Experimentin' with Mail

Thunderbird and Mail.app icons Let’s get down to it, I like Thunderbird, having used it since it’s early beta period, but my will has been overcome by the siren song of Apple’s Mail.app. The loudest and clearest voice in the chorus emanates from Hawk Wings, a site dedicated to Mail, its plugins and tips that will improve the experience.

So, a week and a half ago I pulled Thunderbird from the Dock, forcing myself into full time usage. I like it. The shift isn’t drastic, and I don’t recommend that people change on a whim unless, like me, they like to tinker with apps, diving into the details that most people don’t think (nor care) about.

I do have one gripe so far: I lost a few of my outgoing messages as Mail didn’t detect the existing Sent folders, nor did it create a new one for its use. So, until I figured out that I could specify a folder to act as the Sent box, my messages went out, but were not copied to an archive for my later reference.
In an effort to sort all of this out for myself, and possibly provide a useful, though small resource for others, I’m writing up my experiences with Mail and documenting the changes I’ve made, the plugins I’ve installed or uninstalled and my general thoughts on the matter. There isn’t a lot of detail yet, but this entry will expand as time allows.

My Setup

OS: 10.4
Platform: Intel (MacBook Pro)
Mail Version: 2.1.1 (752.3) – at time of writing
Account Type: IMAP – this is important as it directly impacts some core functionality as all of my mail stays on the server.

Modifications

Stamp icons for Mail.app

Configuration Changes

Plugins

  • Letterbox provides a three pane view for Mail, much like Outlooks layout.
  • IMAP-IDLE adds the ability for Mail to communicate with the mailserver so it can be told when new mail has arrived instead of connecting with the server ever N minutes to check. Efficiency is a good thing.
  • MailActOn makes it easy to set up simple or complex chains of commands available at the touch of a key. I haven’t put this to any real test yet, but I think it will be a core component of how I use Mail. Works with MailTags.
  • MailTags provides the ability to assign keywords, priorities and other meta data to messages. Combine it with MailActOn for even more powerful capabilities.

Wishes

I’d be even happier if Mail would:

  • automatically set up or detect and use an existing ‘Sent’ folder for my IMAP account, and
  • allow me to define how long a message should be viewed before it is marked as ‘read’, allowing me to quickly arrow through messages to find the one I want without losing the unread status of the others, and
  • allow me to dock the activity viewer, or provide a small status bar.

I’ll expand this as I learn more, and welcome any feedback, suggestions or questions that you may have!

Apple Delivers Speed Boost to Creative Suite

My copy of Adobe Creative Suite CS2 arrived last night (woohoo!), making me a very happy man. This morning, as I perused my feeds, I came across the great news (via John Nack, via JD on EP) that Apple’s release of the 10.4.8 system update includes significant improvements to Rosetta, the software that ensures older applications will continue to run on newer platforms (like my Intel-based notebook). These improvements, according to Macworld’s benchmarks, provide a 34% improvement for the CS2 suite on the MacBook Pro! The tests specifically relate to image manipulation, so that number actually matters. The same improvements had only a minor impact on non-graphics oriented applications like MS Word, which gained a tiny bump of 3%.

While this isn’t quite as good as Intel-native versions of Photoshop, Illustrator, et al, it is a much appreciated and unexpected improvement. Thanks Apple!

Virtual PC set free – further thoughts

After my initial post about Virtual PC and subsequent mailings to a couple of Web dev lists that I am subscribed to, I had a couple of interesting conversations on what this release means and why/if it is important. The question also came up as to whether or not the release is related to Apple’s BootCamp, which I asserted.

I do see a connection to BootCamp and Parallels. Virtualization is a powerful tool for develoeprs on any platform and I think Microsoft has recognized this about a step behind Apple, which has started to push this feature in one of the new commercials.

While Virtual PC won’t allow folks to run OS X software on a Windows box, it will provide a lot of folks the ability to set up a very cheap test environment for multiple operating systems and browsers, which will be important with the coming releases of IE 7 and Vista.

As a developer, I had been pondering the jump to OS X but held off for quite a while as I didn’t want to maintain a PC and a Mac at the same time. Once the Intel-based Macs came out and people started hacking the system to support XP, the need for a separate box for secondary/multiple OSes was gone. Now I can run multiple versions of Windows on my Macbook to test various OS/browser combos in addition to the Mac ones. Ultimately that means that Microsoft, and Windows-centric software makers will get less of my money (I won’t need to buy anything but the OS licenses) and Apple will gain another ardent user who has the ability to ensure his sites are compatible with their software.

This is an interesting battle as Apple sees itself as a hardware company that makes software and Microsoft views itself as a software company that produces products to work on most any “standardized” machine.

This may signal a new front in the war for computer market share; one that I hope will translate into more competition and improved features for all of us.

Virtual PC Set Free

Microsoft has set Virtual PC free. Makes me wonder if the folks in Redmond have taken notice of Apple’s free BootCamp or Parallel’s Desktop app. Use Virtual PC to “run multiple operating systems at the same time on the same physical computer. Switch between virtual machines with the click of a button. Use virtual machines to run legacy applications, provide support, train users, and enhance quality assurance.” This is great news for those of us wanting to test IE 7 (or for that matter, Vista) without installing the beta on a production system. It will also prove useful once the full version is out, and we want to keep a version of IE 6 handy.

