Early 2000s email clients such as pronto (2024-02-16)

A bit of nostalgia today. There were many native Windows email clients in the late 90s and early 2000s. These were days of densely packed interfaces. Focus was on offline work - connect, send/receive, disconnect. Software was released in downloadable versioned binaries from FTP servers, such as ftp://ftp.prontomail.com/p96v305.exe.

Pegasus Mail (pmail.com)

This email client was created by David Harris in 1989 in Dunedin, New Zealand. Read the history here.

It dates from the time when the Internet was a community rather than just a highway - a time when people helped each other without worrying too much about who was going to pay for it…
I wrote a simple e-mail program in my own time and made it available on the network: I was quite surprised to find that people liked it. (src)

I first ran into Pegasus Mail at an Internet Club in Stara Zagora in 1995. (Internet Clubs were something like bars, where you could go and use a computer - to play games with friends, called LAN parties, or just surf the internet.)

Here are a few screenshots (and their sources) to show what Pegasus Mail looked like (using native Windows UI).


Daniel Tobias writes about what it takes to configure Pegasus Mail and has some great context on how much legacy is buried in what we call email today.


Pronto! was another email client from the early 2000s. I enjoyed the design of it, but sadly screenshots and history are hard to find. The domain was prontomail.com and some sites point to the download location for this to have been ftp.prontomail.com/p96v305.exe
From Robert Steele’s page (real treasure):

Pronto 96
Version 3.05
Date 12/15/96
Size 2406 Kb
Location ftp://ftp.prontomail.com/p96v305.exe
Description A good mail client that comes close to Pegasus Mail’s features but not price
Status Commercial Software - $69. Free 30 day evaluation
Company Commtouch Software
Information The Pronto 96 Page
Also Available Windows 3.x version

Eudora (eudora.com)

Eudora was one of my favorites. It was beloved by many faculty members at the university I attended too.



Outlook Express

Outlook Express had minimalist, clean, crisp interface.


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The Bat!

Last but not least is The Bat!! It was first built in 1997 in Moldova, and is still actively developed even today. The company behind it is Ritlabs!

Another interesting, but unrelated, software that is done by the same company, Ritlabs, is DOS Navigator. DOS Navigator was written in Turbo Pascal!
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On Screenshots…

Back in the early 1990s when Linux as an experimental OS and we all modded it however we wanted - it was popular to brag about your custom window manager, theme, background etc. There were sites dedicating to folks sharing screnshots of their Linux desktop environment. Here are a few modern and retro sites:

My favorite is Dennis Ritchie’s desktop