The problem with Mail

One of the great things about Mac OS X is that, out of the box, we have access to a rich set of applications that enable us to do a whole bunch of stuff without buying a third party application. There’s a terrific range, from the mundane tasks of keeping tracks of name and addresses (Address Book), to the vital (Safari) and those to help us keep in touch (iChat) and entertained (QuickTime, DVD Player and iTunes).

Among all these sits Mail, the standard Email application. For a ‘bundled’ application it’s pretty richly endowed. We have POP3, .Mac and IMAP support and it supports, and copes admirably with, multiple email accounts. It’s been my standard Mail application since I started using OS X in its pre-beta format. Unfortunately, it’s not without one or two annoying faults:

1) Mail supports multiple signatures, but for some weird reason, you can’t configure individual accounts to use individual signatures. Instead, there’s just one default signature active across all email accounts. This is a one of those odd omissions I haven’t been able to fathom. Since we’ve got the facility for multiple email accounts, and multiple signatures, and the ability to change signatures when composing a message. So why not mail-account specific default signatures?

2) Another odd account specific attribute is the frequency that Mail checks for new mail. We have one, blanket setting that affects all the email accounts. I’ve got accounts that I really don’t care about unless I specifically go looking for email, but Mail checks them just as frequently as the ones I am interested in whether I like it or not. Again, you might think I’m being petty, but the time it takes to check my email accounts could be halved if only I could tell Mail not to bother checking some of them as frequently as the others.

3) Leading on from the previous fault, one of the other problems with mail is that checking for new mail only looks in your main ‘Inbox’ for IMAP accounts. If, like me, you have server-side mail filing then very little email ever reaches your inbox, but plenty reaches the folders within the Inbox. Unlike Thunderbird (which I’ve talked about before), we do at least have the ability to ‘synchronize’ mailboxes with Mail to see unread counts for those folders, but this is a manual process. There’s no way of automatically getting Mail to do this. Like the signature problem, if the application has the ability to do what we want, it seems odd not to have that option available to us.

4) Sending mail can be a problem if, like me, you are occasionally on the road. Mail can handle multiple SMTP servers, but getting it to use the right one can be a problem, especially if you use different SMTP servers depending on your location. Worse, Mail has this annoying habit of continually reminding you that it had trouble sending the email each and every time it find s a potentially useful network connection. Those annoying ‘This email server didn’t work, do you want to try another one’ can be impossible to get rid of. There’s no way of saying, ‘look, queue it up until I tell you there’s a network connection you can use’. Instead you end up playing dialog box tag all afternoon. Even worse, if you send multiple messages you just multiply the problem.

Of course, these are just the annoyances I’ve noticed. There could be more – let us know if there’s some annoyance you have about Mail.

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