3/8/06

Mac E-mail Again

I mentioned earlier—in Moving to the Mac, E-mail—that I had moved to using the mail application (Mail.app) on my PowerBook. I am also using IMAP, as I mentioned, connecting with my e-mail server. My e-mail is stored on my PowerBook and on the server. As I think I mentioned, one cool thing about it is I can read my mail using anything that will read UNIX mbox format and any IMAP client.

And I thought I was ready to ditch Mail.app. I found it would … occasionally … reload all the e-mail in my server's mailbox. See, on most UNIX, or Linux, systems, e-mail is deposited in a user's mailbox (for example, /var/mail/fred). E-mail clients read from there. That is what Mail (or Thunderbird) calls my "Inbox." As I delete or refolder messages, the IMAP server (I assume) or maybe just the e-mail client notes the change, and waits to update things until some opportune time. I am being nebulous here because it seems to be e-mail client specific. Logging off ("Go offline") will do it in Mail as it will in Thunderbird. (Compressing a mailbox will do the same thing in Thunderbird.)

It was very frustrating. There are some things I really like about the Apple Mail client. For example:
  • Connection with the Address Book. Very nice. Yes, Thunderbird does this with it's own address book, but I sync my Palm Computer (pet peeve—there hasn't been anything called "PalmPilot" for like 10 years. US Robotics made it. I had one. Had to change the name when Pilot Pen Company complained. No joke.) with the Address Book (see Mac Calendaring and Address Book. One down side is the programs insistence to rewrite headers. If e-mail comes in from "Charlie Applerot " and I have a calendar entry for him, but it says "Charles Applerot," it uses what is in the Address Book. I don't mind it recognizing it is the same e-mail address. I don't like it changing what was in the message header. (It doesn't actually change it in the message file. But, if I reply to the message, it uses the rewrittenm address. This is bad behavior.) Still the integration of Address Book is useful.
  • Smart Mailbox. This is the read cool stuff. A Smart Mailbox is one that looks at all messages that match a set of search criteria based on headers, body, attachment count, date, etc., and shows all that match in the Smart Mailbox, no matter what actual mailboxes they might be in. I automatically "folder" some mailing list messages as they come in rather than leaving them in the Inbox. I set up a "Smart Mailbox" that simply is "all unread e-mail." I also sometimes "flag" e-mail—mark it as special. (Mail does not have a list of tags like Eudora and Thunderbird has; all it has is flagged or not.) So, I have a Smart Mailbox that shows me all "flagged" mail in one virtual mailbox.
Nevertheless, I had decided with the Inbox flakiness, that Mail.app must go. I would move to Thunderbird! I spend a few hours recreating filters that I used in Mail that I wanted in Thunderbird. I worked for hours fiddling to get Address Book records to Thunderbird. (Address Book doesn't export in anything but "vcard" format. Thunderbird, correct, does not read vcard format. I used Address Book Exporter.)

I started using Thunderbird. I missed Mail.app, but as I said earlier, I had liked and recommended Thunderbird. And it's an IMAP client, so I still had plain text files on the server and on the PowerBook. Thunderbird is not as integrated with the Mac as Mail.app is (natch). It allows complex searches; Mail.app only allows them in a Smart Folder (which is not really a problem). It has seven, count them seven, "labels" for tagging messages. And I was happy.

Until the same thing happened with Thunderbird: e-mail's I had taken care of— deleted, refolder—showed up again!

Hmmmm. Maybe it is the IMAP server on Linux. Someone recommended Dovecot. Swore by it (I mean that in a nice way). I tried setting it up. I couldn't get the user authentication to work. There is no real documentation. Yes, I know. "Use the Source, Luke." I'm getting too old. Now that I have a second server on the Internet, I may try it to see if it plays nicer. Or perhaps someone can give me a clue as to where to look for what exactly is happening. Is there a setting to "only connect when downloading and sending? Is it some mode setting on the /var/mail directory? (I tried it 755 and 1777. Same behavior.)

I am using Mail.app again. Periodically, I try to remember to "Go offline" then "Go online" again. I am settled but not fully satisfied. You know?

No comments: