16 e-mail and instant messaging boosters

Communicate better with these (mostly free) downloads

On the minus side, though it does offer encryption, it lacks other higher-end features such as automatic filtering of incoming mail. It doesn't include a calendar or to-do list, either; if you want that from Microsoft, you'll have to buy Outlook.

By the way, if all of Microsoft's e-mail software and services make you thoroughly confused, join the club. Aside from Windows Live Mail, Windows Mail, Outlook Express and, of course, Outlook, the company offers Windows Live Hotmail (Web-based e-mail) too.

Note that when you install Windows Live Mail, it will make Live Search your default search engine and MSN Home your default home page in Internet Explorer, unless you uncheck the appropriate boxes.

Download Windows Live Mail | Price: Free

MailStore Home: Almost any e-mail software you use has two very big drawbacks: Backing up e-mail is exceedingly difficult, and you can't search for e-mail messages across multiple clients.

MailStore Home solves both problems, since it imports messages from multiple mail systems and software programs, stores them in a central location on your hard disk, and lets you search through everything simultaneously. The search is exceedingly fast and quite sophisticated. For example, you can search by subject, message body, folder and attachments. Once you import all the e-mail, you can also back it up by burning to a CD.

MailStore Home imports and backs up e-mail from Microsoft Outlook, Thunderbird, Windows Live Mail and other programs. If you import from POP3 and IMAP accounts, some limitations apply -- for example, you can import only your inbox. Additionally, you won't be able to import Outlook .pst files directly; instead, you'll have to import folders individually, which can take some time.

Those are minor quibbles, though. MailStore Home is a very good program for anyone who wants to search through multiple e-mail clients and services and back them all up.

Download MailStore Home | Price: Free

MailWasher Pro: What's the most annoying thing about e-mail? Spam, of course. Plenty of spam killers are out there, and this is a solid one. It doesn't integrate with your e-mail software; instead, it directly contacts your mail server and stops spam before the junk reaches your inbox. The utility flags spam and then lets you delete it, or tells the mail software to let the message through. You also have the choice of bouncing the spam back to the sender.

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Preston Gralla

PC World

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