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Mac OS X Mail Client

I'm beginning to use my iBook as my main machine more and more. There is still work to do before I could switch from my Linux desktop entirely, but I am spending more time at the white machine. Of course, that means I need my email here. I have more than a few choices, but I only looked at three: the built in Mail client that comes with Mac OS X, Mozilla, and Eudora.

I've been using Mozilla on Linux for some time now, so of course I'm fairly accustomed to that. I've also worked with Eudora now and then and I do think it is a pretty goood mail client too. However, it looks to me like the built in client is the winner for my purposes. Learning about it was not entirely smooth sailing, but I think I have most of it under control now.

What Drawer?

The first problem I had was that I couldn't find anything but the Inbox. I had added new mailboxes and had been able to file messages in them, but I couldn't find any way to get at the darn things.

I kept clicking on "Mailboxes" and pulling down "View->Show Drawer" but nothing would happen. I knew my mailboxes were there since I could file to them, but I couldn't get to them - very frustrating!

Googling around eventually turned up a screen shot that showed what the "drawer" looks like, and then I realized the problem: the Mail window needs to be smaller:

Ahh, that's better. Incidentally, I was pleased to note that Mac OS X stores the mail in standard text mbox files (unlike the morons at Microsoft who don't). You'll find these in your ~/Library/Mail hierarchy. Of course they add indexing, but that's in separate files as it should be.

Rules

Mac OS X mail has a very nice mail filtering capability that lets you transfer, delete, reply, colorize, or redirect mail automatically. The reply capability is particularly nice because it lets you set different replies (or none at all) depending on the message. I wish it had a little more power (I'd like to be able to store some messages in multiple mailboxes for example), but it is pretty good.

Spam

The new automatic spam filtering of Mac OS X mail is interesting.

My experience so far is that it works pretty well - you train it by clicking "Junk" or "Not Junk" when you don't agree with its decisions and it learns from your direction. I see no point in leaving it in "Training" mode; the only difference between that and "Automatic" is where it puts the Junk. As it becomes pretty good very quickly, I see no reason not to just turn it on.

The decision making isn't done by the rules, except for where to put the junk messages. There is a rule that controls that:

but that refers to a message already being "junk", which implies that the decision has been made elsewhere. I see no place to examine or edit the criteria, and that seems unfortunate because it might very well need manual adjustment. I've beeen told that the learning is done with some sort of Bayesian algorithm (and I wouldn't have had a clue what that meant if I hadn't seen a show on the Discovery channel about Bayes), but that's all I know so far. Of course you can add to the Junk rule if the training doesn't work out entirely perfectly, so that is a way to adjust its decisions.

See also Spamassassin on Mac OS X

Redirect and Bounce

These two capabilities are not in Mozilla and should be. Eudora does have Redirect, but not Bounce. Redirect lets you pass along a message - it's similar to forwarding, except the ultimate recipient doesn't immediately know that it was sent to you first (it's not a security thing - just convenience). Bounce sends back a bounce to the original sender that hopefully will make them decide that you don't exist. Of course many spammers set false reply-to addresses, but you really have not much to lose by trying - and since you can apply this to an entire selection of messages, it's easy enough to do.

Talking Mail

The final goodie is that Mac OS X mail can read aloud to you. That's really a feature of Mac OS X, not Mail per se. I personally can't imagine using this, but I suppose some people might.



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