The E-mail Client Dance Continues

Published at 09:06 on 12 November 2014

For years I was on Apple Mail. It worked, and its UI was consistent with the rest of the system. I was happy, even though Apple always tinkered with it, and the tinkering inevitably resulted in a UI I liked less than the one before.

Then Apple Mail’s searches just stopped working for me. I tried cleaning out the index files, that fixed things for a while, then broken again, and this time rebuilding the index didn’t help.

So in desperation I cut over to Thunderbird. It wasn’t a cleanly Mac-like, but it did have a main display window more like the classic Apple Mail I knew and loved. And searches worked! I was happy.

Until Thunderbird simply stopped working for one of my e-mail accounts. I could send mail, but new messages simply stopped appearing. This made me miss some important events. I was pissed.

In desperation, I went back to Apple Mail. It’s search function was a broken as ever, which was an annoyance, but at least I reliably received new messages. It worked.

Today I notice one of my inboxes hasn’t had any mail show up in a week or two. Could Apple Mail be broken for it? Indeed, it was. Worse, Apple had broken the configuration part of Apple Mail. It basically forces the most dumbed-down, bland, hyper-defaulted, hyper-normal situation on you, then “intelligently” tries to guess if that’s wrong, and if so gradually asks for more information until it “intelligently” concludes it works. Well, on one account, it was “intelligently” deciding the account was working fine, even though new messages never showed up.

Worse, there’s no way to tinker with all the settings of an account anymore. You’re not supposed to. That’s the job of the “intelligent” Apple Mail client. I tried deleting and re-adding the troublesome account twice (the only way I could figure out how to adjust all settings), to no avail. I gave up.

I notice that Thunderbird has been updated since I dumped it. So I update, and the account that didn’t work previously… now does work again. Whatever Thunderbird bug broke it has apparently been fixed. So change partners again.

Nice to have a more rationally-designed display of incoming messages, but I don’t expect this partner to last, not after doing years of the E-mail Client Dance. I fully expect to change partners again within a year or two.

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