Apple’s Mail is the worst user experience

2005-11-13 – This is my favourite comment, mainly because the reader so obviously failed to read the post. The user interface for Mail.app is well designed, and very functional. It’s that an application and it’s developers continue to release applications with substandard performance and features. This might be perfectly acceptable if Mail.app was an alpha or beta release, but it is production sofware. Blame the user, always the sign of a great developer, I hope your customers can expect better quality service from you as this post suggests you provide.

Apple Mail is the best user experience, i.e., Mail.app rocks! Not sure what your problem is, but I’m sure it has more to do with you than with the app. I’ve used it since it was introduced. It’s simple to use, uncluttered interface, easy to set up accounts (I have 12 email accounts, and I filter mail into a variety of mailboxes). I archive old email to keep it from consuming too much disk space. There are two kinds of problems. User created, and computer related. No offense, but I think your problem is the former.

2005-11-12 – I disabled my IMAP accounts, this has significantly improved performance. But manually archiving, why can’t someone build a mail system that “automatically” archives my messages (leave me alone, I could write an Automator script to do this in a time based manner, but why should I). If archiving email on a regular basis is required by the software for performance, doesn’t this seem like the responsibility of the developer.

I can’t take it any more, Apple Mail is the worst user experience. It’s not a usefulness problem, it’s not because of errors, it’s not because the UI is ugly, it’s because the performance is so poor that the Mail is absolutely unuseable. It has been a long time since I’ve felt like my 1.25GHz G4 processor and 1Gb of RAM were in adequate. But these feelings often come when I am running something more complex than Mail. If I was running Maya, Shake, even compiling a large code base, I could understand. But Pine runs just fine on my command line, it doesn’t seem to crash. Arrrggggghhhhh!

It looks like this is mostly related to my having a large inbox, i.e., I don’t archive anything, and having multiple IMAP accounts. The performance of this application is so bad, that it is forcing me to switch mail clients, yet again.

I switched to Mail from GMail which I switched to from Thunderbird when I upgraded to 10.4.x. Mainly because of the integration with Address Book and iCal. It may be time to reconsider mail programs for the Mac:

Any recommendations?

66 thoughts on “Apple’s Mail is the worst user experience”

  1. <p>Eudora works fine under X (it is poor with Unicode text); it actively attempts to stop you from doing something stupid; and refuses to choke on my 60,000 or more messages.</p>

  2. <p>I&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;ve never had any speed issues with Mail . . . not in the 3 years I&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;ve been using it (since 10.1). Perhaps something else is to blame?</p>

  3. <p>Maybe try archiving your mail&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&Acirc;&brvbar; ;)</p> <p><br />
    I work for a large company and unfortunately, I run Outlook on a PC at the office. When the mailbox starts getting a few months old [ie. thousands of emails] it starts to hang and bog down].</p> <p><br />
    You clearly already had the answer to your problem in your post David &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' you just need to do it&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&Acirc;&brvbar; archive! Mail runs just awesome for me. Good luck.</p>

  4. <p>I am trying Entourage, Mac Mail and Power Mail. I don&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;t want to cop out and say that there are pros and cons with all of them but it is accurate. Entourage is a good way if you work in a PC centric organization and need a Blackberry synch. Power Mail is very good at blocking and tackling email. Mac Mail while not great is ok but I also seem to get it to &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&Aring;&ldquo;not respond&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;? a little too often for my taste.</p>

  5. <p>At what point (in terms of having a fat inbox) did you start to run into trouble? I have a 1.25 GHz G4 . . .</p>

  6. Eudora works fine under X (it is poor with Unicode text); it actively attempts to stop you from doing something stupid; and refuses to choke on my 60,000 or more messages.

  7. <p>I have an Apple Mail mailbox folder with 13,100 emails in it and it works fine. The folder contains emails from a list server that I subscribe to. When an email comes in it is evaluated by a rule and then sent to the special folder if it is from the list server. I have a 1GHz eMac.</p>

  8. <p>I use entourage (microsoft office)<br /><br />
    for a while and when i got Tiger I dumped it as I found Mail 2.0 with Tiger better.. so I have absoultelt no problems or complaints but hey if you want to try offfice entourage be my quest</p>

  9. <p>Thank you for the article. I wanted to love Mail, but I feel the same way you do. It is possibly the worst &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&Aring;&ldquo;free&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;? application Apple has in their line up. Thanks for the alternative suggestions. I have been considering other options as well. You did the ground work for me.</p>

  10. <p>Gotta agree with you. Mail.app&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s performance is pathetic. No email program should be this slow.</p>

  11. <p>Umm yeah, empty yer inbox. I use the mail app everyday at home and at work. At home I&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;m on a rev A 12&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;? Powerbook 867mhz, no problems. I have 6 different mail accounts and about 20 mailboxes to sort and store things I keep. Do you ever &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&Aring;&ldquo;rebuild&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;? your mailbox? It works and is a big help.</p>

  12. <p>I have close to a Gigabyte mail file and it&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s stable and fast. I think you have a repair issue. I&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;ve honestly not crashed once.</p>

  13. I’ve never had any speed issues with Mail . . . not in the 3 years I’ve been using it (since 10.1). Perhaps something else is to blame?

