Talking Mail.app: drunkenbatman
logo_drunkenbatmandrunkenbatman is “some guy with a website ” and uses a 667 MHz Powerbook nicknamed “hairdryer.”
HW: How long have you been using Mail.app? What other clients have you used (and why did you stop)?
db: I’ve never been able to use Mail.app full-time, or at least I’ve never been able to let myself use it full time. In terms of CLI clients, I’ve used Pine, Mutt, etc. On the Mac, I’ve played with everything but primarily used Emailer, Eudora, Entourage and Gyazmail. On Linux it’s primarily been KMail and Evolution, and on Windows it’s primarily been Outlook, Eudora and Batmail, although now I think it’s called The Bat.
HW: What plugins and extensions do you use to make your email experience better?
db: The only two I really cared about were an Applescript for using Growl and a GPG plugin, heavy on the GPG plugin back when I really tried to give it a go. Back when OS X was new, there wasn’t (and still aren’t) a lot of ways to work with GPG natively within most mail clients. While I didn’t use Mail.app myself necessarily, having that available to setup for other users was lovely.
HW: What’s your favourite thing about Mail.app?
db: Err… it’s free? That’s generally a plus. I guess it isn’t really free, but rather some fractional percentage of people’s $130 or the price of a new Mac, but from a psychological standpoint it might as well be.
HW: What’s your pet hate about Mail.app?
db: I’m going to assume pet hate means something I just get annoyed at versus something that’s just fundamentally wonky, like its IMAP support drunkenly feeling around the alley looking for an excuse to wee on itself. Two pet peeves coming to mind would be:
1. The inability to set the insert point after the quoted text by default, and quotation arrows. Not being able to set this as a preference is just plain inane. You have no idea how hard I am trying to restrain my language as I say this, nor the slew of adverbs I want to throw in front of “inane.”
2. After x years of email, I associated quoted text as having a ‘>’ before it, and quoted quoted text as having ‘>>’, etc. In Mail.app, I get these damn lines. I don’t necessarily have a problem with the lines, as I know lots of others like them — but just deciding lines are what I should be using is arrogant. It’s not a coding issue, 95% of that is all there in order for the lines themselves to be there — it’s just Apple deciding I should be viewing and composing with lines. Damnit, when I am typing a plain-text email I want to be able to see it’s plain-text.
I suppose the lack of a wide-screen version when all their damn monitors are widescreen would probably classify, too. It’s just basic pixel economics — screens aren’t growing down, they’re generally growing out. Throw in the OS X Dock.app at the bottom and it’s just exacerbated — there’s a reason why every other damn mail client is working this in as an option. Some of them have been ironed out throughout the versions (like not being able to delete an SMTP server via the GUI, which I will never, ever forget) but most haven’t.
HW: If you could tell the Apple Mail development team one thing, what would it be?
db: Probably that I get it’s not really their fault, and they’re probably doing the best they can with the resources and direction they’re given — and even then using “their” instead of “his/her” is bordering on generous. In general, my impression is Mail.app is lumped in with a group of other apps which a larger team is responsible for.
In some cases, that’s meant one guy is working on it in addition to other projects, or a group hopping from project to project is, or no one is. Even when someone is working on it, what they’re doing is primarily handed down from management and marketing rather than a group of guys who live and breathe the app. You can talk to developers, you can’t talk to management and there is no talking to marketing, they’ll have their spreadsheet already well laid out for trinkets to sprinkle into the next version that show off xyz without costing too much to impliment because it’s free — a borderline commodity if not a defacto one — and they’re really just doing throwing it in because they feel they have to.
Which is kind of the problem. Apple is shipping a very basic email client geared towards people who have never touched email in their life, but all the other clients suck, and no indie who is borderline sane will pour development time into a serious effort because Apple’s is free and they’ve been conditioned that there’s no guarantee they won’t make it suck less just enough to rub out everyone else. It’s worth noting that while I say they all suck in various ways, Entourage does suck the least and I used it until I couldn’t justify people getting email that weren’t supposed to be getting it and actually losing email I knew I had. In terms of features and capabilities it’s right up there (well, a threaded email engine might nice since it’s 2006 and all) but it’s database corruption issues means it just isn’t trustworthy.
