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Archive: 12 June 2006

Mail Mishandling

As much as I detest IMAP, I have to admit that it makes testing new mail clients a heck of a lot simpler.  So after an extended period of using Thunderbird, I decided to try out Mail 2.  I quickly found myself in a familiar place:  wishing I could combine the best features of two programs.

There are things about Mail that I completely love, such as its smart folders.  Thunderbird’s “saved searches” never really seemed to work right; when I set up an “all unread in the Inbox” folder, the count jumped around more randomly than an Amazon sales ranking, and didn’t keep up with changes in the actual unread count in the Inbox.  I’ve also been completely underwhelmed by Thunderbird’s offline archiving.  It’s a major pain that any folder I want to have archived offline I have to configure individually in Thunderbird via “Properties…” and that I have to tell the application I’m going offline before it bothers to archive anything locally.  Compare all that to just saying (as in Mail) that I want to keep “All messages and their attachments” and then having the program do just that as the mail comes in.  Yes!  That’s what I want.  Why doesn’t Thunderbird allow that?

On the flip side, it’s a lot easier in Thunderbird to do things like navigate mailboxes with the keyboard.  It lets me highlight an arbitrary number of messages, hit command-R, and thus open a reply to each one.  It has labels like “important”, which are useful for helping messages stand out in a large mailbox, and allows the labels to be set with unmodified keystrokes.  In order to even get close to that in Mail, I had to install Mail Act-On, which is way cool, but also fundamentally hampered by what Mail allows filters to do.  Compared to Thunderbird, that honestly isn’t much.

When I’m in Mail, I also miss little touches like alternate-row highlighting in mailbox views.  Maybe there’s a way to make that happen with a plugin or something, but I couldn’t find one.  And what I really miss is the ability to define per-account behaviors.  In Thunderbird, I can say that one account should have all its outgoing mail bcc:ed to a given address, while another should not.  In Mail, that’s a universal setting—the very thing I like about its archiving configuration, ironically, I dislike here.

Mail seems a lot snappier than Thunderbird, that’s for sure.  But it has enough limitations for someone like me that I don’t think I can stick with it.  I’m probably not part of its target audience.  My biggest clue of that was the fact that there’s no setting (I can find) to have the text insertion point placed below the quoted text when replying.

If a mail client is going to try to force me to top-quote, then that’s no client for me.

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