Friday, 27 November 2009

A Word or Two about Apple Mail

It's strange to think, but when I started full time work after graduating back in 1984 we didn't have email. In fact my first encounter with email was when I opened a Compuserve account sometime in the late 1980s. It wasn't until the early nineties that I had access to email at work, again through a corporate Compuserve account, but with limited availability. Many of my colleagues had another two or three years to wait before the full roll-out of Novell's Groupwise across the company. By the time I joined a very large Global Outsourcing company in the late nineties, email was more prevalent, and Outlook had become the de facto standard for most businesses. It wasn't long before I was receiving several hundred email messages each day, and by the time I left that corporation I was regularly getting more than a thousand messages a week. I became something of an expert on Outlook simply to be able to manage incoming mail.

When I moved across to the Mac platform I duly purchased Office:Mac 2008 which had just hit the streets. I fully expected Entourage to look and work like Outlook. Boy was I mistaken ! Even getting Entourage to read Outlook data files was a major hassle, although I eventually managed to import my old Outlook messages using third party software. But there was enough of a likeness between the Microsoft's Mac and PC mail offerings to keep me hooked in preference to Mail. I particularly liked Entourage's integration of mail, to-do lists and calendar.

I prevailed with Entourage until earlier this year before deciding to try out Mail in earnest. The Entourage database had started a habit of corrupting itself, and of course Time Machine backups were incorporating the entire database every time it was updated. Archiving in Entourage also left me cursing its designers.

I now use Mail all the time and generally wonder why I ever bothered with Entourage. But it isn't Mail out of the box. I have a set of Add-Ins and tools which give the programme its genuine usefulness. These are Letterbox, DockStar, Growl Mail, Mail Tags and Mail Attachments Iconizer. I also have Mail Act-On installed but I'm still trying to get to grips with that. I use MailSteward for archiving, and this also allows me to get around the problems of incompatibility between the Leopard and Snow Leopard versions of Mail.

Luckily the volume of email that I currently have to deal with is greatly reduced from the madness of a few years ago. But even if it were too suddenly escalate, Apple Mail in the Apple Harvest environment would be more than capable of rising to the situation. It would be even better if:
  • Apple would provide a mechanism for properly integrating Mail and iCal without me having to use another third party application like DayLite

  • Apple engineers would stop messing about with Mail internals that then break the 3rd party add-ins until the poor developers have a chance to figure out what they've done and are able to catch up (which they generally do very quickly), and leaving the poor user with a broken environment in the meantime
Another time, we'll look at some of the Add-Ins in more detail. Happy emailing...

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