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Nel's (and others)
I signed on to AOL when doing an article for ONline on Internet services.
What I found most appealing was the Instant Messenger service which kept me
in close contact with family and friends on AOL. Since then, IM has become
available for those outside AOL and is no longer a strong sales point.
Years ago, AOL had growing forums for topic's I was interested. It also had
a very extensive library for shareware and freeware. These have not been
maintained and I find that the forums and other services of AOL are simply
too unprofessional for my needs.
The most important reason for switching away from AOL is E-mail. AOL does
not provide a way filter messages. This is  important for numerous reasons,
some of which are:
1. Delete junk mail
2. Move e-mail from clients into appropriate folders
3. Save and forward messages automatically to specific people or clients
where a paper trail is very important.
4. Create automated responses to certain people.
5. Exchange information from my contact lists and address books with other
software that I use. AOL, except as noted below, is proprietary and can not
easily be shared, exported or imported.

There is one authorized add-on to AOL which will handle a small portion of
this. The software is produced by BPS (type BPS as a keyword in AOL) which
will allow greater storage features and even will allow export and import of
contact data by conversion to a known database format. However, it will not
filter messages.

I've switched to Earth link because I can use my Microsoft Office products
including Outlook 2000. Of all of the software's I've used over the years,
Outlook remains the most useful to me and has great flexibility by being
able to synchronize with my other office products, networked computers and
even my PDA (palm-computer). It's not fool-proof, buy will, for the most
part, keep much better track of my life and messages.

A few momements to delete set up a filter to delete messages that I don't
want to read is very valuable to me.

One final reason - AOL reduced the available access number in my area from
two to one. I had a tremendous time logging on and staying connected. I
still have my AOL accounts, but now I access it through Earth link and have
reduced the monthly AOL fee to $9.95. Why? Earth link only allows one email
account for the $19.95 per month while AOL allows six. My granddaughter
still uses her AOL account and my wife has one (although she still refuses
to use a computer). The main reason is that AOL restricts the size of a file
sent from outside to an AOL user - I think to 2 megs. Some of my clients are
on AOL and this requires me to be on AOL if I need to submit work in file
sizes larger than 2 megs. The other reason is that AOL gives priority to
other AOL subscribers. There is no size limit to files sent between AOL
subscribers and the transfers are done immediately. However, transfers into
or out of AOL are routed differently and I have had the delay's take 24
hours to reach my Blueprinter who is ten miles away. AOL only guarantees
that a file from Outside AOL or sent from AOL  to an person on another ISP
will be done in under 48 hours.

For investors AOL is a great deal - especially after their recent
announcement of merger with Time Warner. For professionals, an Independent
ISP is a better arrangement until DSL or Cable service becomes available to
your area.

Regards,
Dennis S. Wish, PE
Structural Engineering Consultant
(208) 361-5447 E-Fax