Mail, not for me.

A few weeks ago, I quit Entourage in favour of Apple’s Mail. While I had heard a variety of arguments for Mail (and thereby, against Entourage), the primary trait that made me switch was the lightweight, fast-loading nature of the application itself. Mail is also very nicely integrated into iCal and Address Book, Apple’s native officey programs. But unfortunately after several weeks of regular use, I’ve decided to move back. Here’s why:

1. No Categories. Everyone manages email differently, and I like to use categories. With homemade categories like “Projects” and “Job Search” I can stay organised, search for past messages, and keep my inbox tidy with colour coding. But Mail doesn’t have Categories. Instead, I had to download a third-party application called MailTags, which doesn’t exactly solve the problem. MailTags never quite worked in conjunction with Mail’s Rules option, much to my chagrin.

2. No Support for Hotmail. Hotmail (now Windows Live Mail) is a Microsoft property, and therefor a non-standard protocol. Philosophically, I feel this is abhorrent, but I’ve been using my old Hotmail account for years, and not having those messages in my email client is a massive handicap to my overall awareness and productivity. Until these two learn to cooperate, Mail will not feature Hotmail options. For this, a third-party solution also appears, in theory. I could never get it to work.

3. Rules suck. The rules don’t work. They don’t. I can create a huge list of possible scenarios for which to execute the rules, but somehow the don’t seem to catch on. Half the time all I want to do is change the colour of the subject line, but I can’t get Mail’s Rules to work. Cultivating a Rule in Entourage is annoying, but the interface doesn’t imply a limit due to the interface.

4. Problems with Servers. From day one with Mail, I’ve had trouble with the servers. At least half the time, any message won’t send on the first try, requiring me to click “try again with selected server.” No need for that. And certainly no explanation.

5. No “Mark all as read” button. Again, this may seem trivial, but if you’ve been away for a few days, or if you’ve already read your mail on the web from the another location, you just want a quick and dirty solution — a one-click button that takes care of that.

6. No keyboard shortcuts. Even better than a single button is a keyboard shortcut for those repetitive functions. The ability to “check for new messages” or “add flag” via keyboard shortcut is a massive advantage.

7. Can’t delete from server. Using POP3 these days is rough. IMAP is a better protocol, but that’s not always possible with your ISP or email client. Entourage allows some server-side executions, but with Mail, I could find no easy way to delete messages from the server, as well as from my inbox.

Many of these problems may be fixable via third-party software, but they should be included. Having a lightweight email program is great, but not when it lacks critical features for productivity. And we wonder why it’s hard to convince business that Apple is for real.

From the above, it seems that I’m really bad at figuring things out and that I can’t RTFM. But seriously, I looked. Being a computer geek and user of email for about 15 years, I know what to look for — and when I can’t find it, I get angry.

Email is about comfort, and unfortunately for Apple, I’m more comfortable with Entourage. I still have no love for the stupid Database system, or for the corruptible Rules, Addresses, and Signature files. But until someone makes an email app that can do what I need, I’m stuck with the lessor of two evils.

PS, I hate webmail. Gmail, mobile me, whatever. They all suck.