Dear Apple, please do email better than everyone else

“With every release of OS X Apple adds a few more features, but seldom the ones I want,” Tera Thomas O’Brien writes for Tera Talks.

“My perfect example is Mail,” O’Brien writes. “Is there a more used Mac app than Mail? Safari, maybe. iTunes for some who listen to music all the time, but few apps are used more often and more hated than Mail. What I want is Apple’s traditional ease-of-use but with functions that help me with email, not make it more cumbersome.”

“Templates and email stationery is nice, but that doesn’t help productivity, and managing email is one of those time suck activities that makes Mail painful to use at times when all I want is to minimize the effort and maximize the result– email gets done in less time,” O’Brien writes. “I’m not asking for the world here, Apple. These features and others are available in competing email apps, but nobody seems to get them all together in one app.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: It’s not secret that we cannot keep up with our email. There are currently 1,605 unread emails sitting in our MacDailyNews Webmaster account right now. We’ll filter them for VIPs, mark the rest unread, and archive them when we hit 2,000 as usual. Most of it needs to be tagged junk (we’re working on that, too) and we hope that those who aren’t on the VIP lists, but need to get through to us, will keep trying. We apologize, but email has simply become unmanageable, regardless of the email application we try.


  1. Must admit some years ago I had to move over to Thunderbird when I had a mail delivery issue in Mail for reasons I can’t remember now. With a new computer nearly 3 years ago I opened mail and fully expected to return. Well maybe to a degree due to lack of familiarity, but I just found trying to read and follow conversations in emails almost unintelligible to me. So even though Thunderbird isn’t perfect, apart from when embedded images that dont visualise from one particular client are an issue, I never use mail now. I need a clear and easy to use user interface to check emails quickly reject organise or read as necessary and mail no longer offers that for me. I’m sure I could get used to it over time but I really expect something clearer from Apple, which it used to be albeit with less functionality, accepted. Interestingly I have a similar annoyance with search now which I find difficult to filter and fussy.

  2. I’m at 11,352 unread emails right now in my Apple Mail inbox . . . .and that is with scripts in place to automatically archive emails not read after 30 days. Granted, that’s four pretty busy accounts. One of those four, a team of two employees is tasked with ensuring that all are read and dealt with and important ones are brought to my attention. Bottom line is that in my line of work especially, I get hundreds a day that are absolutely worthless and I often wonder if the promise of email to simplify our lives (which it does in many ways) has become outweighed by the absolute time drain that it has become. In the quest to ensure than we don’t miss or neglect any “good” emails, so much time and energy is placed in dealing with the crap that comes with it. I’m at the point now where I can only skim emails to these accounts. The simple act of deleting the ones I don’t need actually takes up time and energy I simply can’t devote to it. I may be an extreme case, but I know I’m not alone. If only human beings could understand that laws are not necessary where etiquette is an adhered virtue.

  3. For a start, it would be great, if Apple would make Mail work decently at all. I found out that Mail every now and then just modified the mail server settings. But since I’ve updated to MacOS Sierra, it is virtually impossible to even save the outgoing settings (surely due to all the non-explained security features). Mail either freezes or crashes. It looks as if Apple is putting all effort into MacOS and iOS, but they suck at applications – just look at Pages or Numbers or iTunes or Photo! They probably have a VP for Making Simple Things Complicated.

  4. Airmail has one trick that I adore. You can click on a piece of spam or whatever. Then you click the symbol for find all such email, and it does it. Then you select all and delete. I love this feature.

    I agree though. Email is such a pain, but you are also restricted by the ancient standards. iMAP and POP are horrible. Exchange is horrible. The person writing the client is forced to not exceed what is supported by the standard.

    Still a bit of imagination could make using email much less of a chore.

    I’m at 13851 unread emails. Most of it is crap.

    A bit of Artificial Intelligence could go a long way in E-mail.

