Two approaches to Japanese e-mail

(1) E-mail utility program

By e-mail utility software we mean a program which can run side by side with a communication/e-mail program. Our design for this type of software is as follows: the software takes input from the system clipboard , finds out what has happened to the escape character, performs JIS-to-Shift-JIS conversion (including, if necessary, fixing JIS code corruption), and displays the text correctly. It also allows the user to create a new message to send or to edit the received message for the purpose of replying. It will then translate edited messages into 7-bit JIS text and puts it on the system clipboard to be pasted into the communication program.

To illustrate the typical use of such software, let's take the following example. Suppose a message written in Japanese has just arrived. Because of the escape problem the message is not readable in the communication software as seen below.

In this case one could highlight the corrupted portion of the message, copy it onto the clipboard, switch to the e-mail utility program, and have it translate and display the text correctly.

There are several advantages and one disadvantage to the e-mail utility software approach. One advantage is that it does not involve your host computer. It is strictly a microcomputer-level solution. You, therefore, need not bother your system administrator or computer center. The other advantage is that it works not only with e-mail but also with other forms of electronic communication such as news, WWW, gopher, etc. Also, since this software works in tandem with whatever communication/e-mail program the user uses, it is independent of the choice of connection methods (e.g. Ethernet, serial, SLIP/PPP). The disadvantage is that this setup requires switching between two programs and an extra step of translation.

(2) Japanese-capable POP client program

The e-mail utility software approach is adequate if the user reads and writes messages in Japanese only occasionally. For people who need to regularly exchange Japanese e-mail, we suggest using POP software. POP stands for the Post Office Protocol and simply put, it is a language spoken by POP software for delivering/retrieving e-mail. POP software provides a server/client system, meaning that one's host computer (which receives mail and stores it in one's account) runs POP server software and acts as the server, while one's microcomputer runs POP client software which talks to the server to make transactions with it. The following dialogue between the host computer and the microcomputer roughly depicts what kind of transactions are made between the two (not in these exact words, however).

If a Japanese-capable and corruption-tolerant POP client can be provided, the POP software approach will have the advantage of being able to provide a transparent and user-friendly interface. All that is necessary is one program. It will retrieve mail, let the user read it, compose replies or new messages, and send them out. There is no additional translation process required. This is possible because the POP software setup, in effect, brings all Japanese text processing to the microcomputer, freeing the users from possible (or actual) problems and limitations of their host computer. The POP software approach, however, requires POP server software be installed on the host computer, which would most likely involve a computer center. POP server software, however, is available on the Internet for free and does not require a great deal of time and effort to set up. It would also provide a nice user interface for people e-mailing in English.

The following is an example of a POP client program, Eudora-J for the Macintosh. It retrieves mail from the host computer and puts it into the "IN" box. The following screen shot shows the content of the IN box.

The last message on the list is in Japanese. To read it, simply double-click on that line and the message will be displayed in a separate window as follows: