A little more moaning about email

by Giles Turnbull

I'm sorry to keep banging on about this, but it really makes me mad that handling an IMAP email account should be such hard work.

Last night, Mail was misbehaving again. I was searching for a particular message I knew was there, using a keyword I knew was present in the message, but Mail stubbornly refused to find anything. After finding the message I wanted manually, by opening my storage mailbox and scrolling through it, I angrily decided to look elsewhere. Again.

My friend Dave said he'd ditched Mail in recent weeks, to move to Thunderbird. "It's so much faster than Mail," he said. "And you can do almost everything with the keyboard."

So I fired up Thunderbird again and re-taught my fingers to hit different keys to the ones they are used to, and forced myself to put up with the fact that Thunderbird always brings the browser to the front when you click a link (Mail is able to keep the browser in the background when you Command-click). I stuck with it almost half a day, and was just starting to feel comfortable when I found myself needing to search again - and guess what?

Thunderbird pulled the same trick. It wouldn't find a message I knew to exist.

By now I was ready to pull my hair out at its roots, but I stayed calm, quit Thunderbird, and tried faithful old Eudora again. Nothing does searches like Eudora, I reminded myself. But Eudora looks awful, it won't put outgoing messages anywhere other than its own Out folder, and has the same URL-clicking trouble (although see Krioni's comment on my last email moan for a possible solution for this). It lasted about 10 minutes.

Powermail, which I tried in earnest just a few weeks ago, had some kind of hissyfit and crashed to a halt every time I tried to connect to the mail server. Oh well.

I was on the verge of downloading Mailsmith to give it a go when I remembered that it doesn't do IMAP at all. I spent two minutes thinking of more options - GyazMail, Mulberry, even Entourage - and realised that at this rate, I might spend an entire working day just messing about trying to find The Perfect Email Program, which we all know is just a myth.

So I said aloud: "I cannot be bothered," and went back to Mail once again.

I know it will drive me mad again sooner or later (probably sooner), but I think today's messing about has taught me this: it's quicker and less hassle to cope with Mail's occasional mood swings than it is to spend hours and hours trying to find something that doesn't have slightly different, but equally infuriating, mood swings of its own.

Let's hope the rise of AI doesn't bring about software with *real* mood swings...


2005-10-24 08:02:42
IMAP server?

Do realize it could be your IMAP server instead. IMAP has often been poorly-implemented on both sides of the equation, and if you can't get one of several different clients to work, that may be a warning sign your server has issues.

I've used Thunderbird for years, Outlook/Outlook Express before that, and even Netscape Messenger before that. I just switched to Apple Mail, and have managed to find email I had trouble finding before, thanks to Spotlight. But then, I run my own mail server and have tweaked the configuration until IMAP runs stably.


2005-10-24 08:05:29
IMAP server?
Okay, so I just reread your rant and notice that you did ultimately find the email. Still, I wonder if somehow the way the mail is being pulled from the server is causing problems.

Best of luck in suffering with IMAP. We've all had our issues from time to time.


2005-10-24 10:26:41
GUI Mutt
The perfect mail client would be a Cocoa version of Mutt. I used to use Mutt and had it configured perfectly. It would do all the things that I wanted. But when I switched to the Mac, I wanted something that was graphical. So I'm stuck with Apple Mail. It almost works perfectly, except for a few small problems.

One day, I will create CocoaMutt... one day....

2005-10-24 10:30:50
Opera ?
Could the Opera mail client work for you ? I don't see it in the list of the applications you tried.
2005-10-24 11:05:46
Opera ?
Opera's email search is the best I've ever used. It's too bad that it isn't a better mail client contender..
2005-10-24 11:36:06
GUI Mutt
Ha, yes! I'm right now using both Mutt and Mail.app. Mutt's rules are far beyond what anything else offers.


2005-10-24 15:05:56
Opera ?
I'd be more tempted to try Opera Mail if it had a standalone package instead of only being bundled with the browser.
2005-10-24 16:30:09
in search of ...
Mail clients. That can become an ongoing search for unfulfilled satisfaction.

I've been using Mulberry for several years (first on Solaris, now on OS X). Ugly, obscurely powerful, and un-Mac-like, yet it's remained the most feature-complete, scalable, stable, and reliably predictable IMAP client for OS X. Its offensive GUI and steep learning curve have alienated many users, but those who've stuck with it long enough to understand and take advantage of its unique features often find the alternatives crippled in comparison. The compromises I've accepted with Mulberry are much less significant than those I'd have made using other clients. And I've never encountered a single Mulberry horror story that's as ugly as those I continue hearing about with other clients.

Sadly, Mulberry's developer (Cyrusoft/ISAMET) recently filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, as some of you may have heard. While I'm in no rush to migrate to another mail client I've already started looking at the alternatives in preparation for the inevitable switch. Mulberry does hold my mailboxes hostage to some proprietary format so transitioning data will be trivial.

I'd be satisfied with a mail client that's something like a combination of:

• Mulberry (for reliability, IMAP support, identities, cabinets)
• Mutt and Emacs-based clients (for configurability/ extensibility)
• Apple Mail (for a well-integrated Cocoa GUI and AppleScript support)

I'm pondering taking a different approach to mail management in the future, e.g. using a virtual folder implementation like Opera Mail. And Eudora, which I've never been fond of, may be on the radar after its Cocoa version is released. Thunderbird, well... among other things, it's a relatively fast moving target with the potential side effect of being "high maintenance". I'd rather not be fussing with dozens of extensions attempting to make it behave as I like, making sure they'll properly interoperate and survive updates. And webmail clients are just too lacking for serious consideration. Gmail, for instance, has some cool concepts but the implementation is overly simplistic.

Anyhoo, that's a summary of my mail client dilemma.