Mail Baggage

To bottom line readers, let me say I have little good to say about iPad Mail. It’s archaic and performs like the family member no one loved well enough to socialize. Carol and I give our foster cats more love and attention, even the ones so traumatized no adopter could possibly love them. My specific complains are these:

  • No spam filters
  • No mail management tools worth mentioning
  • No way to print or export messages
  • One user account

In addition, I cover my ass for remarks made in a previous blog most likely in a manner that will only make things worse, discuss Pavlov and the possibility of telepathy in marriage, and introduce the reader to life in a house devoted to the care of abandoned cats.

Yesterday I made an admittedly gratuitous comment about white women with a mission and emailed the blog to Carol hoping she would proofread it. Carol saw that comment and thought to herself: “How can I show this to my rescue friends? He makes us sound like interfering busy bodies instead of kind women who give our lives to rescuing cats from callous owners who abandon them to die at the shelter.”

Now you can ask yourself, how could I possibly know what Carol was thinking? Those of you who ask that haven’t been living with the same woman for twenty-five years. Here are three (of the many) rules for men in long-term relationships:

  1. A year after you move in together, you are expected to love your partner so deeply you can read instantaneously her every thought and emotion.
  2. After twenty years, you discover you actually can. Behavioral psychologists call this operant conditioning. I recognize that behaviorism is passé in academic circles, but when it comes to women training their men, it’s true. (How do you think Pavlov finally figured out what was happening with his dogs?) If you read their minds, they reward you in ways you may not consciously recognize as rewards. If you don’t read their minds, you go to bed puzzled and not sure what you did to put them in this bad mood.
  3. No matter how hard you learn your lesson, you still won’t be able to read their minds in those moments when failing to do so will get you more trouble than you’ve been in for years.

I also know this is what she was thinking because, after she reviewed the rough draft of this blog, she smiled and said, “I knew you would get it.”

So let me explain myself. First, when I referred to white women on a mission, I should have said, more specifically, white women on a mission regarding their men (and by “their men” I include all males within their circle of influence, which includes spouses and children of friends). Nor do I want to imply this behavior is exclusive to white women. I simply mean that I have never been a target of Black, Hispanic, or Asian women on a mission because I have never been in a long-term relationship with one.

Except, of course, when they were my teachers. The same dynamic applies to women teachers on a mission regarding specific students, only the consequences are worse because women can leave you; teachers can fail you.

This being said, the Siamese Rescue women’s mission toward cats is admirable. I can’t tell you how proud of Carol I became when she rescued our first cat Pumpkin, and then the kittens Ching Meow (fans of Hong Kong Cinema can easily guess which of us named her) and Kwan Yin, and then the polydactyl kitten Jenny Manytoes (who we since adopted). And that pride returns every time I walk into a room and have to lift a calico off the laptop, a snowshoe off my open book where’s she’s most likely chewing the page corners, and nudge a flame point away from the cream in my coffee.

When I step around the tabby under my feet only to trip over the seal point right behind my heels, or wake up at three in the morning with three cats piled on top of my trick knee, I can no longer even imagine how miserable my life before fostering when there were just two of us and a Balinese. When Carol shows me the list of six cats we found adopters for last month at the same time hiding behind her back the list of nine cats we rescued, I feel a deep sense of oneness with the world.

At this point, you may be asking yourself, why the hell am I reading this? I want to read about the iPad, I don’t want to wade through his family and foster baggage.

I brought up the subject of baggage because iPad Mail has plenty of baggage of it’s own. In fact, it has a surprising amount of baggage for a program that does so little beyond sending and receiving mail.

I opened iPad mail this morning, as usual, and watched more than fifty emails load into my inbox. Fifty that arrived since I cleaned forty out of my inbox at 2 am. Every one of them was spam. On my old mail program, before I switched to Macintosh Mail out of Mac loyalty, I could add dozens of phrases to my scan list to filter out spam. Macintosh Mail took a more user friendly, and far less effective approach. I got to train the app by identifying each new piece of junk mail as it arrived. It wasn’t quite as effective as my old email, but the trade off for other features made the switch worth it.

How good is iPad mail at screening spam? Quite the contrary,…

iPad Mail has a love love relationship with spam

That’s right. iPad mail is just like iPhone mail; it never meets an email it doesn’t welcome into the bedroom. It’s like the guy you know who can’t discriminate between decent women and users, so he’ll date anyone who goes out with him.