  14. Maybe try archiving your mail… 😉

    I work for a large company and unfortunately, I run Outlook on a PC at the office. When the mailbox starts getting a few months old [ie. thousands of emails] it starts to hang and bog down].

    You clearly already had the answer to your problem in your post David â€' you just need to do it… archive! Mail runs just awesome for me. Good luck.

  15. I am trying Entourage, Mac Mail and Power Mail. I don’t want to cop out and say that there are pros and cons with all of them but it is accurate. Entourage is a good way if you work in a PC centric organization and need a Blackberry synch. Power Mail is very good at blocking and tackling email. Mac Mail while not great is ok but I also seem to get it to “not respond� a little too often for my taste.

  16. <p>Keep Mail. Ditch the IMAP.</p> <p><br />
    Mail performance problems exist only with certain IMAP accounts. So use a Gmail account with POP access along with Mail, and be happy.</p>

  17. <p>Mail.app works great for me under MacOS 10.4.3. Fast, reliable, works with all of my IMAP accounts now, just great. Was working with Thunderbird, but after the 10.4.3 update, Mail.app has worked like a charm.</p>

  18. <p>I agree about performance. I only use Mail.app when I need secure email, since its certificate handling is actually very good. For performance, I continue to use Eudora (and have for the last 15 years or so), the down side to which is no certificate handling.</p>

  19. I have an Apple Mail mailbox folder with 13,100 emails in it and it works fine. The folder contains emails from a list server that I subscribe to. When an email comes in it is evaluated by a rule and then sent to the special folder if it is from the list server. I have a 1GHz eMac.

  20. I use entourage (microsoft office)
    for a while and when i got Tiger I dumped it as I found Mail 2.0 with Tiger better.. so I have absoultelt no problems or complaints but hey if you want to try offfice entourage be my quest

  21. Thank you for the article. I wanted to love Mail, but I feel the same way you do. It is possibly the worst “free� application Apple has in their line up. Thanks for the alternative suggestions. I have been considering other options as well. You did the ground work for me.

  22. Gotta agree with you. Mail.app’s performance is pathetic. No email program should be this slow.

  23. <p>I had the same thing happen to me &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' I ALSO have a huge inbox.</p> <p><br />
    I fixed it &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' removed some plug-ins AND also deleted preferences AND also fixed a corrupt font &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' check out MacFixit and find help there &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' you are NOT alone &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' many have found help! Good luck &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' I, too, almost chucked the dang thing out&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&Acirc;&brvbar;</p>

  24. Umm yeah, empty yer inbox. I use the mail app everyday at home and at work. At home I’m on a rev A 12� Powerbook 867mhz, no problems. I have 6 different mail accounts and about 20 mailboxes to sort and store things I keep. Do you ever “rebuild� your mailbox? It works and is a big help.

  25. I have close to a Gigabyte mail file and it’s stable and fast. I think you have a repair issue. I’ve honestly not crashed once.

  26. <p>I use Eudora, and haven&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;t discarded much for about five years. Mind you, I do filter things to other mailboxes to keep my inbox relatively uncluttered.<br /><br />
    Works fine except for a performance hit (mostly confined to Eudora itself) when sending mail.</p>

  27. <p>Do you have some extra plug-ins etc. installed with Mail?</p> <p><br />
    I have tens of thousands of messages on three different <br /><br />
    mail accounts, and I haven&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;t had much to complain about Mail.<br /><br />
    (Using a 1,3 GHz iBook G4.)</p> <p><br />
    But my style is to remove messages from the inbox as soon<br /><br />
    as I read them.</p> <p><br />
    One time I tried to use Entourage 2004, but it was no faster and <br /><br />
    had some usability issues compared to Mail. Even spam filtering<br /><br />
    seemed to work better in Mail.</p>

  28. <p>David, Give Apple Mail another chance. Perhaps some maintenance is needed. Try rebuilding your mailboxes, this may solve the speed issues. I am on a PB/G4 with 1.5 GB RAM, my Mailbox is at 7.363 GB and I have nothing but praise for Apple Mail, especially when smart mailboxes are combined with the plug-ins from indev.ca (Mail Tags and Mail Act on)….</p>

  29. Keep Mail. Ditch the IMAP.

    Mail performance problems exist only with certain IMAP accounts. So use a Gmail account with POP access along with Mail, and be happy.

  30. <p>I found that my freeze problems ended when i upgraded to Tiger. Mail&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s interaction with Addressbook keeps me as a user. I use Eudora at work on my XP machine with very good results, but with an IPOP acct. IPOP isn&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;t as good as IMAP, if you use multiple machines.</p>

  31. Mail.app works great for me under MacOS 10.4.3. Fast, reliable, works with all of my IMAP accounts now, just great. Was working with Thunderbird, but after the 10.4.3 update, Mail.app has worked like a charm.

