Monthly Archives: August 2011

A wishlist for a native Mac email client

As the tech-savvy sort, I often do some things that the typical consumer might not care about. However, it is strange that I simply cannot find a native Mac email client on the market that fulfills what I consider to be very basic features for decent email management. While everyone is gushing over the latest social network to be jammed into an email client, I just want my email to work in a sane way.

The features I’m looking for:

  • POP3/IMAP + SSL support
  • Full-text search, or indexable by OS X’s Spotlight
  • Multiple account support
  • Archival — if I delete an email account, it should not wipe out all emails from local storage that belonged to this account, especially if said account was POP3
  • Plaintext composition — I’m taking the side of format=flowed in plaintext composition. Manually formatting hard line breaks at char 78 is an insane holdover from a bygone age when dumb ASCII terminals were still the primary user interface. At least allow this as an option, or support the quoted-printable content type and soft line-breaks during composition.
  • Filtering rules — Basic filters that let me decide where to put messages based on mail headers and subject is enough
  • mbox import/export — I need to be able to import mail from my previous client. Similarly, in the scenario that this app is no longer supported, I need the option of moving to another client.
  • Bonus: auto-bcc to an arbitrary email address — I’ve never solved my problem with archiving sent mail. All you really need to do is auto-populate the BCC field on any “New Mail” composition window with this address. That’s all I really need to be happy here.

Amazingly enough, there is not a single Mac mail client that fulfills all of these basic conditions. Especially egregious problems for the top three mail clients:

  • Microsoft Outlook Mac 2011 — mangles all outgoing plaintext emails by inserting hard line breaks. No support for flowed plaintext, despite promises to the contrary, and no support for quoted-printable content-type and soft line breaks. No provision for auto-bcc.
  • Apple Mail (Snow Leopard) — deleting an old email account deletes ALL mail belonging to this account, even for downloaded POP3 mail. WTF. Can only auto-bcc “myself”, which is a fixed email address corresponding to the sending account; if you allow autobcc, why not let the user pick the email to autobcc to?
  • Mozilla Thunderbird 8 — deleting an account deletes all downloaded mail belonging to this account, unless messages are stored to the “local folder” rather than its inbox abstractions.

For fear of accidental data loss, I’ve stuck to the Microsoft offering, despite its incredible inability to keep plaintext mail intact. The newer social clients are all Thunderbird-based and leave little else worth examining — they seem far more interested in integrating ever more social network APIs than to support more basic email features. The rest of my friends are all sworn Gmail webmail users and think I’m a strange luddite for even considering native clients. I’ll leave the webmail vs native client debate for fear of going on a page-long rant; suffice to say that the user experience between the two options is not comparable at all.

It almost makes me want to start writing a new email client for myself, or hire someone to start some skeleton code at least, because obviously no one else is going to scratch this itch of mine. That kind of spare time and money, however, would probably never come unless I manage to actually sell a company or two (rather than just founding unsuccessful ones).