Nov 112009

Gah, I sit in front of my machine swearing a lot. I try to sort my last 3 weeks mail looking for tasks I might have forgotten or not. It is a pain – so much noise: ongoing conversations about tasks not related to me, loads of mails with attachments such as signature images – a couple of times forwarded, wrong combined threads, no related sent mails, some mails seem to be disappeared. Why is it so difficult to get a satisfying solution serving all my requirements when it comes to mail management? I am not greedy!

What I want:

Can deal with IMAP

  • show all folders w/o subscribing them
  • immeadiately show new mails
  • allow to create new folders in frontend

Viewing mails

  • can be configured by folder
  • turn off / on by desire
  • allow to split threads
  • hiding mails in threads (full / consolidated view)
  • thread contain also sent mails


  • easy UI for tagging mails (instead of folders) – such as project name
  • rule based tagging
  • different flags such as todo, read it later, follow up by <date>
  • allows to watch threads (favourite settings)
  • prioritize income mail (to split between helpful / important mail and random muttering) – I don’t care which priority is set by the sender. I want to configure the level of importance to me.
  • allow commenting of mails
  • get reference to a specific mail (a file system link which can be used in a to do management tool) – I don’t want to get a mail client with it’s own to-do management system, i want to combine it with my existing system. not every mail causes an todo, not every todo is related to a mail.

Received mails

  • preview without formatting
  • switch between show mail as text or with original formatting
  • hide attached

Searching mails

  • no form for search but pseudo language similar to what google offers
  • fuzzy search – such as ‘ad hoc’ returns ‘adhoc’, ‘ad-hoc’, ‘ad hoc’ etc.
  • search result can be saved as link
  • mass change on found mail (such as category)
  • being intelligent enough to define multiple forwarded mails with the same content as one hit.

Sending mails

  • multiple signatures configurable
  • signature based on rules – depending on the recipient (containing pattern), if replied / forwarded / new mail etc.
  • add tags, flags and follow up configuration if necessary – without popping into 4 windows
  • on click send as text / formatted
  • attachments upload in background
  • mail as attachment can be chosen as well (yes, sometimes this is required!)
  • forwarding: detect and ignore images in signatures automatically

Additional features:

  • fast, intuitive, basic UI – no features, no advertisements, no additional functionality i don’t need.
  • runs on mac, windows and in the internet
  • can deal with 10K+ mails
  • nice address book management: identifying major information e. g. from email footers
  • tbc :)

Why not:

  • Gmail: lots of my requirements can be solved by GMail. But, alas! I might be identified as spam due to the way how external email addresses are handled. I worked around my requirements quite a bit to get them solved with GMail it slows it down and breaks it on every other browser.
  • Mac Mail on Zimbra: this is my current solution and just makes me swear – a lot. Mac Mail doesn’t load mails immediately, threading doesn’t work as desired. Finding mails is impossible. It randomly sorts mails in different folders – for unknown reason there are tw sent folders and I don’t see a pattern which mail gets sorted into which folder by which condition. I suspect mac mail also either hiding or deleting messages as there has been more then once the situation about ‘I knew I got that mail but I don’t find it’.
  • Zimbra Desktop client: no! it is heavy, ugly and not intuitive to use, it needs too many clicks to get to a specific result, the UI is not configurable, the Mac ingtegration (address book, calendar) doesn’t work properly, it has a huge Yahoo search button which I every so often hit accidentally when I want to search for mails. The search UI is crap.

I haven’t tried anything else yet. I used Outlook quite a bit, it’s similar to GMail: it solves half of my requirements. Entourage I didn’t try at all after my desperation earlier this year.

Why is it so important?

  • working in a company which is spread around the world email is a key communication channel. easy access to the information is important.
  • I get about 100 new mails a day – some directly to me, some interesting in mailing lists and some other to mailing lists I don’t need to follow up.
  • I hate being inefficient by manually (!) searching for mails, browsing through noise to find something specific.

What next?

Feel free to recommend work flows, tools, mail clients etc. I am happy to learn.

Popularity: 1% [?]

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Oct 112009

Still struggeling getting my Samsung SyncMaster P2370 working via DVI on a MacBook Pro. I just came across this article, a guy named Justin Ball had the same issue like I have: an external monitor doesn’t get recognized when connected via DVI. The DVI cable shipped with my monitor is a single DVI cable. Today I got a dual link DVI cable … and guess what it still doesn’t work :(

Right now I tried a Dell XPS 1730 running on Vista connected via DVI, my old MacBook being connected via Mini DVI to DVI and my MacBook Pro – both DVI cables single link DVI and dual link DVI didn’t work. I’ve spent now about 60 Euros on extras and still don’t have a working system. It’s so disappointing. All try-outs had in common that the screen kept being black. Although the MacBook at least recognized that there was a screen attached it didn’t bother to show anything.

