Data, contexts, and Leopard

by Giles Turnbull

The more I think about the new features announced for Mail 3.0, the less I like them.

I'm by no means alone in this. There are comments all over the place from people bemoaning the addition of stationery ("Too much bloat") and RSS ("We've already got RSS support in Safari!") - although I have to admit that I've not seen many people complaining about the notes feature. That seems to be pretty popular.

But perhaps there's signs of a new direction for Apple's software here. (This is nothing but speculation, but bear with me.)


2006-08-14 14:57:54
Isn't RSS already separated from Safari (it's held in Library/Syndication rather than Library/Safari/Syndication)? I'd imagine the push would be to get 3rd party RSS readers to also use core APIs.

(Of course, this draws more and more of a line between native and x-platform software too).

Erica Sadun
2006-08-14 15:12:47
I hate the fonts used in the Notes/Things-to-Do screen shots. What were they thinking? It looks kitschy.
Robert Hook
2006-08-14 16:07:27
If they are going down the route of social software services, you would expect to see signs of activity on dragging .Mac kicking and screaming into the 21st century, whereas in reality it seems to be increasingly sidelined. They have a platform on which to build some serious social services...but there are no indicications that they are going to do so.
Pat Allan
2006-08-14 16:29:45
I'm not sure if RSS is separate from Safari - but I do know Microsoft is making RSS a system-wide service in Vista, and I certainly wouldn't complain if Apple copies them with that.
2006-08-14 20:58:33
The Leopard WWDC preview contains an RSS/Atom Cocoa Framework already. But not as you describe.
2006-08-14 23:13:15
It seems Apple has introduced several system-wide data collections since 10.0. How about harmonizing these all into a common kind of ...hum... database which is accessed similarly for all types of data -- addresses, buddies, todos, RSS feed, bookmarks, etc.? I think it would be a clear advantage not to have a different API for each of them, augmented once more each time a new service is introduced. I'm no Mac deceloper, but I understand this is the current situation.

Btw, how does this relate to CoreData? Isn't this such a API/service?

2006-08-15 00:03:31
Apple should reinvent Apple Data Detectors and name that CoreDataDetectors. That would be much better than the ToDo implementation they have now.
2006-08-15 00:27:04
I think it is not a new direction when you look at all the other system wide things like the services menu, system wide spell-checking, the adressbook api , the co-operation between iapps I think it is already apples main distinguishing feature when compared to windows or linux.
2006-08-15 01:02:39
I like the new email stationaries (I have not tried them yet, obviously :-) since decades email is just plain text, but time moves on! Today email still looks like sitting in front of a UNIX-terminal with limited formatting features.

If you look at youngsters, they LIKE sending out greeting-cards etc from all various websites, with such stationaries you can do it by your own now!

And what is nicer than getting a nice email with iSight-pictures from your girlfriend, when you are at work or abroad?

2006-08-15 02:11:08
I'm not mad keen on Stationary myself but RSS seems to have a natural place in Mail, particularly if it is synced with Safari RSS. However, I am really excited by the Notes and ToDo functions and especially if the ToDo service is adopted by other OS X applications. While I can't see Microsoft adopting ToDo in the next version of Office:mac (not least because Entourage competes with Mail), the idea of being able to extract ToDo items from Word documents of meeting minutes as action items is very appealing.
Kevin Buterbaugh
2006-08-15 07:39:42
I use Apple's mail for my personal e-mail, but I use Thunderbird for my work e-mail and will continue to do so, even when Leopard comes out. Here's why (anybody at Apple listening???): spam filtering in Apple's mail stinks to the point that I question whether they can claim they even offer it. Every day I get at least one e-mail for a "hot stock." I dutifully try to "train" mail that it's junk by clicking on the "Junk" icon. The next day the same e-mail arrives in my inbox from a different bogus "From" address. Mail can't figure out that it's spam. Pitiful. While no spam filter is perfect, nor will one ever be perfect, Thunderbird's spam filtering is about a gazillion times better than Mail's...
Scott A
2006-08-15 08:09:26
Wasn't there also talk of a "Latent Semantic Mapping" Framework for dealing with spam? I mean, I haven't heard much talk about that AI framework so much as something like the system-wide to do list which might as well be compared to an overgrown statically declared linked list. I think adding something like this (the LSM Framework), at the system level is awesome. I'm getting my information from I'd love to see more AI based technologies become reliably usable in future OSes. Ideally, using that framework, it would be possible to train it to classify other things besides which messages are spam. Any AI or NLU folks care to speculate more throughly?
2006-08-15 08:45:38
For ToDos, (regardless of whether the underlying container is shareable among different apps in Leo), it'd be really nice if Apple would implement the "Assist" technology from the Newton to intelligently create ToDos (or better yet, Address Book cards) from the context of selected text.

If you've never used a Newton, imagine selecting the text of a signature in an email, clicking a button, and a new Address Book contact would pop-up putting all the pertinent info in the right fields. Or selecting a phrase from an email like "okay, see you at noon for lunch at Chipotle," clicking a button, and iCal pop up with an event populated with info, including the person who sent the email as an attendee.

This little bit of intelligence was a key part of what made the Newton so intuitive (that is, when it actually interpreted your handwriting correctly), but unfortunately has yet to make it to OS X. The method for entering ToDos in Leo, as it was presented, in Mail (or even system wide) is proficient but strikes me as more of a Google/AJAXian calendar event-add method as compared to the "it just works" method that Apple usually employs (or at least as it tried to do with the long dead Newton).

2006-08-16 00:45:25
Stationary sure does seem silly at first glance, but if you've ever done IT services work for a bunch of professors or professionals, or even just worked for an ad agency or a DTP house, sooner or later someone asks you for a web application that does mail merge with stationary that degrades to formatted ASCII. I've written this stupid app several times, it takes only a couple of hours to make pretty, and people are giddy when they see it.

I for one welcome the new 3.0, it's UI I'll never have to write again myself. Now cough up that spreadsheet, Apple, and the profs can fend for themselves when I've graduated.

2006-08-16 03:26:46
AFAIK, the RSS service offered in Tiger is already system wide and managed by the SyndicationAgent. The RSS are stored in a sqlite database in ~/Library/Syndication/Database3, accessed for example by the RSS visualizer. So I suppose (all speculation though) that the same system wide database will be used inside mail also.
2006-08-16 21:49:55
I'd love to have more interoperability between different feed reader apps although the logistics of sharing/syncing can get tricky ...

The RSS are stored in a sqlite database in ~/Library/Syndication/Database3, accessed for example by the RSS visualizer. So I suppose (all speculation though) that the same system wide database will be used inside mail also.

Some people (like me) might prefer having different feeds in Mail and Safari so sharing a single database wouldn't be ideal without some way to limit which feeds are active in each app. And, as Giles mentioned, there are also synchronization issues, e.g. if an article is marked read in Mail what happens to its state in Safari when both apps are running? I've never used the RSS visualizer; does it avoid sync issues by accessing the Syndication database read-only?

Wouldn't it make sense to have a vendor-neutral synching/sharing protocol for RSS/Atom news, sort of analogous to IMAP for mail?