  32. <p>Yes, it&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s commercial software but Entourage is really good. It&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s fast, it&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s logical and also capable. Also you haven&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;t looked at Eudora since 9.x but the OS X version is good, stable but alas not so modern, and you&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;ll have to pay to get rid of advertisements&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&Acirc;&brvbar; I&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;ve tried Thunderbird but it crashes all the time.</p>

  33. I agree about performance. I only use Mail.app when I need secure email, since its certificate handling is actually very good. For performance, I continue to use Eudora (and have for the last 15 years or so), the down side to which is no certificate handling.

  34. <p>Sounds like the root issue is the bulk of your email data. Most email clients that I have used over the years choke after a while. Rather than switching frequently, you might consider adding an archiving process. I use Entourage Email Archive to convert message and attachments to FileMaker Pro format ever since Entourage choked with a 1 GB database file. If you still want to switch again, good luck to you.</p>

  35. <p>Hiya David,</p> <p><br />
    I&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;ve also heard that Apple Mail doesn&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;t play well with IMAP servers. I&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;m not a big fan of proprietary databases (Entourage, Mailsmith) but Entourage might be a better choice for you. Otherwise, the only email app that&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s ever been 100% reliable for me is Eudora.</p> <p><br />
    I too have done some musing on the subject:</p> <p><br />
    <a href="http://tinyurl.com/dpcvx</p&gt; " target="_blank"><a href="http://tinyurl.com/dpcvx</p>&quot; target="_blank">http://tinyurl.com/dpcvx</p></a&gt; </a> <p><br />
    Hope this helps!</p>

  36. I had the same thing happen to me â€' I ALSO have a huge inbox.

    I fixed it â€' removed some plug-ins AND also deleted preferences AND also fixed a corrupt font â€' check out MacFixit and find help there â€' you are NOT alone â€' many have found help! Good luck â€' I, too, almost chucked the dang thing out…

  37. <p>Find out what&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s wrong with your system. <br /><br />
    Mail works just fine on my iMac -and is very snappy, thankyouverymuch. Oh. And it&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s never crashed, either. </p> <p><br />
    In any event, I wouldn&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;t recommend Entourage. Under 10.3 it corrupts attachments -and M$ has sofar been unwilling to address the issue.</p>

  38. <p>I use Eudora because I receive and send a huge volume of email and retain everything relevant to my work. I think I have around 22,000 messages stored, have received nearly 7,000 messages this year, and have sent slightly over 2,000. I use my saved messages as a database to search for information I have received or sent at one time. It is not unusual for me to search my entire database of messages for key phrased many times a day, and Eudora always returns results rapidly.</p> <p><br />
    Eudora may have an aging UI, but no other email program I know of comes close to being able to spritely handle the number of email messages I receive, send, and retain.</p>

  39. <p>You will have the same problem with regardless of what e-mail program you use. The problem is not Apple mail, but rather the way you use it. Mail must be archived on a regular basis &Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;' it&Atilde;&cent;&acirc;&sbquo;&not;&acirc;&bdquo;&cent;s that simple. Keep your inbox and outbox under a couple of hundred megabytes.</p>

  40. I use Eudora, and haven’t discarded much for about five years. Mind you, I do filter things to other mailboxes to keep my inbox relatively uncluttered.
    Works fine except for a performance hit (mostly confined to Eudora itself) when sending mail.

  41. Do you have some extra plug-ins etc. installed with Mail?

    I have tens of thousands of messages on three different
    mail accounts, and I haven’t had much to complain about Mail.
    (Using a 1,3 GHz iBook G4.)

    But my style is to remove messages from the inbox as soon
    as I read them.

    One time I tried to use Entourage 2004, but it was no faster and
    had some usability issues compared to Mail. Even spam filtering
    seemed to work better in Mail.

  42. David, Give Apple Mail another chance. Perhaps some maintenance is needed. Try rebuilding your mailboxes, this may solve the speed issues. I am on a PB/G4 with 1.5 GB RAM, my Mailbox is at 7.363 GB and I have nothing but praise for Apple Mail, especially when smart mailboxes are combined with the plug-ins from indev.ca (Mail Tags and Mail Act on)….

  43. I found that my freeze problems ended when i upgraded to Tiger. Mail’s interaction with Addressbook keeps me as a user. I use Eudora at work on my XP machine with very good results, but with an IPOP acct. IPOP isn’t as good as IMAP, if you use multiple machines.

  44. Yes, it’s commercial software but Entourage is really good. It’s fast, it’s logical and also capable. Also you haven’t looked at Eudora since 9.x but the OS X version is good, stable but alas not so modern, and you’ll have to pay to get rid of advertisements… I’ve tried Thunderbird but it crashes all the time.

  45. <p>Never once had any problems with Mail.app on NeXTSTEP and now Mail on Mac OS X. Going on 11 years of use now. Sorry you feel that way. Best email client on the planet IMHO!</p>

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