Which mail app do you use?

Hi Folks,

I’ve just switched to Snow Leopard, and Eudora is exhibiting some strange behavior. Its age is showing more and more. So, I’m looking around, and am keeping open, at the same time, Apple Mail and Postbox Express. I don’t know if I should also try Mailsmith, with its monolithic database that would lose all the mail at once if a bit gets wrong.

Eudora has several shortcomings due to its age. It is not well integrated with other apps (Antidote refuses to check its spelling, and some app does not accept text I copied from it). You cannot search in it with Spotlight, due to the fact that each mailbox is a single file. And it does not have the sometimes handy conversation mode of the most recent mail apps.

At the same time, it is the only mail app that works as I like. Each mailbox has its own window, so that when new mail is received, that window opens. At this time, I can decide from the title of the window if I should immediately devote time to its mail, or leave it in the backgound up until I have time for it. The single-windows mail apps let me see a single windows at a time, so either I immediately flag the message as soon as I receive them, or they will get lost in some obscure mailbox.

Do you feel my same pain? How do you plan to solve this problem, or how did you solve it?


Try Thunderbird.

I didn’t cite it, because it is exactly the opposite of what I’m looking for. I’m looking for something more anarchic, that allows me for seeing all my mailbox at once if I need to. The single-window paradigm is like working on a 5 x 5cm desk, with no chance to have more than one piece of paper under your eyes at the same time.

Best, Paolo

PS: Funny. I just received a mail (in Eudora: it didn’t appear in Mail) from a publisher I’m working for, whose name is Quodlibet.

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.

I use Entourage. Occasionally I’ll export to a FileMaker database via Entourage Email Archive X, and then import than into Panorama since I switched from FileMaker a few years ago.
This allows me to keep just a few thousand (or hundred) email messages in Entourage, while keeping the rest in a Panorama database.

I really liked PowerMail, but their customer support is terrible. I think that my last version was 3.

I’m going to try Opera based on AmberV’s comment.


I am using gmail (over my own objections) and have really decided I like their “labels” which really is nothing more than tagging. Opera support something similar?

It’s unusable for me mainly due to the following:
3 MB of storage space. You have the option to upgrade to 25 MB with Opera Web Mail Premium.
Send attachments of up to 2 MB.

Are those typos? :question:

With Gmail I often send attachments that are around 10 MB. I don’t recall their size limit, but I think it was over 7 GB.

It looks like it uses pop/imap and local storage. Where are you finding that?


That is their webmail. I just attached gmail which has about 5GB in it. No problems.

Yup, in fact the two are quite similar in philosophy. User interface is totally different, however—more useful, as one would expect from actual software vs. web applications. I wouldn’t be surprised if all your Gmail labels came across, too. I noticed that IMAP labels are recognised. I had some attached to messages from the last time I tried Thunderbird and it picked them all up and made views for them automatically. So long as Gmail pushes out labels in the IMAP protocol according to spec, it should work.

The main thing that still has me confused is a lack of folder workflow. I understand devaluing the hundred-folder problem in favour of newer methods—but you need a way to get stuff from your inbox to at least one archival spot. Gmail has a single button for this—that’s perfect. Wish I could find something like that in Opera. Right now I’m just using the Unread view and hitting K when I’m done with it. I attach a label first if I’m not really done with it. At the end of the day I go through each inbox and move them to the appropriate yearly archival folder. The labels serve as my “extended inbox”. Stuff that still needs to be addressed, but it doesn’t matter where it is located physically.

Oh and on that note, the Thread button is essential. With decentralisation like this you need a good threading system. Gmail forces it—with Opera you need to hit the thread button in the tool bar to quickly collect all related mail. It makes for a nice tidy temporary “work place” when a new response to an old issue comes up.

I have no idea about their webmail stuff, but it doesn’t sound like something I’d be interested in either. I’m talking about the mail client that they have built into the Opera web browser itself. As Jaysen says, you need a POP or IMAP mail account to use it (like Apple Mail for that matter). If you use Gmail as your mail server, you’ll need to turn on IMAP support in your settings and then read up on how to hook up a client to it.

