- syncing up all my stuff via .mac sure takes time… #
Just got putting Leopard on another system. One of the things I’ve done is give Apple’s very own Mail.app a second chance. Not that I ever gave it a first. The last email client I used was Outlook Express mostly in combination with Hotmail. The only thing it did was create a terrible mess as I tended to travel a lot between computers. Then of course I found Gmail and never looked back.
Gmail really did wonders with it’s innovative conversation threading, integrated search, large storage, and labeling. They also have great capabilities for integrating with other email accounts:
- Fetching email from other POP accounts
- Allowing you to change sender for accounts you have access to
- Automatically, respond to emails fetched other accounts with the same sender as said account.
These features allow you to integrate a variety of accounts into one webmail interface and lets you wear a variety of hats with one convenient account. Of course, there is a gotcha: responding to stuff sent to lists defaults the sender to your main account and some lists bounce emails with smtp servers not matching the sender.
These features all work great and I have no issues per se. I’ve been using Gmail for both work and private seamlessly for months. However, not that Gmail storage is steadily approaching 5GB and just unrolled the much coveted IMAP support I’ve decided to give it a try.
The beauty of IMAP is that mailboxes are all created server-side so accessing an IMAP account from any email client should always be in sync. Of course, this doesn’t make it all that different from webmail since most clients just download headers and fetch messages on an as needed basis.
If these set ups aren’t that different why bother? Even with state-of-the-art web apps such as Gmail (which is undoubtedly one of the best in its class), there will always be a lack of advanced features and productivity boosters compared to desktop clients. A case in point is advanced filters. Although Gmail has a lot of advanced search capabilities and filtering capabilities, these necessarily don’t map to each other cleanly. In other words, you can’t create persistent searches that function as labels such as dynamic date-based filters. You can leverage Mail.app’s advanced filters to create Smart Folders (such as all unreads in the last 7 days) that are extremely fine-grained without cluttering actual folders/labels created by Gmail that serve more as archives.
Desktop clients have the added advantage of being a lot more snappy than web interfaces which is a big advantage when you have to just put your nose to the grindstone and go through a bunch of emails. At the end of the day, having Mail.app properly set up and running occasionally gives you more options without sacrificing the other (especially in the case of Gmail). This point was driven home when I had to access email on my mac but behind a strict firewall that didn’t allow Mail.app to do its thing. If you’ve been using Gmail but couldn’t see the utility of using POP when you had to use several computers (trying to keep things organized the same) then now’s the time to give it a spin.
- a side benefit of Leopard: FireFox seems more stable and starts up/quits smoother. yay #
Now that I’ve had some time to play with Leopard, I can say that I actually like it. I think a lot of the subtle design elements are still a bit unpolished and in flux (like the way they added the ability to make the Dock not shiny at the last minute) and yeah, that transparent MenuBar really needs to go. Transparency is tricky (no interface element’s visibility should be so dependent on whatever’s showing in the background—I had to switch my desktop background to dark grey). It might look great in screenshots but it’s a bastard to use when you actually need to read stuff on your menu. Having said that I often use a transparent terminal window (dark grey background with loud yellow letters) when I actually need to see stuff in the background (like debugging a web app) but those cases are rare. The only other gripe is that a lot of my favorite widgets broke.
OS X (that’s Oh Ess Ten for Windows folk) is really an evolutionary operating system. What we get today with the release of 10.5 will eventually be refined and polished by the time we hit 10.5.9 or so. There are a lot of hints in the design and refinements showing us where Jobs & Co. is headed. One of the things emerging from Leopard is how much Apple is paying attention to flow and productivity. I have no doubt that there are many GTD followers among Apple engineers. For example, Mail.app is becoming more of a GTD command center with integrated ToDo lists and what not. You can sense that with additions like Spaces (to create virtual desktops you can switch back and forth from), the new Finder, and other refinements that a lot of thought went into defining the optimal flow of things.
At the same time it’s hard to give one defining characteristic of Leopard aside from Time Machine. Of course, while Time Machine is very cool and well done, it is after all a backup utility. Not something I’ll be spending most of my time in.
One of the side benefits of Leopard is the new Cocoa API used by third party developers as a platform to create new and wonderful software out of Apple’s reach. One of the apps rumored to showcase Leopard’s under the hood capabilities is Delicious Library 2. Another big one for me is TextMate 2 which supposedly makes use of CoreText (or whatever) API improvements in text-handling (which I’m sure is necessitated by Apple’s extending global reach). We’ll have to see what new and exciting possibilities are offered by the improved API.
I for one would like to see a much more improved GTD stack of some sort. One that integrates well with the myriad of web services out there (Remember the Milk, Google Calendar, etc.). Right now you really have to stitch a bunch of tools together with assorted hacks to cherry pick the best features offered by a variety of services.
The Biggest Feature of All…
One thing that amazes me is that after over a year and a half after switching from Windows to a mac is how much I take for granted. Here I am, with a freshly installed, brand new operating system typing away on a blog and the only disruption I suffered is the one hour it took me to run the upgrade and some of my favorite Dashboard Widgets no longer working. No crashes or lost data. Minor gripes with some interface elements (which I know will get remedied) but aside from that nothing eventful.
Also, the system as a whole runs more stable (Firefox is less problematic for example, another incentive to keep sending those automatic crash reports to Apple) and faster. Maybe that’s the biggest “feature” of all that Redmond cannot reproduce no matter how much they try to keep up with the interface: painless and steady improvement.
This is indeed the painful truth and why despite the so-called “low barriers of entry” that people say about IT, not everyone succeeds.
When to stop living in a fantasy world. Starting with denial…
Pump you up. Makes you wish some of them were photoshopped.
- Looks like the cat has landed, a block away from my house. Only I’m at work… damn package tracking. Going home early fo sho’! #