Frustrated with Apple’s Mail, especially once it gets stuffed with tens of thousands of mail messages, and the state of alternatives that exist on the Mac, I’ve been giving Opera’s mail client a shot. It is decidedly unorthodox, and a little weird to integrate e-mail and browsing in the same environment—but in a way that actually makes a lot of sense to me—especially in a support context. Quite often I’d be flipping between Mail and Firefox constantly anyway, now it’s just a matter of flipping between tabs. A message that I’m composing is one tab over from the forum thread that I’m referencing.
As for the handling itself—I don’t think I’ve ever come across a more robust system. It is lightening fast, and that is especially true when you consider how it works. It’s all view based, rather than folder based. A view can be set to show all unread messages across a hundred folders, and you’ll get that information instantly as soon as you click on it. Click on a view with 24,000 messages in it? Not a problem. Looking for an attachment someone sent you but don’t remember their name and only a vague date range? Isolate by 3 month period and search for attachments by attachment type. Lots of great little tricks like that. If you are looking to fight anarchy with anarchy, it’s an interesting approach.
My main gripe with it thus far is that its view-centric way of working is a bit at odds with folders, and that’s how I have everything set up, as IMAP folders. To date, I haven’t found a way to easily (without drag and drop) move addressed messages to an archive folder. I can label them with two quick keystrokes, but there isn’t anything automated for moving stuff around. The system is designed to be view based from the core, so if you throw a few IMAP accounts at it, there is a little friction. Now granted, I’ve been drifting away from extensive use of folders for some time now. Over the past two years I’ve gone from filing things into meaningful folders to just dumping stuff into yearly archive folders. Searching has been getting better in clients, so it is no longer as important as it once was to have tidy little highly contextual folders. So to be perfectly honest, the dependency upon IMAP folders is something I’ve been ditching anyway.
The fact that I can run a search across 40,000 messages and get instantaneous results is all I need, and that is where Mail was turning into a real hog. Thunderbird is no better at that level, except it’s worse because it acts slow even if you only have 100 messages in it.
The other reason for trying it out is that I don’t like the direction Firefox is heading in. I need too many extensions loaded to get anything done in it, and those make it slow and unstable. Opera has almost everything I need without any plug-ins installed. Fantastic developer tools, page analysis, detailed network traffic info, etc.