A better way to get a read receipt?
|Price||$free, $19.95, $59.95|
|We like||Easy to use, works well|
|We don't like||Top end version overpriced for home users|
MSGTAG has a simple function. It allows you to find out if and when someone has read an email you have sent them. Most email packages let you request a read-receipt but unless the recipients mail program or server supports this function, you'll never know if it has worked or not. MSGTAG uses a simple method to increase your chances of getting a reliable result.
How it Works
Once installed and configured, the actual operation is both invisible and seamless - the sender has to take no further action. MSGTAG intercepts your emails as they are sent to your ISPs mail server and adds a tiny embedded and unique tag to your email. When the recipient opens it, the tag is activated and MSGTAG's server detects the unique code it contains and is thus able to identify which email it is. This information is in turn relayed back to your PC.
MSGTAG comes in three versions. The most basic one is free. This notifies you of any email being read by sending you an email to advise of the event. As it intercepts the email as it is being sent to the server, it works with almost all email programs as long as they are SMTP based. A taskbar applet lets you switch on or off read-receipts as and when required. Needless to say, being free there is no support if you have any problems. That said, the web site is excellent and has a good FAQ section as well as detailed set up and configuration information all in clear easy to handle steps.
The second version (MSGTAG Plus) costs $19.95 and lets you customise the tag at the bottom of your outgoing emails. This allows you to add any message you want, perhaps to advise the recipient of the fact you know they have now read it. You can even make the whole tag invisible if required. You also get unlimited support in the unlikely event you have any problems.
The final version costs $59.95. This version (MSGTAG Status) adds a dashboard to your taskbar which lists all your sent emails and their current read status. As the other versions rely on you matching up your original emails with their emailed read-receipt this is a big improvement in usability. The dashboard shows all your email messages, when they were sent, when they were read and how much time elapsed between the two events. Additional features include the ability to manage your contacts and control which ones have read-receipts enabled. You can also group them together for global control over your settings. We did feel that good as this version is, $40 is quite a jump in price though given that the basic functionality can be had for free.
How well does it work?
In the main, MSGTAG works very well. We tried using it within various email clients and it all seemed to work very smoothly. The dashboard option made life much easier with its at a glance list of where things stood.
On the downside, many newer email packages are specifically blocking images embedded in emails in an attempt to control junk mail and offensive graphics. This could be a problem. However, the developers of MSGTAG report that despite the increasing use of one such email program, Outlook 2003, there has been no drop off in their successful hit rates. However, they are aware that this could be an issue in the future and are developing new techniques to ensure their hit rates continue to be as good as they are. Currently the MSGTAG servers successfully detect over 70% of emails being read with this figure currently rising. If you think 70% isn't so impressive try requesting a read-receipt using your usual email program and see what happens!
MSGTAG Status can be used to mark email addresses of people who you know don't work with MSGTAG so you can disable them in those cases to cut down on the build up of untriggered tags.
One thing to note is that due to the reliance on SMTP, MSGTAG doesn't work with Hotmail, Yahoo!, AOL and other non SMTP based email systems. You can use it to send to people using those systems though.
MSGTAG provides a surprisingly reliable indication of your email's read status. For people in business or users of Ebay, the ability to know if someone has read your email or not is extremely useful. If MSGTAG says an email has been read, you can be 100% sure it has been and if the recipient claims otherwise you'll know they are trying it on. It is also a boon when trying to arrange meetings or any other events where you need to be sure the recipient has indeed seen the email. All in all a very useful addition to any email package.