Back when the iPhone was in OS 2, I didn’t give this a second thought. I learned to check my email on my laptop before going anywhere with my iPhone. That way, if I had to check email, most of the crap had been screened out at home. The problem is, this is my iPad, the machine Steve Jobs believes will replace home computers. Now I use it more than my laptop.

Fortunately, I’m a hermit. Other than Carol, there aren’t that many people I talk to. So I don’t need to check my email constantly (unless, of course, this blog becomes hugely popular and I have to respond to hundreds of fans a day). But for Carol, who has to deal with a new cat being surrendered to the pound about every half-hour, spam free email is critical. As, I suspect it will be for any number of professionals who want to take their offices on the road without carting around backpacks full of laptops and accessories.

But that’s not the only shortcoming of iPhone/iPad Mail. The biggest shortcoming is that it’s little more an email reading and sending program. And take a half hour to bulk delete your spam one at a time program. That’s it. Mail programs long ago ceased to be about email and evolved into programs that offered email management.

This fact highlights the real weaknesses of iPhone mail:

No mail management tools

None. Zip. Nada.

You’d think it would. Mail is very deceptive about that fact. In fact, there is an icon that allows you to move mail to different folders. Sounds useful until you realize Mail only has three folders–your inbox, sent mail, and trash.

Now clearly, you’re not going to move mail from your inbox to sent mail (you could, but it defeats the purpose of distinguishing mail you sent from mail you received). And you’re not going to move mail from sent mail to inbox. So the only reason you would have to move mail to another folder is to send it to the trash. But that’s what the delete option does. Perhaps you want to move mail back from your trash to its original folder. Wouldn’t a simple “restore” button do just as well (and be far less deceptive)?

What mail needs to do is to let you create at least one additional folder to store documents you want to keep. This will spare you the irritation of deleting an email you really need to keep because you’re in a hurry to clean all that spam out of your mailbox (which has happened to me). Yes, I could go back to the trash and search for that email, but it would be so much more convenient to have at least a storage folder.

The ability to create and manage folders like Macintosh Mail would really be useful. But I would settle for even a fourth folder for emails I want to keep.

Or, Apple could add a “Save as Draft” feature and make life easier.

No way to save mail as an external file, or even to print it

Users frequently find it necessary to export an email to a file or to print it. Apple does provide options for this:

  • Copy and paste the entire email and save the pasted document as a file
  • Open the document in your home computer mail account and print it from there. (This may be why Apple doesn’t allow you to remove your files from your server on the iPad.)

I guess that makes sense. Apple never intended for you to do anything but check your mail on your iPad (which makes a little bit of sense with the iPhone). But, if that’s the case, why bother to put Mail on your iPad at all. You can access Mail on your iPhone. After all, you wouldn’t have an iPad if you didn’t already own an iPhone, right?

One account per family

Since Carol and I have our own iPhones, it never dawned on me to think about making our email accounts active on each others’ devices. In fact, it never dawned on me to share accounts on the iPad. I don’t have lots of gorgeous young coeds sending me racy emails with pictures attached, but I certainly don’t want to have that awkward discussion should Carol share my email before I have a chance to delete it and mark it as spam. Oh, wait, I can’t mark it as spam. So I can’t even tell her it was spam because I have no spam filter to prove it.

This is the first complaint about the iPad I heard from other owners. And it makes sense. The iPhone is cheap enough for the adults at least have their own devices.* But at $650 most families will stick to one device for the foreseeable future. (I’m listing the real price as $650 because there’s no reason not to get the 3G model now that it’s out there.)

Family members will want to check their own email accounts. Now Apple does let users have one PoP, one Yahoo, one Google account, etc. But most couples have two accounts with those companies as well.

An update on “Save as Draft” (8 June 2010)

When I originally posted this blog, I complained that iPad Mail had no way to dave drafts. I discovered, totally by accident that I am wrong. Did I feel stupid. But then I checked the iPad user guide and a couple of other sources and found no mention of it. So I don’t feel so stupid.

Wouldn’t you know it? Today I was composing a draft and clicked the “cancel” button (which I could have sworn I’d done before) and Mail allowed me to save the draft. I couldn’t see the draft until all the mail in my outbox was delivered, but it was there.

Let’s face it. Apple seems to have shuffled mail to the back burner of development to focus on the glamour apps like Safari and Video. Everything about iPad Mail makes me feel I’m hanging out with the foster kid taken on after his drunk mother ran off with the mailman, and not like I’m sitting in the presence of a valued family member. The interface is a shabby hand me down and the features doesn’t seem to get any respect or attention.

