Apple Mail Searching: Still Broken

It’s pretty pathetic. It was back in 2013 that I gave up on Apple Mail, in part because its searching function had gotten more and more broken as the years passed.

The other day I had a chance to use Apple Mail, mainly because while searching works OK in Thunderbird, printing is broken. Well, it works fine if you think it’s acceptable to waste a page of paper printing every damn header in your message in a ridiculously small font.

Really, now: just what’s their problem? It’s a trivial operation to filter out all but the most significant headers before printing. Do most people care about seeing every relay hop the message went through, and its antispam heuristics? No, of course not; most of us just want the message body and a few of the most important headers (time stamp, subject, origination address, and destination address, primarily). Make that the default and have the option of also printing with full headers. Is that so hard?

But I digress. I wanted to print a message without all that extra header crap so decided to print it from Apple Mail. Of course, that meant finding it. No problem: it contained some pretty unique keywords; searching should uncover it in a snap. No dice.

Again: Just what’s their problem? It’s not as if searching for a substring in a file is that difficult a problem to code. Is there some “intelligent” indexing at work? Is there a “smart” search heuristic deciding that my keyword isn’t “important” enough to merit reporting as a match? Who knows, but it’s enough to keep me away from Apple Mail for another five years.

I’ll point out that even Thunderbird is somewhat broken when it comes to searching. The default search function is one of those useless “smart” searches that is always hiding messages because it decides they are not “relevant” enough to match (even though they do). Thankfully, Thunderbird has a Quick Filter option that has a good old-fashioned plain vanilla search. No stupid indexing or “smart” heuristic to get in the way.

Really, if I can remember an unusual keyword or two, I should be able to use it to find a message. Anything that gets in the way of this is a huge step backwards. Come the revolution, software developers who make “smart” searches the only possible option get the guillotine.  They will not be missed.

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