Pegasus Mail

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Pegasus Mail
File:Pegasus Mail screenshot.png
Pegasus Mail 4.41 under Windows XP
Developer(s) David Harris
Initial release Pegasus Mail for Novell NetWare (December 27, 1989; 32 year(s) ago)
Stable release 4.52  (January 22, 2010; Template:Error) [+/−]
Written in C++/C
Operating system Win32; previously also for: Novell NetWare, DOS, Win16, MacOS
Platform Microsoft Windows
Size ~ 14MiB (English v4.52)
Available in English, French, German, Italian
Development status Active
Type E-mail client
License Donationware

Pegasus Mail is a donationware (previously freeware), proprietary, electronic mail client that was developed and maintained by David Harris and his team. It was originally released in 1990 for internal and external mail on Netware networks with MS-DOS clients, and was subsequently ported to Microsoft Windows. A version for Apple Macintosh also used to be available.



Pegasus Mail (PMail) is suitable for single or multiple users on stand-alone computers and for internal and Internet mail on local area networks. Pegasus Mail has minimal system requirements compared with competing products, for instance the installed program (excluding mailboxes) for version 4.52 requires only around 13.5 MB of hard drive space. Since Pegasus Mail does not make changes to the Windows registry or the system directory, it is suitable as a portable application for USB drives. Language packs are available for languages other than English.

Some commentators have described Pegasus Mail as convoluted and cumbersome to configure, whereas others value Pegasus Mail for the features it offers. A key feature of Pegasus Mail is that it does not use the HTML layout engine that is installed with every Microsoft operating system since 1997: The ubiquity of the Microsoft engine, which is used not only by all Microsoft products but by numerous 3rd party products as well, makes it a frequent target of malware such as Melissa and ILOVEYOU. Mail clients such as Pegasus Mail that have their own HTML rendering engine are inherently immune to these security exploits. Pegasus Mail will also not execute automation commands (for example ActiveX or JavaScript) embedded in an e-mail, further reducing the chances of a security breach.

Supported protocols

The original version worked with Novell NetWare networks and their Message Handling System (MHS) mail system; a cut-down MHS-only version called FirstMail was bundled with NetWare. Early versions used only a non-standard format for mail folders; later versions offer the standard Unix mailbox format as an alternative to the Pegasus Mail format. Although no longer developed or supported, older versions for MS-DOS and Apple Macintosh are still available.

A problem with early versions is that mail was stored on the Netware System volume. This was not a problem when messages were brief text files. Later it was possible, although rather complicated, to store received mail on another volume, but new mail had to remain on System. This caused problems with Netware servers with a small System volume and larger ones for data storage, as users often kept many large messages in their new mail folders.

Pegasus Mail supports the POP3, IMAP, and SMTP protocols as well as Novell's MHS. Release 4.41 added support for filtering of spam with header and body checking for key phrases (already before download). Release 4.41 also offers an improved HTML rendering engine, better support for special character encoding (especially with UTF-8), phishing protection, a full-fledged Bayesian spam filter, and much more.

Pegasus Mail for Windows can be used as a standalone mail client using POP3 or IMAP for incoming mail and SMTP for outgoing, or on a Netware or Windows network in conjunction with the Mercury Mail Transport System for Windows or Netware, also by David Harris, running on a network server to receive mail and distribute it to users. While Pegasus Mail and Mercury handle email only, the function of Pegasus Mail is comparable to Microsoft Outlook's mail handling, and Mercury to Microsoft Exchange Server.

Criticism of features

Pegasus Mail pioneered many features now taken for granted with other email clients, such as filtering and simultaneous access to multiple POP3 and IMAP accounts, and continues to out-perform many other email clients. However, the free distribution of Microsoft Outlook Express as a standard part of Microsoft Windows since Windows 98, and, the free distribution of Microsoft Outlook with PC magazines and then as an integral part of Microsoft Office from 1997 onwards dealt a significant blow to the market share of Pegasus Mail and other email clients, from which many never fully recovered.

Also, with the widespread distribution of Microsoft Outlook, user expectations of the range of features an email client should offer (Outlook's email, newsgroups, calendar, etc., eventually as part of an integrated suite) created a negative first impression for many coming to an e-mail only program, no matter how good the email-only program was. Trends in interface design have also changed throughout the years, and Pegasus Mail has not followed those changes, still having essentially the same user interface it had in its first Windows version, with very few later additions (such as the "preview window" mode).

