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Going full circle

October 18th, 2004 · No Comments · Mac

When I converted to OS X, I gave the Apple Mail client a go. Since there was no Outlook Express for OS X, the choices for free, decent email clients was limited. When I got my hands on Office X, I was happy to switch to Entourage. The four reasons at the time were:

  1. Limitations on Apple Mails full text search
  2. No way to filter out “web bugs” from email
  3. Apple Mail’s insistence on calling folders “mailboxes”
  4. Entourage has a better rule system for filtering, filing and dealing with incoming messages

I also just found Entourage, since it was based on Outlook Express, to be a bit smoother to use, but I’ll admit that may have more to do with familiarity than any excellence of design.

I’ve been pretty happy with Entourage until I made one significant change in how I deal with my email, and it’s related to my PDA.

My Sidekick is capable of fetching email from POP accounts, and initially, I did just that. The Sidekick would fetch from my primary account but leave the email on the server. When I got home, I’d open up Entourage, which would fetch and remove any email. The only time this was a problem is when I would forget to close Entourage, since it would hoover down email before the Sidekick could ever see it.

But soon I was realizing that over 75% of the email I get is junk, and that’s after using server-side filtering. A good portion of the crap I get is from email servers configured by idiots who are informing me about how they can’t accept a virus or worm from my address with complete disregard to the idea that viruses and worms forge the goddamn sending address. I know there are lowlifes who spam and make viruses and worms, but if you manage a damn mail server, you should at least be competent enough to configure your anti-virus agent and mail server not to spam-by-proxy.

In any case, since these emails don’t look like spam, they get delivered to my phone, which is an utter waste of bandwidth. It wasn’t hard for me to make some rules on Entourage to dump this junk, so I decided to have Entourage take responsibility for redirecting non-crap email to my PDA. This allowed me to make some pretty smart rules to insure that only email I care about would pop up on my PDA. But it meant I would have to leave Entourage open all the time.

No problem, right? In these heady times of OS X and long up-times, keeping an email client open 24/7 should be a yawn.

At first, this was the case. But about once a week, Entourage would display a dialog “Mail Error: action could not be completed.” with an OK button. The button would not respond to clicks. I would have to force quit Entourage. Entourage would not work again until I restarted the Mac.

This started happening more often. I rebuilt my mail database. I rebuilt my identity. I trashed my preferences.

But still, I could at most, get about 2 or 3 days before it would happen.

Then I read an article about Apple Mail’s improvements. About the high-tech spam filter. About plug-in support.

Good bye Entourage. Hello again, Apple Mail.

Apple Mail has much better text searching now, and with the addition of the JunkMatcher plug in to help the trainable spam filter, I am finding very little crap gets through. While the rule system is a little confusing, especially in regards to junk mail filtering, I got it working and I’m happy with it. I also like how image handling is done. With Entourage, you could turn off all images (which I do, to avoid web bugs) but there’s no easy way to turn it on for a single message. Apple Mail handles this sensibly, with a “load images” button.

And so far, Apple Mail can stay open without fail. That’s a big improvement right there. And there’s something to be said for getting off the Microsoft Upgrade Treadmill. At least I know future upgrades and improvements in Apple Mail will be part of the OS.

My one biggest beef with Apple Mail is that it doesn’t refresh views of folders until you click on them. That makes no sense to me. Here’s my email client, sitting around, idle, all day. An email comes in, gets filed into a folder and the count of unread messages for that folder goes up. But when I click on that folder, Apple Mail suddenly wakes up, like it’s a huge surprise that, and huff and puffs for several seconds while it updates the list of messages. There is no reason for this.

I also am still annoyed that Apple Mail calls folders “mailboxes” though. I don’t think I’ll ever understand that choice of terminology, especially when the damn icon is a picture of a folder. Oy.

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