can't use MPro and I would like to (I still have MPro2, not used any more sadly).

 is a RISC OS Usermatthew on 15/12/04 9:50PM
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sascott: I use Thunderbird all the time and used to use (and hopefully will again use) Messenger a lot. I've been trying to think of the answer to your question, and I don't think there is one! Messenger and Thunderbird are just *so* different.

It's hard to think how two programs which perform the same basic function could be more different in fact (at least, to me).

Certainly Messenger has far more features than Thunderbird - with the notable exceptions mentioned by flyingpig. (I have high hopes that the folder situation will be improved in the current development 'spurt' though :-) )


 is a RISC OS Useradamr on 15/12/04 10:03PM
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matthew - that's fine, but since MPro's IMAP side is designed specificially to work within the confines of IMAP (which relies on server side filtering) the whole talk of adding filtering to RemoteNB is a bit like adding propellers to cars. From the description above, even Thunderbird is using a hacky "download then re-build" approach which really doesn't sound overly appertising. Perhaps we need to think of alternative approaches, but please try to remember that IMAP is a fixed protocol - it has procedures for searching, filing in folders and so on, but not filtering as that has always been seen as a server side operation. Obviously this is a deficiency of the protocol, but nevertheless, criticising Mpro because the industry standard protocol is limited seems rather, erm, odd?

Mpro does build on IMAP where possible (eg. mailing list folders etc.) where the client has control, but certainly the idea of the client having to download all the mail (even just headers) each login and filter the results back sounds rather extreme - especially when you consider that other posters are asking for *faster* logins etc!!!!

Just out of curiosity, *why* isn't POP/leave on server not an option (I'm half playing devil's advocate). I appreciate it lacks some finesse, but so does the client-filtering described above...! It's certainly the only way to run SpamStamp which was one of Julian's requests!

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 15/12/04 11:37PM
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PS, this thread is rapidly turning into a debate over IMAP. It is worth remembering just how few users this actually affects. I'm concious that there will be many peolpe reading this thinking "what's this IMAP - it must be real important". IMAP affects about 1 or 2% of users and is generally the kind of thing you know if you need. It's the "online" part of the Messenger Pro Online product, so really doesn't affect anyone looking at the standard Messenger Pro product.

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 15/12/04 11:41PM
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To get the thread back to the initial issue ... and a different spinoff...

I upgraded to Hermes and with that to using NetFetch since Hermes relies on NetFetch for e.g. "poll new mail every 15 minutes" (opposed to POPstar which does that itself) and I upgraded to Messenger Pro 3 and recently before this from Newsbase to MsgSeve.

My impression is that Hermes is very good and quicker than POPstar due to it collecting mail for several boxes in parallel (I have some 12) and Messenger Pro 3 feels nicer and in some places the automatic window size increase is very welcome. Working with MsgServe Messenger Pro got quite a bit quicker in the folders view and handling.

BTW, when you want to import Newsbase stored folder contents into MsgServe that is simple: Create the new folder in MsgServe using Messenger Pro, open it and then just drop the files from Newbase's store (e.g. !NewsDir.News.Folders.Whatever) onto the folder in MsgServe. I found that one by just trying relying on the way I expect RISC OS applications to work.

Thanks, R-Comp!

 is a RISC OS Userhzn on 16/12/04 7:21AM
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Update to b4 went out today and bugs raised this week, so the new author is not wasting any time.

You wait years for an update to Messanger Pro and then 2 come long in one week....

 is a RISC OS Usermarkee174 on 16/12/04 9:26PM
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The aim of doing the rolling "scheme" of updates is that things can be rather more regular we hope. From an admit perspective, I'm hoping not *quite* as frequiently as this, though, but we'll see :-)

 is a RISC OS Userarawnsley on 16/12/04 11:40PM
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As Markee hinted, the latest update resolves the quibbles mentioned in the article: clicking with Adjust now opens the parent window (as it used to, yay!), and the URL for Google groups has been changed. There are a couple of other refinements too. Very pleasing! Thanks.

Another nice touch is that MPro3 (MP3?!) handles the settings of different windows more intuitively, and saves those settings too; a bug in MPro2 meant that I couldn't have the 'size' column set for the outgoing queue only.

All in all, excellent service, Andrew.

 is a RISC OS UserStewy on 17/12/04 12:59PM
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arawnsley: "From the description above, even Thunderbird is using a hacky "download then re-build" approach which really doesn't sound overly appertising." - well, I don't pretend to know the precise details, but getting new headers with IMAP is something MPro does too, and sending some Move commands doesn't seem that complicated.

"Just out of curiosity, why isn't POP/leave on server not an option" - well, the obvious reason is if I reply to, forward, or move to a different folder an email from one computer, I want it to be marked as such when I check my mail somewhere else. <shrug>

 is a RISC OS Usermatthew on 17/12/04 11:17PM
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