Email client spleen venting

by Giles Turnbull

This week, I have been mostly getting annoyed by email software. There's a pattern to it. Mail does something annoying, like taking 20 seconds to delete a message, and in frustration I rush off and download some other client, install it, set it up, try it out, and soon discover it does something else equally, if not more annoying.

Things that annoy me about Mail:

  • It takes forever to do stuff

  • Some stuff it can't do at all, like subscribe to folders on my IMAP server

  • The activity window: it hogs huge screen space; it doesn't always show what's actually going on

  • Phantom messages that just disappear

  • Search suckage (so, searching "Entire contents" does not include the "From" header, I have to search them both separately. Not really "entire contents" is it?)

(That said, Mail integrates well with everything else in OS X; and Mail Act-On is the most useful plugin for anything in the whole world ever.)

Things that annoy me about Eudora:

  • The. Toolbar. Must. Die.

  • Anything configurable with x-eudora-settings is, by definition, overcomplicated

  • It insists on using its own Out folder instead of the Sent messages folder I want it to use on the IMAP server

  • No manner of clicking on links makes them open in the background. Eudora just can't stop itself from bringing the browser to the front

  • Lack of keyboard shortcuts; moving a message from the inbox to one folder on my IMAP server requires too many clicks

(That said, Eudora is faster than anything else around, and the searching is second to none.)

Things that annoy me about Thunderbird:

  • Why do message windows have to display the next message when I've finished with the last one? When I've finished with a message, I just want the window to close

  • Can't get links to open in the background

  • Why does it have to be so fiddly to make everything happen in plain text? I know people who prefer plain text email are getting thin on the ground these days, but don't we at least deserve a simple "Send all mail as plain text" preference widget?

(That said, Thunderbird is faster and better behaved than Mail, and does pretty much everything I need. It's only niggly details that stop me from using it.)

What software has annoyed you today?


2005-09-21 16:40:42
and Entourage?
What annoys you about Entourage?

After months of flip-flopping, I have settled on using Entourage. The only things now missing are RSS and spotlight support.

2005-09-21 16:43:04
Thunderbird nit-pick
My biggest annoyance with Thunderbird.

WHY doesn't the delete key work? On any Mac with a full keyboard, there are two delete keys. The one below F13 and above the backslash is the "Backspace" key.

The one above the arrow keys and below the help key is the "Delete" key. This key does not work in Thunderbird for deleting messages from any folder. It works fine in edit mode when you're typing a message, but it doesn't delete messages.



2005-09-21 16:44:23
and Entourage?
It reminds me too much of Outlook. It's a whole other contact and calendar management system that doesn't integrate with Address Book or iCal.

I tried it for a while, but it just didn't work for me and I went back to Mail for work and Thunderbird for personal mail.


2005-09-21 16:51:17
This is why I'm still using GNUS (inside GNU Emacs) for reading mail and news. Check it out!
2005-09-21 16:52:23
Mail IS slow
Especially when used as an IMAP client. This is true for all of the email clients I've tried - IMAP just makes them slow.

But Mail does have it's infuriating slownesses that I just can't explain. Go to an IMAP folder, click on the first new message there, and it sits and spins the happy beach ball at you for 30 seconds. After that all the messages load quickly.

Then there are the random times that Mail just stops communicating with my IMAP server. Clicking on "Go Online" or changing the folder usually makes this go away, but there is never any reason for this behavior that I can find. My IMAP server never shows any errors.


2005-09-21 16:52:45
Thunderbird nit-pick
I forgot to mention this one, but it's another thing that had been driving me nuts. Well said, Roger.
2005-09-21 17:25:04
Mac email suckage
Seriously, is it too much to ask for ONE solid email client on the Mac? Giles has identified much of the suckage -- though I would add that its problems with IMAP support go far beyond not allowing you to subscribe to certain filders, and also point out that you can do far less customizing of your composing and replying preferences than you can with, say, Entourage. But Entourage is a no-go for me because (a) it puts all my information in a single enormous database file that is highly prone to corruption, (b) it's a Microsoft product, and (c) it doesn't integrate with anything else: since it contains its own calendar, contact information, and spelling dictionary, I can't use iCal or Address Book without worrying about syncing them with Entourage. (It also can't connect to my LDAP server at work, which does flawlessly.) The integration issue is also big with Thunderbird and Eudora. I love the way iCal, Address Book, .Mac, and work together, and I don't like giving up that integration, but is definitely the weak link right now. Though it's greatly improved in many respects in Tiger (love the Smart Folders), it has problems that are just inexcusable in a major application that's been on the market for several years now.
2005-09-21 18:12:34
Don't forget mutt
I have been using mutt more and more these days. Great IMAP support and ability to use vim to compose mail.