Software for a Switcher

Update

I’ve published a new list of software: My OS X Software Setup

In the not-so-distant future I’ll pick up I’ve just purchased a MacBook Pro, cementing my switch from the world of Windows to that of OS X (well, with occasional visits to the land of Gates). The switch brings the opportunity to try, and adopt new software, so here’s a list that I’m compiling of software that I will install, or at the very least, try on my new Mac:

  • Quicksilver – “A unified, extensible interface for working with applications, contacts, music, and other data.” Additional info available:
  • Firefox – The ultimate browser
  • Camino – Another great browser that “combines the awesome visual and behavioral experience that has been central to the Macintosh philosophy with the powerful web-browsing capabilities of the Gecko rendering engine.” I look forward to running it through its paces.
  • Thunderbird – My favorite e-mail client on any every platform!
  • Adium X – A great chat client that I’ve used on the battered ol’ beige Mac in the past. It is the equivalent of the Windows-only Trillian.
  • TextMate – Considered the editor for developing with Ruby on Rails on OS X
  • Apple Developer Tools (Xcode)
  • DbVisualizer – “a feature rich, intuitive and cross-platform database tool for developers and DBAs, providing a single powerful interface for a variety of databases. DbVisualizer supports simultaneous database connections, it lets you explore and manage database objects, execute SQL queries, visualize information and a lot more.”
  • Netflix Freak – “a full-featured Mac OS X application for managing your rental queue that enhances the Netflix experience. The program offers many unique features not available on the Netflix website.”
  • Dock Dividers – Visual dividers to organize the dock.
  • BootCamp – Dual boot windows XP and OS X!!!!! The last piece has fallen into place.
    • Windows XP Home – Seein’ as I won’t be running my ol’ PC any longer, I can just move the install over to the Mac.
    • IE 6 – For testing
    • Mozilla Firefox – For testing, though it shouldn’t vary much, if at all compared with Firefox on OS X
  • Web Development
  • Open Office – A multi-platform, open source office suite, compatible with the big boys.
  • Delicious Library – This program harnesses a Web cam (in this case, the built-in iSight) as a barcode scanner. Simply point the camera “at the barcode on the back of any book, movie, music, or video game. Delicious Library does the rest. The barcode is scanned and within seconds the item’s cover appears on your digital shelves filled with tons of in-depth information downloaded from one of six different web sources from around the world.” I’ve wanted to play with this for quite a long time!
  • Open Terminal Here – An AppleScript that sits in the tool bar of finder windows, allowing an easy way to open a terminal session in the directory being viewed.
  • FontExplorer X – A free font manager from the fine folks at Linotype. This is another app that I’ve wanted to use for quite a while, but have been unable to as it’s Mac-only.
  • Carbon Copy Cloner – Creates an exact replica of your hard disk. Ideal for creating a restore-image.
  • RSync – RSync already comes with OS X, but I’m noting this for the helpful tutorial.
  • NetNewsWire – I’ve used the light version of this news aggregator in the past, and am looking forward to trying out the full version.
  • Disk Inventory X – ‘[S]hows the sizes of files and folders in a special graphical way called “treemaps“.’
  • Fugu – A spiffy little FTP utility.
  • Cyberduck – Another FTP utility I plan to try.
  • Launchd Editor – Launchd replaces cron in OS X. This app is a “graphical editor for launchd’s property list files. It makes sure that the proper keys are of the proper values and lets you enter in whatever information you want in those keys.”

Useful Customizations & Recommendations

I’ll be adding more over the next few days, and appreciate any suggestions you may have!

Boot Camp

The pieces are falling into place… My shift to the Mac will be complete, now that Apple has released Boot Camp, software that will allow users to run Windows XP on Intel based Macs. A tasty quote from the release:

“Apple has no desire or plan to sell or support Windows, but many customers have expressed their interest to run Windows on Apple’s superior hardware now that we use Intel processors,” said Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing. “We think Boot Camp makes the Mac even more appealing to Windows users considering making the switch.”

Life. Is. Good.

Now… to go order my MacBook Pro.

XP on MacTel is official

The fine folks at Engadget bring word that the installation of Windows XP on an Intel-powered Mac has been verified, generating $13,000 of prize money for the winner, narf2006. It sounds like extensive hacking was involved, so it is by no means ready for the public, but it should provide a starting point from which developers can build an open source project to spread the love. More info to be posted on the official site.

Remote Destruction of Data on a Stolen Laptop

Mac Geekery has a nice little article discussing how to remotely destroy data on your laptop should it be stolen. The concept is great, and the use of Perl could easily be replaced by other technologies. I like the idea of taking the machine down and notifying the user that the machine is stolen, in addition to gathering additional info as to the laptop’s whereabouts.

Wireless network-aware homepage

From Mac Geekery comes the wireless network aware homepage

Given a list of trusted SSID’s it will test internet connection and:

1. if connected to a trusted network it will load homepage if connected or display an error if not connected

2. if connected to another network it will display SSID and connection status

3. if not connected to a wireless network, show homepage if internet detected (like ethernet or whatever) else display an offline page

I can’t wait to get me a MacBook Pro so I can try out all of these OS X tricks and tips!

Photon

Photon “is the open source iPhoto plugin that gives you the power to manage your Movable Type™, TypePad™, Blojsom and WordPress photo-blogs in the familiar surrounds of Apple iPhoto.”