Why Hasn’t E-Mail Been Covered Yet?

I have had a couple of mails recently asking me what I use for an e-mail client and if I like Mail.app and I guess up until yesterday the answer was that I didn’t know! I hadn’t loaded any e-mail client (apart from when I accidentally clicked a mailto: link and Mail launched :).

On Windows, I used GMail web-mail (and GMail tray notifier) for all of my home mail and Outlook 2003 (and Exchange 2003) at work. Previously, I have used Outlook Express, Eudora for Windows (a LONG time ago) and pretty much all versions of Outlook.

I have been thinking recently that it would be nice to have a desktop based mail application for reading my mail (GMail can supply your mail via POP3) so that for example, I can just click those mailto: links :) and these last couple of e-mail’s convinced me I should try it, so I set up Mail.app and let it download my full GMail archive via POP3 (~20,000 messages, yes it took a long time).

So, the short version of the story?

  • Q: Am I now using Mail.app to read my mail?
  • A: No.

Why?

Lack of decent conversation support! This is where GMail has really spoiled me, looking at a conversation in the default view in Mail.app the entire message list view could be filled entirely with the same thread. I found this so unusable after the beautiful conversation model of GMail. It seems like messages from the selected conversation are also highlighted in blue but I actually found this very distracting and it is quite innacurate, often linking things from the same person but with completely different subject lines or missing out half a conversation.

There is a very promising option on the View menu, “Organise by Thread”. This gets close to what is needed in that it collapses each conversation thread to one row in the message panel but then misses by using a tree view style approach that requires me to still look at every message separately.

Of course it wasn’t all bad, I really liked the implementation of smart folders which to me looks like Outlook 2003 search folders (I don’t know who got there first with this feature) but the execution of it in Mail.app is more usable than in Outlook and I managed to set up all of my mailing lists very easily. This feature is more functional than any similar feature I have seen before with the ability to run AppleScript etc on being triggered.

So I am back to GMail for now, I guess the fact that I would still prefer a web mail client over anything available on Windows or Mac shows just how much Google changed e-mail back on April fools day 2004.

Note: I am not 100% pure web-mail, I do use the GPeek widget to let me know when I have new mail. I tried a few widget’s and menu bar thingys for checking GMail and I found GPeek to be the most useful.

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14 responses to “Why Hasn’t E-Mail Been Covered Yet?

  1. The GMail from Google notifier allows you to redirect mailto: links and any other mail query by acting as the default email application. This makes the integration of GMail into your desktop perfect.

  2. Does the Mac version do that too? I know the Windows version does.

    I can’t remember if I tried that one or not or only tried widget ones. I will try it tonight.

  3. (I’ve changed my nickname to Paul C from pcolnaghi)

    So does anyone have any reccommendations for an e-mail client, or are we all using web-mail?

    In the spirit of “switching” (yes I’m one too) I’ve started using Mail.app, but it just doesn’t feel right at the moment. I’m willing to accept that it might be more to do with me than the app, but in contrast to other Apple apps I’m now using it seems a little clunky.

    There doesn’t seem to be enough feedback (when sending and downloading mail), I struggled a little setting up folders (and still haven’t got the hang of Smart Mailboxes) and rules compare with Outlook. Am I missing something? Are there any plugins, etc that might make the expereince more enjoyable? Or should I use something else altogether?

  4. pcolnaghi

    If you want to see feedback for mail when sending and reciveing hit cmd 0 that will bring up the acticity monitor and you can see it from there.

    Smart mailboxes work just like smart playlists in iTunes.

    Other than that I don’t know of really any plugins for mail but it is my email app of choice (although I automatically send everything to mygmail account just as a backup)

  5. Anyone tried Thunderbird?

  6. I’ve never much liked GMail, and used a Squirrelmail webmail until I switched to Mac. I’ve been in love with Mail(.app) ever since.

    Its threaded support works great for me, keyboard navigation through the threads is wonderful, and I wouldn’t really like all messages to be displayed at once — always confused me, really.

    However, what I love most about Mail, more so than the Smart folders or various other little niceties, is this: when replying to any message, just select the parts (ie. with your mouse) of the body that you want to include in your reply, and hit the Reply button. It’s so incredibly nice when doing a lot of e-mailing back and forth, that any alternative that doesn’t offer this simply won’t stand a chance with me. Select-and-reply is the best innovation in e-mail since there has been e-mail, to me.

  7. This is exactly the same problem that I encountered. I find that Mail.app’s support for my groups or conversations within Gmail, was just non existant. So now I use a combination of Gmail Notifier and Growl to alert me of any new messages.

    I recommend you check them out!

  8. Ollie, that reminds me – I must blog about Growl…

    I think I prefer my mail notificiations on the dashboard screen (stops me being disatracted by constant e-mail :)

  9. Entourage as part of Office 2004 Mac is not a bad solution. It’s very good at handling conversations. Thunderbird is decent as well, but overall there’s no easy recommendation here. I’m hoping something good will come from a mail app that’s under development now called Kiwi… http://www.theronge.com/category/kiwi/

  10. I use thunderbird works great lasts long time

  11. If lack of conversation support is you main issues, you may want to check out my MailTags plugin in. In addition to all its metadata tagging features (projects, keywords, due dates), it provides basic conversation support via the search field. I have plans to add some more conversation support in future versions. http://www.indev.ca/MailTags.html

    In general, if you want to keep up to date on plugins and things happening with Mail and email clients on the Mac, read Tim Gaden’s Hawkwings blog. http://www.hawkwings.net.

  12. FWIW, here’s a Mail plug-in for previewing messages:

    http://www.bronsonbeta.com/mailappetizer/

  13. Julian Rodriguez

    You may like Thunderbird’s conversation handling, it changes your conversation emails to a tree view just like windows explorer (or put another example here)…

  14. As Bishop said, I am actively working on a new Cocoa based e-mail client named Kiwi. It’s going to be only IMAP, SMTP, and it’s being designed to be lightweight, flexible/customizable and very fast. Work has slowed down lately because of other commitments, but I have nearly finished a framework known as MailCore that will be the core of Kiwi. Please let me know of any specific features you would like to see in an e-mail client, maybe I can implement it in Kiwi? Also, Kiwi is going to be released as free software under the BSD license.