In my last post I introduced my use of Macs as a daily driver in the Enterprise Desktop space. Then I went on vacation for one and a half weeks.
Like anyone else these days, that meant my email was piling up, and when you return to a full inbox, the foibles of your email client really start to matter. I have spent the last 12 work hours in email dealing with the backlog.
It would have been worse, except my Linux system (Fedora 16, Evolution 3.2.3, using EWS to access the email) was dutifully running a large set of rules cleaning up my inbox, filtering out all the various mailing lists and a good bit of other stuff. Still, over 1000 emails were there to be looked at.
When I use my personal Macbook Air, I do not use mail.app. Not because it is bad, but because all my personal email is on the web in various places, and the web browser is fine to deal with it. Chrome in my case, but Firefox , Opera, Camino, or Safari would all work fine. At the office that is not so optimal. We have MS Exchange 2007, and its web interface is OK for one-off usages, but plowing that much email would be torturous. I hear MS Exchange fixes that in the 2010 or 2012 version. It needs fixing. I am not going to load up and run IE on the Mac just for webmail to be more workable.
No Webmail means needing to run a native email application though, and here the native Mac mail.app nearly gets the job done. It understands the remote access protocols of MS Exchange, and can use them to download all your email, calendaring, and related things, and operate in native ways that are comfortable to Mac users. Email is in the mail.app. Notes are here too, in a folder called "Notes". Calendar is over in iCal.app.
Some nice things about the mail.app are that its very good Junk email filtering is layered on top of whatever the company is doing. The mesage threading (Organize by Conversation) is pretty nice. Cut and paste and other GUI elements work very well. The attachment preview function very useful. Overall there are only two reasons I do not use it at work:
- There is a bug in marking a message I have read as read. It is random, but shows up on long threads fairly often. I assume this will get fixed someday, but till then it is great, when reading so many emails, to keep re-reading the same ones because it is still marked as 'unread'
- The big one is that there is a weirdly missing feature: I can not filter the inbox to only have unread emails shown.
So, I can sort unreads to the top, but that is not the same thing as only seeing unread messages, especially in threaded conversations. This is especially odd given all the things I can do with Spotlight elsewhere on the Mac.
Its annoying enough that I use Outlook 2011 instead when there is major email work to process.
How weird is that? if Evolution worked on a Mac, i would use that instead I suppose, since I like Evolution well enough, but without that option the best mass-mail cruncher on the Mac for me is Outlook. Here is the key feature:
That one silly thing (Unread Filter) makes all the difference to me, and the way that I want to process 1000 emails in my huge inbox.
Outlook 2011 on the Mac is not the same animal as Outlook 2007 or 2010 under MS Windows. It is mac'ified. The people at MS that wrote it blended the Mac look and feel with a major subset of the MS Windows product. It does not do everything quite the same. Part of that is likley that, under the covers, Outlook 2011 uses the same EWS remote access protocols as Evolution. MAPI and all its related RPC's were not ported to the Mac.
Outlook 2011 does not look the same or act the same as Outlook for MS Windows. That is both a good thing and occasionally a bad one. If you are used to the Mac way of doing things, it is not a leap. If you are coming over from MS Windows though, Outlook 2011 is not a direct plug-in replacement for Outlook on MS Windows. Once you learn the way of the Mac, it is easy to use, but many of the people I know with new-to-them-Macs here struggle with that particular learning curve more than anything else about the Mac.
Chrome is Chrome. Firefox is Firefox. Outlook is not Outlook.
There are of course other options. DavMail for example can be set up. it is developed on a Mac I believe. With that, you can run Mozilla Thunderbird and proxy it to your MS Exchange server. EWS even works, so MS Exchange 2007 and 2010 are supportable. The Calendar can be proxied into iCal.app by DavMail as well. I have played with this a few times, and would use that if I did not have Outlook 2011 as an option, because Thunderbird lets me filter by unread status. I know, I know: Really pounding on that one...
If calendaring is not critical to you, then you can toss the EWS part of it all, and use IMAP to access MS Exchange instead. Then most any email client is available.