Mail hasn’t seen a single substantive change since 2.0. That’s ridiculous. Mail should be the heart of a mobile device. No one has time to manage accounts on multiple devices, or, at least, manage them well.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable. I’ve already downloaded at least one third party app that allows me to save files from my inbox to a folder, and to delete mail from my server. I will review it at a future date, but everything about it feels like Windows (i.e., it’s plain, unexciting and reasonably functional). And if Windows developers can port those features over, Apple should be able to hire someone to do so as well.

Don’t count on much improvement with Mail for OS4. The only promised feature upgrades I see are:

  1. the ability to see the inboxes from multiple accounts at the same time and treat them as though they were one account, and
  2. The ability to see threaded messages.

It’s a slight improvement, but probably at the bottom of my features list. In fact, when I mapped out my list of shortcomings, these didn’t even make the long list. You know what, Apple? I would give up all the cool text and GUI features for basic mail management that our home computers delivered a decade ago.

Mr. Jobs, the iPad isn’t a big iPhone. Isn’t that what you’ve been telling us? Isn’t that why we would spend $200 plus service contract to buy an iPhone and another $650 plus service contract for an iPad 3G? Trust me, no one wants to spend three times as much for the same stripped down model that just looks bigger. When I open Mail, however, it feels like that’s what you sold me.

*At least it was cheap enough before everybody lost their jobs. The iPhone may become a one per family device if things don’t turn around.

Jenny rates iPad Mail

Jenny Manytoes would cover this app in the litter box as quickly as possible.

The Jenny Manytoes Rating System

Jenny Manytoes, our polydactyl cat
  • When Jenny makes biscuits on a product she thinks she’s in heaven.
  • When Jenny purrs over a product she’s very happy.
  • When Jenny naps next to a product it’s okay with her.
  • When Jenny bunches her tail she can live with a product, but she’d like something else.
  • When Jenny leaves it in the litter box….I don’t think I need to explain this one.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


About Phillip T Stephens

Phillip T. Stephens disappeared into the Bermuda Triangle twenty years before he was born, creating a time travel paradox so confusing it remains unspoken between physicists and sci-fi writers to this day. Follow @stephens_pt
This entry was posted in Apple Apps, iPad, Utilities and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Mail Baggage

  1. Barbara Young says:

    Hi Phillip,
    I found this post while I was searching for “iPad leave mail on server.” You said “This may be why Apple doesn’t allow you to remove your files from your server on the iPad.” I’m having the opposite problem. When I delete e-mails on my iPad, they are deleted from the server and don’t show up when I check mail on my Mac. I’d prefer to delete the e-mail I read from my iPad but still have them delivered to my Mac for saving to various folders. Currently I have to think like this: “Okay, I’ve read this e-mail from my husband, but I have to keep it on my iPad until I can download it on my Mac so that I can save it there, then delete it from my iPad.” I can’t find any “leave on server” setting in iPad’s mail settings. I’m using my ISP’s mail server, not an online account like Gmail. I’ve got a wifi-only iPad, if that makes a difference.

    • Thanks for your comment. I much prefer dialogue to monologue.

      Honestly, iPad mail’s settings are confusing, weird and inconsistent.

      After I wrote this I spent a long time on the phone with the Apple Genius and still haven’t found a consistent solution.

      Here is how it’s supposed to work:

      In the settings for mail, choose your account and then find the “advanced” option.

      There are two categories: “deleted messages” and “incoming server”

      You actually want to go to the second, incoming server, where you will see “delete from server”.

      You can choose never, seven days, or when removed from inbox.

      Theoretically, your settings will probably be when removed from inbox. You should change this to seven days or never.

      Hopefully that will fix your problem.

      In my case, I chose when removed from inbox and those suckers still don’t leave. So I make no promises that this will fix your problem either.

      But keep your fingers crossed and it should. And remember that Apple genius is supposed to give you 90 days free phone support even if you don’t buy Apple Care (for two years if you do). Maybe they can help you if thnis doesn’t, or, if enough people call they will finally admit the software isn’t working right and fix it.

      Hope this helps.

  2. Barbara Young says:

    Hi Phillip.

    I changed my iPad’s mail settings to Deleted Messages > Remove > Never, the messages I delete on the iPad don’t appear in my Mac Mail. On my iPhone, I could delete every e-mail I get and they’ll still show up on my Mac. I guess I’ll just have to remember not to delete anything on my iPad that I want to keep.

    Thanks for your suggestions. I’ve added your blog to my iGoogle, so you may hear from me again.


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