Friday, 4 December 2009

Useful Mail Add-Ins and a Small Surprise

I promised to take a closer look at some of the add-ins that make Apple Mail my mail client of choice. But before I do that I wanted to share something I discovered this morning by chance.

Mail Recovery with Time Machine

Like many people who were early adopters of Snow Leopard I had a few teething troubles in the first few weeks with my existing Mail accounts. I've made reference to this in previous posts so won't dwell on it here other than to say that the problem no longer appears to exist. However, there does appear to have been some debris left over from this episode, and I found that I had multiple references to the same account stored in various locations. In an attempt to clear up the unwanted references I had an accident with some of my sent messages (I'm a hoarder and keep copies of everything for years). The message header details appeared in the Sent mailbox but the messages themselves were missing.

By chance I happened to start up Time Machine whilst still in Mail, and discovered that in this instance Time Machine will focus all its attention on your mailboxes. A few clicks later and all my sent mail was restored to its expected state but in a safe mailbox called "Time Machine/Recovered". I referred back to David Pogue's excellent "Mac OS X The Missing Manual (Leopard Edition)" and indeed this feature was available in Leopard and works in a similar way with iPhoto and Address Book.

This is a great feature for recovering from minor glitches with mail without having to resort to a full mail system restore. I wish I'd known about it before!

Letterbox Add-In

Letterbox is one of those "oh-so-simple" things that it really begs the question as to why it wasn't part of the original requirements in the Mail programme. Aaron Harnly's add-in allows a three column view within the main Mail window with the message content in the third column. The current 0.24b5 beta release works with Snow Leopard 10.6.2 and allows a few other goodies like changing alternate line colours in the mail header list, and allowing a two line view also in that window. Letterbox is free, and new updates to support Apple updates are usually very quick off the board.


DockStar from ecamm network ($15.00) provides you with a configuration utility for the Mail icon in the dock, allowing the mail count of up to five mailboxes to be displayed on the icon. It does this by adding 'badges' to the icon. Each badge allows different options to be selected, e.g. which mailbox, style and colour of display, and type of count (unread, total, etc.). Badges can also be displayed in the menu bar. Again, a very simple concept but really useful for monitoring incoming mail without constantly having to check the Mail application itself.


I've not been using MailTags from indev software ($29.95) for very long so I'm probably not doing justice to its full feature set, but nonetheless I do find it useful. In its simplest form MailTags allows you to tag individual mail messages using categories of your own choice, and to filter messages using those tags. It also allows you to add other metadata to a message such a priority, project, colour, and notes. It also allows you to use your notes to change the visible title of the mail. MailTags are integrated into rules giving you further abilities, and tags are supported by other applications such as Mail Steward, giving you the same filtering abilities in these apps. I find it really useful for marking messages containing invoices and license information using a specific format which allows me much quicker access to the info when I need it, without having to wade through message bodies. Some discipline is required to make full use of such a facility, but it's well worth the effort, especially when it's time to start annual accounts...

I'll cover some of the other add-ins I find useful in a future post, but hopefully there's plenty here to get you salivating. And none of these will make your tongue taste nasty!

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