And of course there you have a small group of guys working on an entire suite of applications for the Office suite, of which Entourage is one, and the development effort required so that database isn’t stumbling around the alley with Mail.app on OS X probably just isn’t in the cards — it’s a borderline miracle in some ways they’ve been able to get the suite in the state it’s in on the platform at all with the resources they had. Kinda enough to make you want to join them in the alley with Mail.app, if only to make sure they’re both on their side when the vomiting starts so you can slink off with Evolution with no nigglers poking your conscience.
You can read other interviews with developers and Mac identities talking about their experience with Mail.app by following this tag cloud link.
Tags: Apple Mail, dislikes, drunkenbatman, likes, mail.app, talking mail.app
* Talking Mail.app: Scott Morrison
* Talking Mail.app: Rui Carmo
* Talking Mail.app: Rob Griffiths
* Talking Mail.app: Pierre Igot
* Talking Mail.app: Peter Maurer
This entry was posted on Wednesday, February 15th, 2006 at 12:48 am and is filed under Apple Mail. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
26 Responses to “Talking Mail.app: drunkenbatman”
Chris Mear says:
16 February 2006, 5:41 am at 5:41 am
After x years of email, I associated quoted text as having a ?¢‚Ç¨Àú>?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢ before it, and quoted quoted text as having ?¢‚Ç¨Àú>>?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢, etc. In Mail.app, I get these damn lines. I don?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t necessarily have a problem with the lines, as I know lots of others like them ?¢‚Ç¨‚Äù but just deciding lines are what I should be using is arrogant.
No, it’s not arrogance. It’s called ‘format=flowed’, and there’s a very good reason for it:
Everyone Hates Apple Mail at soypunk says:
16 February 2006, 4:19 pm at 4:19 pm
[...] Drukenbatman has some harsh words concerning Apple Mail in a recent interview. Here’s a choice quote when asked what part of Apple Mail he hated the most: [...]
Peter da Silva says:
3 March 2006, 2:56 am at 2:56 am
Those damned lines in Mail.app are why I’m using elm.
Because I can’t bloody well edit the quoted text down to the relevant bits without, at some point, deleting one too many characters and having part of the quote lose its “quotedness”. And can I get that “quotedness” back again? Not bloody likely! There’s no combination of “>” and indenting and unindenting and Plain Text and Rich Text (or even Poor-but-proud Text) that will let me compose a response the way I’m accustomed to.
There’s no bloody reason it can’t let me edit the message as it’s actually going to go out, as it’s going to be seen by the people I correspond with using traditional mailers. It can set the “format=flowed” header so that it and other smart-arse mailers can show their blue lines and tidy up the wrapping in the message display window without giving me something that’s almost-but-not-quite-completely-unlike-plain-text and claiming it’s plain text.
If that arrogance is the arrogance of the people who came up with format=flowed instead of Apple’s, that’s beside the point. It’s still arrogant and frustrating and just plain bloody stupid.
Chris Mear says:
3 March 2006, 4:33 am at 4:33 am
Personally, I’ve never had any trouble editing quoted text in Mail. Can you give a specific example of when it screws up? I’m intrigued.
Peter da Silva says:
3 March 2006, 6:13 am at 6:13 am
Select the first character of the quoted text. Hit backspace a couple of times until you’re on the attribution line. Hit return. Notice that the first line of text is now black.
Try inserting any combination of tabs, >, space, and getting it to realise that line is part of the quote.
Chris Mear says:
3 March 2006, 11:02 am at 11:02 am
You’re right, you can’t re-quote that text by entering characters. But instead of trying to trick Mail into doing what you want, just tell it: select Format > Quote Level > Increase (or hit Cmd’). You should find that it re-quotes the text.