Pegasus Mail was initially developed at a time when the typical email user had to be somewhat more knowledgeable of the way computers, the Internet and particularly email operate than most of today's users have to be, as PCs and the Internet have become more widespread, reached a broader audience and adapted themselves to those new users' needs. At the time Pegasus Mail was first conceived, its extensive array of features coupled with a simple user interface provided an ideal mix for most users' needs. As years went by, its concept became somewhat dissociated from the expectations of the average user.

Advanced features

In spite of all criticism, Pegasus Mail's "old-fashioned" approach can be a blessing for advanced, "power" users with complex email usage patterns and/or who need special features. For those niche users, Pegasus Mail remains a top choice, with many powerful features rarely present in other email clients. Some examples include:

  • support to three encoding standards (MIME, UUencoding and BinHex);
  • an extremely powerful filtering system, so much that it is possible to run a fully automated client-based electronic mailing list (including processing subscriptions, unsubscriptions and forwards to moderation) using solely Pegasus Mail for that;
  • the ability to automatically select which email address to send a reply from, based on the mail folder containing the original received message;
  • the ability to include custom e-mail header lines (useful for tracking emails, for example);
  • the ability to delete attachments without deleting the message's text body, or to delete the HTML version of a message while keeping the plain-text version (or vice versa), allowing the user to save disk space;
  • easy access to the raw content of a message through the "Raw view" tab, something which is difficult or impossible in some other clients;
  • a "tree view" of the structure of a multipart message with all its sections and attachments, giving access to view or save any of the parts separately.

The drop in usage and funding slowed development and features that were initially to be included in version 4 were not implemented. Some of these features are scheduled for inclusion in version 5.

Development status of Pegasus Mail

Until 2006 all versions of Pegasus Mail were supplied free of charge, and printed user manuals were available for purchase. In January 2007 it was announced that distribution and development of Pegasus Mail had ceased due to inadequate financial support from the sale of the manuals. Later in the month, due to an avalanche of support from the user community, it was announced that development will resume. However, Pegasus Mail will change from freeware to donationware and Mercury will change to a licence for fee for configurations with more than a certain number of email boxes. A donation button was added to the website on 1 March 2007.

A public beta test version of version 4.5[1] was announced on 3 October 2008 which is stated to be "very complete and stable, but is provided without formal technical support - you should almost certainly apply due diligence testing to it before using it in a production environment".[2] The new version has not only been developed further beyond earlier versions, but has been ported from now obsolete v5.02 of Borland C++ to Microsoft Visual Studio 2008, a major undertaking in itself. A list of changes and other information is linked from here.[1]

On 2 February 2009 David Harris said that bug reports from version 4.51 beta were being reviewed with the intention of getting a formal release out in the next few weeks[3].

On 19 June 2009 David Harris announced on the Pegasus Mail site that all development of Pegasus Mail and the associated Mercury program could only continue if sufficient users would commit to donating US$50 annually; on 21 July 2009 he said that there had been a good start[1].

On 03 July 2009 Pegasus Mail 4.51 (final) and Mercury/32 v4.72 were released.

On 23 January 2010 Pegasus Mail 4.52 (final) was released (includes improvements for Windows 7).

Community Support Site

An official community Support site for Pegasus Mail was opened in May 2007 at The site offers monitored forums for shared technical support and blogs from the developers.

Pegasus Mail Wiki

Starting February 2009, Pegasus Mail has its own WIKI, used as an on-line knowledge resource, located at

Pegasus Mail blocked by Norton AntiVirus

On May 17, 2007, an update to Norton AntiVirus caused that program to automatically delete the executable file for Pegasus Mail for Windows, claiming that it was a virus "Trjan.Dropper". This erroneous identification was soon corrected in a subsequent virus definition update, but for about a day NAV users had difficulty installing or using Pegasus Mail.[4]

See also

Further reading

Notes and references

External links

de:Pegasus Mail

fr:Pegasus Mail it:Pegasus Mail nl:Pegasus Mail pl:Pegasus Mail

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