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AOL Previews Latest E-Mail Client

America Online has released a preview of AOL Communicator, the ISP's latest e-mail client with new features designed to appeal to "power" users, or the more advanced users of the service.

The preview version is available for download only to AOL subscribers. New features include an advanced instant messaging client with special symbols that let users know when they have new e-mail, integrated views of multiple accounts and different e-mail screen names, and even more aggressive anti-spam filters.

"It lets you check e-mail from IM, and is designed for people who are using e-mail who may not have their (e-mail window) open," said Catherine Corre, spokesperson for AOL. Symbols in the IM buddy lists let the users know they have e-mail, for example.

The unit of AOL Time Warner is also affiliated with Netscape, the company's browser division which first unveiled integrated e-mail features with its Netscape Communicator browser in the late 1990s.

Other new features include integrated address book and updates that add new names on the fly from incoming emails, advanced anti-spam options and e-mail foldering options that give users more flexibility with messages stored remotely on AOL's servers as well as messages they download locally.

The preview version of Communicator lets users manage e-mail from mailboxes other than AOL on IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) or with standard POP (post office protocol). IMAP's latest versions let users search e-mails on a mail server and choose which ones they want to download locally. The latest version of POP can be used with or without the simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP), which allows users to send e-mails between different e-mail servers.

"Storage of mail messages in folders under your POP & IMAP accounts can either be stored locally on your hard drive or remotely at your email provider's site," AOL said, depending on the user's configuration.

"It's targeting people who want more advanced features," said Corre.

AOL said the ability to migrate e-mail from Microsoft's Outlook or Outlook Express programs is not available in the preview but is planned for the final release of AOL Communicator.

The preview release is available to AOL members at no charge. The company is expected to release the final version sometime this year with AOL 9.0.