I remember finding this whole thing a bit weird at first, but once you learn to trust Mail to do the right thing behind the scenes, the quoting really does work smoothly. And now that it’s part of my muscle memory, I know I prefer to entering ‘>’s by hand.
Peter da Silva says:
3 March 2006, 3:11 pm at 3:11 pm
That’s the daftest thing I ever heard of. Using the formatting menu to edit plain text.
Not going to get any muscle memory, since I can’t use mail.app over a telnet connection so I can’t use it for all my mail. Guess I’m sticking with elm… which might be old and crufty but at least it doesn’t call rich text “plain text”.
Chris Mear says:
3 March 2006, 6:12 pm at 6:12 pm
Why’s it so daft? Email isn’t just plain text — it’s a particular data format that specifies certain rules. In the modern world of email on screens that can manage more than 80-character lines, one of these rules is format=flowed quoting. I, for one, am happy to have a helper that applies these tedious rules for me automatically, giving me an enhanced experience.
I’ll admit that initially it does feel strange to not have ‘full control’ over your text. But I’ve come to view it as a similar thing to, for instance, the way Mail automatically encodes file attachments into plain text, and displays them as an icon.
I’m not bothered that Mail doesn’t allow me to edit the raw MIME data, because I’d gain absolutely no benefit from being able to do that. In fact, I’d probably break something. Instead, I manipulate attachments using the GUI, and trust that Mail is doing the right thing behind the scenes.
It’s the same thing with quoting.
Peter da Silva says:
3 March 2006, 9:25 pm at 9:25 pm
This has nothing to do with MIME encoding or the “raw MIME data”. Format=flowed doesn’t change the encoding of the text, it’s just a hint to the receiving program as to how to display it. It’s optional, and it should be optional in the editor as well.
That is, if “mail isn?¢‚Ç¨‚Ñ¢t just plain text” then Mail.app shouldn’t call it “plain text”. It should call it “unformatted” or “simple” or something that represents what it’s actually doing, and if you specify “plain text” it shouldn’t allow attachments without upgrading to “unformatted”… just as it ddoesn’t allow you to edit markup without upgrading to “rich text”.
This really matters, because the Internet is full of mailing list software, mail gateways, and other automated software that’s designed to work with “plain text” really does expect mail with a body that’s not encoded, not encapsulated, just pure RFC822.
If it’s common for mail software to send encoded mail and claim it’s “plain text”, no wonder I’ve had so much trouble over the years with users trying to convince their mail software to send unmodified raw plain text mail to things like pager gateways. No wonder I’ve had so much trouble when programs like Lotus Notes trashed “plain text” mail containing snippets of source code, or choke on what the originator swore was “plain text”.
This is Apple’s arrogance, Qualcomm’s arrogance: plain text mail is used for much more than sending memos.
Chris Mear says:
3 March 2006, 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm
Yes, I know that format=flowed isn’t related at a technical level to MIME encoding. I was just making a comparison to demonstrate the similarity of the mental model I apply to any situation where an app ‘just looks after’ something for me.
Anyway. I don’t understand why you think there’ll be problems with mail gateways and what-not. Format=flowed is just a convention on top of the basic RFC822 standard. Using format=flowed doesn’t change the fact that
> the underlying data
> is still normal plain text
> sent like this, just like
> it’s always been.
And (unless your mail client’s implementation of format=flowed is completely borked) you can still stick source code, patch files, whatever the heck you like, right in the body of the email. The worst that will happen is you might gain an extra space at the end of a line if you’re reading it in a client that doesn’t understand format=flowed, and the line was longer than 80 characters. But anyway, in that situation, your client would probably end up screwing it up even if you were using plain vanilla text:
>>> Ever seen something like
> this before?
>>> It’s a pain in the butt.
It’s a fair point that Apple could have made format=flowed a user preference in Mail. But in general, Apple leans towards fewer confusing technical options. Especially in a situation like this, where the decision to have format=flowed switched on really doesn’t make any difference to the business end of things. As you say, it’s a user interface convenience — why not just leave it in?
If you want to talk about arrogance, let’s talk about TNEF.