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Issue 3.3


KidzMail 1.5

Issue: 3.3 (January/February 2005)
Author: Scott Griebel
Article Description: No description available.
Article Length (in bytes): 4,718
Starting Page Number: 9
Article Number: 3304
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Full text of article...

KidzMail 1.5 by HaranBanjo is an email program for children designed with parental supervision in mind. It allows kids to create simple drawings and short text messages and send them to friends and family.

When starting the program the first time, the user (clearly meant to be a parent) sees a setup wizard used to get things going very quickly, though the same settings can be set up manually. The wizard is where we first realize that the program is not very polished. For example, the window for adding allowable email recipients has two columns which have headers of &0& and &1& -- not very intuitive. Also, when specifying an icon or image to accompany each member of the address book, only the top portion of the icon is shown.

The parental control feature of KidzMail is very nice. Guardians can specify addresses that the child can email. There is also an option to specify that email can only be accepted from these addresses. When children delete mail, it is moved to the trash folder, but remains there until the guardian removes it -- ensuring that emails can be screened for unwanted content. If these settings are protected with a password, children will be unable to add addresses or delete trash.

Children are presented with five folders on the left side of the window and three action buttons along the top The five folders are Received, Drafts, Filed, Sent, and Trashed, which all serve the expected purpose. The four actions include Trash (selected messages), Check (for new email), File (selected messages), and New (composes new messages).

When viewing messages, children can choose to Reply to, Forward, Print, or Speak its contents. The Speak feature is particularly handy for kids that cannot read well.

Because each address is tagged with a logo or name, this allows children that cannot read to select the desired recipients and multiple people can be specified by putting a checkbox next to multiple icons in the address list.

When composing messages, recipients are chosen from a list of names in the address book. A mail window is opened which contains two tabs: Draw and Write. The Draw tab has a canvas where color drawings are created. The Write tab has a box where text is entered. Messages can be saved in the Drafts folder, printed, or read aloud before sending them. The recipient will see both the drawn image and typed text, assuming both exist. Another feature children might enjoy is the ability to encode messages so they are only readable by other KidzMail users.

Unfortunately, KidzMail cannot send or receive attachments other than KidzMail graphics. While this could be a security feature, you can imagine a child receiving photos from grandma and it would be nice if they could view them. Perhaps a window could pop up if there is an attachment asking for the parental password in order to open it. Also, if an incoming message has text but no drawing, the Write tab should be shown by default when viewing the contents, but instead the Draw tab is initially shown, contrary to the documentation.

When accessing the Help contents from the menu, the user is taken to a nonexistent webpage rather than the new HaranBanjo webpage or to the offline documentation that resides in the same folder as the application.

In summary, KidzMail is a great idea, but is poorly executed. It has brilliant features like the ability to speak messages and the use of icons or photos for each address book entry, but has a very unpolished feel to it, such as unattractive icons, a non-working Help system, and some bugs with the setup wizard.

With the unregistered KidzMail, you can receive an unlimited number of messages, but you can only send ten.

End of article.