  5. This is a bit of a tangent, but since MDN brought it up…

    When spam is bad, it can sometimes be the host. My business email was hosted by GoDaddy. When they started having ongoing reliability issues, I switched to HostGator. Biggest mistake of my life! (Well, except that one time when I… nevermind) We immediately started receiving massive amounts of spam, even to accounts that were unpublished. I still suspect that someone at HostGator was literally selling our email addresses from the inside. Don’t use the Gator for anything!

    1. I have always used a different email address for every website and service I’ve ever signed up to, the number of them that have ended up on the receiving end of spam is staggering.

      1. I do that too, but have been surprised at how little spam I do get. Maybe different sites, lol.

        But giving every entity a different email is really effective. For those that don’t know how to do that, my approach is to:

        1) Have my own domain

        2) Have a “catch all” account with my email service provider so I get mail from any address sent to my domain.

        3) Automatically delete all incoming mail that doesn’t include a specific suffix (i.e. goes through but anything without the xyz is deleted. This kills any email sent to random account names.)

        4) When I start getting any spam I know exactly which account it is associated with, add that to a delete list and that’s the end of spam from that source.

        The whole email system is broken.

        Imagine if everyone who sent you an email was charged $0.10 (or higher if you liked) but you could automatically wave the fee for anyone you knew, had an account with, or who sent you a legitimate email.

        Spam would stop instantly. Or you would get rich.

        1. I read somewhere that the Postal Service had lobbied Congress in the mid 90’s to be in charge of email (obviously seeing that it would one day kill physical mail) and would charge postage for the sending and safe delivery of an email. The positive is that spam would be cost prohibitive for some things, email scams would be a Federal crime and besides cost, one of the negatives, our addresses would read like street addresses such as imagine tying to remember your email address with that structure.

    1. and you could say the same about Outlook. They try to do to much with it, but Apple is on that same track, and both companies are now about equal in terms of the number of “features” that don’t work well. I have to use Outlook at work, prefer Apple Mail, but it does crash a couple of times a week and Outlook never has. No drama with it. I still prefer Mail, but Apple apps are much more buggy than they used to be and I use totally 3rd party apps for web content and animation in my side business .

  6. An excellent idea, but unfortunately, Apple’s Tim Cook does not care one whit about Mac software, Mail included. If Tim did care, Apple would have:

    A world class email program
    A world class photo program
    A world class movie editing program (no, iMovie is NOT it)
    A world class calendar program
    A world class password manager…….and on and on and on…..

    1. What you fail to understand is the developers developer developers developers developers developers rant that CEO of Microsoft (what’s his name, I forget) did. You fail to understand some basic human traits that come into play if Apple does all these things really well:

      1. the vast majority of developers will end up having NOTHING to offer on the macOS. This will lead them to migrate to some god awful platform like windows to make a living. Apple doesn’t want this. Believe me, we/you don’t want this.

      2. everyone expects these things to be FREE if Apple does them. Yet they are quite happy to pay hundreds of dollars to a third party for the equivalent software. At least Apple gets 30% for offering third party solutions.

    2. It certainly looks that way. I cannot say it is “Tim Cook” because I honestly can’t get a feel for how much he directs R&D and product development, but there is no excuse for Apple not having the best suite of built-in applications available.

      All of those items listed above and more. Why is FileMaker treated like a poor stepchild when it could be the hub of Apple business application development? FileMaker FINALLY came out with a cloud based server, but it is ridiculously expensive. It should be a part of iCloud.

      iCloud should have a business version.

      A new macOS comes out, a new iOS comes out, and what are they excited about? Fucking Emojis. Oh look Siri is on the Mac now. Just nifty. Copy and paste across devices. Apple Watch login. Desktop in iCloud. Yada yada.

      A bunch of crappy little tweaks.

      All of the things that make computers productive and useful seem to be on the back burner, while shit that makes the cute is pushed forward.

      1. This is because we are in the age of twatter and face plant book. And because parents are buying their 3 year olds, iphone 7+ w/256GB. Apple killed business stuff when they discontinued X Servers. It’s all about youth and Social (engineering) networking.

