Mac OS X & Mail…

Sad Mac

I’ve had a real problem recently, something has had me cursing, gnashing, and basically screaming at a certain application from Apple. This application is Mail (or Mail.app, or Apple Mail or whatever).

It all started with upgrading a test iBook to Tiger shortly after the second or third maintenance upgrade was released.

As always, I test any major release with a non-work critical system before rolling the release out to the 4 or 5 other Mac’s in the studio.

This time my testing was not thorough enough. All apps seem to work ok, such as Adobe Creative Suite, Suitcase etc, but it wasn’t until I installed Tiger on the main work Mac that I came across the ‘Mail’ problem.

Something was wrong with Mail. It wasn’t that it was as slow as molasses, (it’s never been a speed demon), it didn’t seem to be downloading attachements, or emails with HTML correctly.

Instead, what I got was the ‘Mime gibberish’ that denotes that the way in which Mail was seeing attachments was completely screwed.

Upon testing, this seemed to be for all incoming and all outgoing messages. Mail was unusable.

Upon testing, I found that it was IMAP accounts that Mail could not handle. POP accounts seemed ok, and IMAP accounts connected to other servers worked fine. Mine did not. There is something about my unique situation, (I am part of a larger PC-based company and access my mail through a PC server), that Mail did not like.

One of Tiger’s biggest selling points was spotlight, and I was looking forward to being able to search through my mail with ease. I have a huge local mailbox, and I communicate with China on a regular basis on various projects, so having a reliable mail client, and especially one with which I could search my archived mail as easily as I could search through the files and folders of my system was a major draw.
Unfortunately this wasn’t to be. So I stopped the roll out to other Mac’s until an update hopefully fixed the problem, and started looking around for another mail client.

I used to use Entourage. Indeed I have tried to use Entourage in the past, and did for several months, but having struggled to make Entourage, Projects, Notes etc work for me, I found that I needed to change the way in which I worked, in order to use it. Something that I wasn’t prepared to do.

So I tried every (EVERY) mail client, freeware, shareware and commercial on the market, but none seemed to give me what I want, and in the end I settled for Thunderbird.

At first I was a little dubious, but eventually I found connecting to my email via IMAP, using Thunderbird was overall an excellent and pain free experience. The only clouds were the lack of Address Book integration, and poor search capabilities, but I decided to live with that until the next Apple updater.

Except the next Apple updater did not solve the problem, nor the next.

I had to look at this from another angle, so I decided to see whether I could connect to my email via POP, rather than IMAP. I have a personal POP account on my iBook, which works OK, and with a little persuasion from IT to give me the correct IP addresses, I tried the POP connection, but I wasn’t holding out much hope.

But it worked. It worked great, in fact it’s fast, flawless (apart from the odd dropped connection) and I am now using Mail, and have rolled out the full Tiger install to my studio.

But IMAP still doesn’t work, and although I can get around this, it’s still a major bug that needs fixing. I’ve posted to the Apple discussion forums, and apparently Apple are aware of the problem (it’s a problem with a ‘Groupwise’ connection), but as yet, there is no fix.

We may have to wait until Leopard.

But I don’t think that this is good enough. With Apple’s recent advertising campaign, touting the ‘it just works’ aspect of the Mac, I find that the advert and my experience are miles apart. I keep saying this about Apple, but you must do better.

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