Google doesn’t help at all this time, i found a few resources but none of them helped. So I don’t know if it is related to the monitor or to the cables, especially as the DVI to VGA cable is working… These following posts contain similar problems:

Now I am being totally confused and wonder why all our hardware (some MacBooks, a Lenovo, a Dell and another PC running Vista, XP and Mac OS Tiger and Leopard) refused to work with the monitor. WTF?

Current status:
I gave up and reconnected the VGA cable again :(

Popularity: 2% [?]

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Sep 232009

Since about 2 weeks I have the macbook pro. I’ve set it up and I am quite happy with it. I’m a bit annoyed with the ambient light sensor which is always useful except a source of light is directly behind you and you are moving. a fix was a post-it-note away. what really bothers me is finding a proper mail client.

These are my preconditions: It’s a Zimbra mailbox which I can access via IMAP. The connection is SSL secured. In my mailbox I’ve created quite a lot folders to organize my stuff. In total I have about 50+ folders stored in a tree with maximum 4 levels. In total there are about 4000+ mails with a size of about 1.4 GB. There are a filters pre-sorting my mails in different folders.

What I wan to get:

  • receive and send Zimbra mails via IMAP or connector instantly
  • notification about new mails ideally integrated in growl. I want to decide on my own if I’m going to ignore a mail or not.
  • configure if unread or read count or both are shown
  • add, move and remove IMAP folders
  • manage several signatures

I suppose my basic issues are simply the size of the mailbox and the fact that folders in IMAP aren’t a well documented feature. I’ve tried a few mail programs and now I am nothing but frustrated.

What I tried so far:

  • Microsoft Entourage: To be honest I was quite happy with Outlook on Windows. So Microsoft Entourage seemed to be a good choice. As Outlook gets a proper Zimbra connector on Windows I expected Entourage running fine on Mac OS, too. Unfortunately there is no similar connector and so the access happens via IMAP. In result of that my folders don’t get displayed properly: sometimes sub folders were missing and after loading a few folders I couldn’t add more. I removed and added the mailbox again but couldn’t fix that behavior. I gave up on Entourage.
  • Mac seemed to be the logical choice. It comes with Mac OS, is highly integrated etc. I setup the mail server, all folders got loaded and I was glad. Then it took me a while to find out how to turn on the threaded view of mails. So I started using the application and learned to love it. The only annoying thing is that my outgoing mail server occasionally gets marked as offline. It happened in the beginning once or twice a day and it was easy to fix with re-adding the outgoing mail server. Since yesterday it doesn’t work at all any more. No matter what I’m doing 90% of my mails don’t get send. I don’t see a pattern what occurs this behavior and I don’t know how to work around. There are several forum entries but none of them helped me so far. As I can’t rely on the program sending my mails properly and as I keep forgetting checking if the send mail did indeed what it is supposed to do I looked for other alternatives. Btw, a bit annoying I found that I can’t create IMAP folders, too.
  • Thunderbird: yeah.. I don’t like it. I have used it quite a long time but for some reasons I just stopped using it. Nothing particular caused that. I gave it a try with my Zimbra mailbox. It failed and I uninstalled it. I could manually add my IMAP folders. Realizing that the name of a folder has to be unique made Thunderbird for me unusable too.
  • Claws Mail: installed via macports (which should indicate where the nerdy hint came from) it seemed to be quite nice. I liked the UI, it loaded all my folders. It had a nice statistic about read and unread counts. Claws mail had potential to be loved. But alas as it is a linux port it isn’t integrated into Mac OS properly and so i didn’t get notified about new mail. Which is a fail. Additionally the sync with Zimbra took too long whenever I clicked into a folder it got reloaded and sync’d with the mailbox which takes a while if you have 1000+ mails in a folder.
  • Zimbra Desktop: I finally gave up and installed it. I hate it. I’ve used it before and from my point of view it is just crap. Again nothing particular. I just don’t like the UI and the way how it needs to be configured. I’ve set it up 2 h ago and it is still synchronizing. I got since then a few new mails where I didn’t got notified about. This might be related to that it is still sync’ing. I’ve used it to answer mails. It can send them but in the writing panel there is no cursor for some reasons.
  • Zimbra web front end: All the hassle because I don’t want to use it, because I want to have an offline access to my mails. I want to get notified by more than a blinking tab. I want to have a UI that is simple, not having loads of toolbars with loads of buttons and loads of functions. And I particularly hate the color scheme they are using.

Right now I’m frustrated and have a couple of programs opened, none of them satisfies me. Mac would be my first choice if I could send mails. Entourage seems to be nice, too. Also Claws mail I would give a choice if it would work for me. Thunderbird and Zimbra desktop just reflect my level of desparation. As of now it seems to me I’m going to spend my time on finding a proper solution.

Some other Zimbra-features I am using are:

  • Calendar: I’m happy about the calDav feature: maintaining my calendar and accessing other calendars works as smoothly as stable. 
  • Contacts: I’m not happy about the directory integration. Although I was following this article I still can’t access the global address book. I think this might probably be a matter of time and a bit more patience from my side.

Popularity: 1% [?]

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