2005-09-22 02:56:18
Might be worth having a look at PowerMail ( I haven't used version 5, but previous versions have always been insanely quick and rather good.
2005-09-22 08:40:35
Opera might be a good choice
I'm fairly new to email on the Mac, but I've used Opera for a long time on Windows.

It's built in to the web browser and has the best interface I've ever used for email. The only drawback being that MacOS X is app-centric so using the browser for email may not be the preffered method.

2005-09-22 10:36:35
Reply to list
Every modern e-mail client out there has a reply-to-list option, it seems, except for Mail. Most mailing lists shun reply-to munging these days, so reply-to-list is really important.
2005-09-22 11:00:54
Open URLs from Eudora "in background"
I cooked up a simple AppleScript applet to almost do this for me. It opens the URL, then brings Eudora back to front. It's pretty fast - not perfect, but close."
2005-09-22 11:08:27
Thanks for the tip, Ian. I shall give it a go.
2005-09-22 11:11:19
and Entourage?
I tried Entourage when Office:mac was first released and never could get along with it. I much prefer a smaller, simpler app that just does email, rather than a full-blown email/calendar/PIM. Plus, the stories I've heard about databases going pffft are enough to put me off.
2005-09-22 18:53:15
and Entourage?
I used Entourage for three years and recently switched to Mail. As well as the proprietary all-in-one database format scaring me (I *still* have 6 months of mail sitting in an Office 97 .pst folder that resists all attempts to be extracted), it started freezing for 45 seconds at a time for no reason (probably because my messages database was 2GB - but anyway, I need access to that material).

So many things about Mail are great - integration, standard data format, spotlight, etc. but the annoyances drive me nuts as well. Here's a couple more:

1) Even though email prefs are set to have messages in plain text, the composition window will have weird linespacing from time to time (esp. with pasted text) that makes it impossible to tell how many linebreaks are in the message. I have to copy the text into BBedit then copy it back. Stupid!

2) The need to place attachments within the body of the message somewhere always causes me grief. Especially if it's a big attachment then you move it, and everything grinds to a halt or quits. Why not just have an attachments window?

3) The addressing panes should be plain text, instead of always trying to morph into selectable name/address objects. Sometimes, for no reason, it will add commas or something to some text i've typed in there. Grr! Don't change my typing please!

4) Signatures - you have options to insert the signature above or below quoted text, but it should be overridden by inserting manually into a location. Sometimes, you're typing away in a message and insert signature, and it goes back up in the middle of a paragraph, and has to be moved manually to where you want it! (Also, if I select a signature, and then decide to change the account I send from, why not just accept that I did actually want that signature, rather than deleting it and forcing me to choose again?)

There are more annoying things but these are just making me irritated right now. Thanks for providing the impetus to get these off my chest.

2005-09-23 10:03:41
Oh, great.

Not long after first reading this blog, Mail 2 started having fits. I'm blaming you.

Besides a few random crashes, my favorite Mailism is this-

I have it configured to, when replying, included any selected text and otherwise include all.

It's started including the first few lines even when nothing is selected.

And it is driving me CRAZY.

// jay

2005-09-23 10:23:55
Oh, great.
Oh yeah, I meant to warn you about that. Sorry. *Invokes fix majicks*. There, should be all fixed now.
2005-09-23 20:50:32
Don't forget mutt
I second that. I could never understand Thunderbird's settings for plain text. Mail won't wrap lines at a fixed width. Plus for either of them, a different set of text editor keystrokes and too much mousing. There's Mailsmith, but that will suck me into the BBEdit world. Just give me vim, already... (or, in a pinch, emacs).

2005-10-01 15:27:43
Entourage & Mail
Thanks for this thread! I'm using both Mail and Entourage at once, because I haven't figured out how to get my calendar and contacts out of Entourage but the mail is so bad that I'm using Apple Mail to write email. Entourage is giving me the SBOD (spinnning beachball of death) about 30 out of every 90 seconds, which makes it really hard to write emails. I want to use Mail/iCal/Address Book but I am using an Exchange server and they don't sync well with Exchange. I still need to use both PC and Mac because Macs don't travel well (too heavy, too hot, not enough battery) and I use a tiny notebook (looking at the new EV-DO equipped Thinkpad). So how else could I maintain my PIM on both and sync with a remote server?
2006-03-14 08:53:30
I just switched to mac and this the missing delete key in thunderbird drove me batty, but i found the following on a conspiracy site:

FN+Backspace and that works as a traditional 'Delete' key

on my windoze keyboard, the Shift+Backspace becomes Delete for Thunderbird's purposes and deletes mail with 1-1/2 click (because so far apart)

Jost Heintzenberg
2006-03-23 00:43:43
since I exported addresses from eudora 6.2 to iCal, eudora annoys me more and more frequently by showing repeatedly the nonsense error message: address too long or other otherwise malformed...

2006-05-06 20:39:54
i doing a project and i neea more infomation than this