I use Apple Mail, and every two years export the oldest mailboxes to DTP.
Works for me, with fast searches and no apparent limits on the database.
Since the 1980s I’ve gone through several e-mail programs.
Netscape, Eudora, Entourage, and Mail, the best yet.
The 2010 total was 11,361 messages.
I often wonder if there’s anything in there worth saving for fiction.
May be, but I never have time to look! :open_mouth:

If it’s anything like my database, which while it doesn’t go back to the '80s, definitely does go back a long ways, you’ve got all kinds draft backups and story ideas galore from the good old days, when e-mail was the best way to send files from one computer to another. :slight_smile: I’ve got whole chapters in the dusty corners of my mail server.

As for Mail, my main gripe with it is its caching. It loses header cache on IMAP folders periodically, and I’d have to sit there for ten minutes while it rebuilt some huge old archive before I could search it. It also seemed to me that the search function was degrading as time went by. I would type in a word that I know existed in a certain e-mail, but that e-mail wouldn’t be in the list—that’s worrying, when you know the search result should be there and it’s not. How often am I searching for something and not getting results I am ignorant of? If it were strictly my own mail, that would be one thing, but when a big chunk of my mail database is the L&L support archive—well that’s a lot of unknown data. A solution to a problem might be in there, already solved years ago, but Mail isn’t showing it to me.

I was also having problems with new messages not appearing in the inbox. This was a temporary problem, solved by restarting Mail, but during the day you don’t know about it unless you just happen to quit, and then poof there you have a dozen messages that have been sitting there for three days unbeknownst to you.

What I do like about Mail is its overall interface. It’s pretty logical, and if you tweak a hidden preference to prefer plain-text, works great (for my tastes, I don’t really care what everyone’s favourite e-mail font is, and certainly not their stationary). With Mail-Act-On you can do quite a bit of automation and such.

What I like so far about Opera Mail is that it kind of feels like Pine, which was hands down my favourite e-mail client. Lots of single-letter short cuts and excellent performance at all scales.

Another happy user of Apple Mail.

To get something like the multiple window effect you described, why not just open a separate window for each account?

Thanks. Now I see how it works. I’ll figure out which of my accounts to add to Opera and will give it a try.

With over 70 active mailboxes, obviously I cannot keep them always open.
But maybe I can find an AppleScript that can do this, to append to the rules sending mail to the various mailboxes?


It seems that the same genius who wrote Eudora Mailbox Cleaner, a powerful importer of mail from Eudora to Mail, did the miracle with his scripts:


Open Mailbox does exactly what I need: appended to a rule sending mail to a mailbox, it automatically opens that mailbox when a message is received. Exactly as in Eudora.

I also discovered a trick to avoid opening the whole monolith of the three-pane window: before checking the mail, I will move a single-pane window containing the list of messages in a mailbox. The script will open the new windows exactly that way.


I can see that happening, if you leave all mail on an IMAP server. After deleting as much as possible, I transfer important IMAP mail to my internal hard drive. Spotlight finds everything quickly. I also delete almost all mail attachments, saving only important stuff from others. With regular backups, I have copies of my mail on three drives.

But I get nowhere near the volume of mail you’re handling, so it’s understandable why you prefer to store it offline.

I used to drive myself nuts with multiple mailboxes. Now I just have Inbox, Drafts, Sent, and Trash. All the old mail goes into Vault, with one folder for each year: 2011, 2010, etc. Mail lets me sort and find stuff very quickly, even to strings of text in a particular letter. The usual search is to find everything from a correspondent or related to a project. I no longer have to sort them that way.

I do this with paper files, too: just sort them by date/month/year. Any other system takes too much time in sorting.

Well, for me the automatical opening of the mailboxes is a first step for sorting mail. Going through all the incoming messages would steal precious time while working. On the contrary, having less important messages go to a separate window is a way to get them out of the way, while remembering me that the mail is there, and I will be free to devote it some time later.

For example, today I received a message from a mailing list working in an odd way: there are no messages for weeks, and then there is a very interesting discussion going on for several messages. It is a very technical, very in-depth list, and missing these discussions because they are lost among tons of advertising etc. etc. would be a shame. The separate window is there to remember that I have something to read.