  7. Couldn’t agree more. Apple sucks at applications. They seem to abandon them at a regular rate. Tim Cook thinks the iPad can do everything so, perhaps, Mac-related projects just get no airtime.

    Things I hate:

    1. In a large mailbox you can’t sort the whole mailbox by unread – it’s old software and perhaps in this ancient code there is an array limit or something similar which limited the number of mail items it can sort. I sometimes find another batch of unread messages further down the list… it’s annoying.

    2. You can’t sort rules.

    3. Formatting in mail is pathetic. Numbered lists look awful – mail needs decent word processing features instead of the primitive notepad-style features. Sometimes I cut and paste stuff into Word (Pages is crap) when I find myself getting irritated when trying to format an email.

    4. I hate Apple’s predilection for burying stuff in “libraries”. Photos for instance. It is such a pain to upload a photo. You have to,p export it first and then remember to delete the exported copy. Show me the individual files always please.

    5. I hate that Pages was dumbed down so that the cut-down OS in the iPad could cope. I actually need to change the orientation of a single page in a document to accommodate a wide table or chart. I use Word now.

    6. I hate Numbers. It’s a toy. I tried to do a chart once but gave up. But in the process I looked up the manual or help and it said to click on some button. But there was no button. Actually, eventually, I found it. It was below the chart and off the screen. Who puts a button off the screen? I figured that, in all their testing, they never tested a big spreadsheet or chart so never realised the buttons would be invisible…

    7. I hate iCloud. I use onedrive which is free form1TB since Inhabe to have Office (because Apple’s apps suck).

    But even with all this, the Mac OS is so much better than iOS. Have you ever thought halfway through an email that you’d like to include a photo? Or two? Bad luck…

  8. I seem to remember that when Mac OS was great and the Apps better we were paying for them. I would be happy to go back to the days of $129 for a copy of Mac OS that was as good for today as Snow Leopard was when it was released.

    I couldn’t give a shit less about Facebook integration but would love a better native mail client, better media handling (iTunes just sucks horribly these days), a better web browser ( Can I lock some cookies for my Banking, Investing and Utility accounts, and dump the rest instead of losing everything, Apple?), and app parity with iOS (I would like HomeKit on my Mac), etc.

  9. It was said that Keynote was a great application because it was Steve Jobs favourite, but surely Jobs lived in his email too. However, he never managed to give us a decent email programme neither on OSX or iOS. I guess it must be really hard!

  10. Not that it is likely, it would be great if Apple could reinvent email. There are already lots of good ideas floating around. Just start over and offer a new service. At first it would be Apple only, but if it was open source it would soon migrate to other platforms. You wouldn’t have to force anyone to use it. If it was good they would come over. If it was more secure, easier to manage, almost no spam, better able to handle attachments and such it could be very nice.

    Apple could offer it alongside the current email. There is a large enough user base that it could launch.

  11. I use FastMail, a reasonably priced and privacy respecting alternative to Google’s Big Brother scan, store and exploit all of your personal info model.

    The problem with email isn’t the service we use, it’s a lifestyle and personal responsibility issue. Having more than a few email accounts that you use regularly is not sustainable. Unsubscribe from most mailing lists. Channel important email to your primary address and don’t use your Inbox as a To-Do list. David Allen has updated his Getting Things Done GTD book/system with these things in mind. No piece of software is going to overcome media addiction for us. At best it will ever more efficiently shovel increasing amounts of garbage in front of our faces.

  12. Could not agree more with this idea. Email is used EVERYDAY for hours each day. So sad Apple can’t put as much effort in to this necessary evil and really up the game in Email design and usefulness.

  13. I’ve got a 2015 iMac (which would eat up Sierra) and frankly I’m sticking with El Capitan for two reasons:

    1. Nothing in Sierra really grabs my attention and,

    2. It just works. And where have I heard that line before?
    Apple trots out Mac OSs’ or is that macOs’ or whatever, like Intel comes out with chipsets. Its tick and tock. The “tock” part is where the second version is much better than the “tick” release. In all events they’re still the best OS in town. As for the hardware I’ll leave that for another post.

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