Mail.app vs Thunderbird – Which one?

14 11 2009

It’s been about two and a half months since I got my Macbook Pro, and all in all, it’s been a productive, happy relationship. The Mac functions beautifully for all the things I need to get done, and from my side, I haven’t had to spend any time yak shaving. In fact, I can’t think of a time where I really had to dig into the filesystem or look up tech articles to get something configured on the machine. Everything just plain works.
Somewhere along the line I decided to complete the Kool-Aid conversion, and switched from using Thunderbird to using the Mac’s native mail application, collectively known as Mail.app. Why? Well, part of my philosophy on tech platforms is to try to not carry over preconceived notions of “how things should work”, and immediately critiquing a new environment simply because it doesn’t exactly mirror the one I’m used to.
I’ve been using Mail.app for about a month and a half now, and… I’m not impressed. It works, it talks nicely to my personal IMAP server and to Exchange at work, but… sorry Apple, the UI has some pretty painful choices.
In a recent Facebook conversation (based on a tweet I sent out), folks asked what my issues with Mail.app were. So, here they are:
1. The ‘file to folder’ function is irritating to use. Shortcuts change regularly (F3-space-foldername-enter – BLEAH) – it’s better than the default non-existent methods, but still difficult. (Note this is in reference to using Act-On, a plugin for Mail.app that brings some of the functionality of the super-awesome Nostalgy plugin for Thunderbird)
2. Window management is poor. Composition windows are not floating in alt-tab rotation. If I want to flip back to my Inbox to view something, I have to mouse (no KB shortcuts to switch between inbox / composition / whatever)
3. No identity management – I can’t say “Compose this mail, but it’s business mail, so use my Biz address, footer, etc)
4. The thread management is WEIRD. So, If I have a single message, it’s one row in my inbox. If I have 2 in a thread, its’ THREE rows in my inbox. That makes no sense.
5. I can’t find anyway of skipping to the next unread message in the inbox. So I’ll see Inbox(1) and have to scan where in my inbox that one message is.
6. And who the heck determined that control-shift-D means “Send message” ? What, Control-Enter, a keystroke that is nigh on universal, wasn’t appropriate?
I haven’t come up with a good reason to stick with Mail.app yet. One thing I do worry about is contact management. I’m not sure how to manage that path yet, or how Thunderbird contacts will interract (if at all) with the contact manager on the Mac. That being said, I don’t know if I’ve been using the contact manager at all, so it may be a moot point.
The UI issues in Mail.app though are enough to have me close to jumping ship. Any reasons I shouldn’t?

Advertisements