Nothing is Perfect

You can’t have everything. Nowhere is this clearer than in web based email apps, where try as I might I can’t quite get what I want. It’s been forced home to me again with the new MobileMe beta. This is a whole lot of whinging, but I’ll try to keep it brief and clear.

1. I Want to Drag Stuff

I’d like to be able to move stuff about as if I was, you know, moving it to folders. Which I am. So I don’t think it’s unreasonable. Gmail recently added a way of doing this, but it only works if you grab at a specific, tiny bit of the email. The new MobileMe lets you drag, and perform multiple selections before dragging in exactly the way you’d expect. The reason it can do this, of course, is that it has a preview view.

Google don’t have one of these (unless you’re using an iPad), because apparently they just hate life. I mean, don’t they all use bloody Gmail? HOW HARD WOULD IT BE? Ahem.

2. I Want Rules

The more you do online, the more crummy emails you get. So you sort them, or if you’re clever, you get the app to sort them for you. Gmail calls it “Filters” and has a sizeable amount you can do, based on subject, content, from, etc. And in a clever move, people willing to understand regular expressions can do even more with them.

Still, it could be a bit clearer. An interface more like Apple Mail’s would be nice. So how excited was I when I heard that the MobileMe Mail Beta would have rules? Very. And how disappointed was I when I actually looked at them?

Also very. One criteria per rule, and even worse, while you can filter based on one string within a subject, you have to enter a valid email address if you’re filtering based on From. Yes, that’s right. No, not even if you want to move messages from “Tom Charman” to “Trash” regardless of which of his stupid email addresses he sent it from. And you also can’t use | or anything like that to select multiple possible phrases in the subject.

Hopefully they’re working on this.

3. I Want Folders

I’m looking at you, Gmail. I’m not opposed to tagging emails with “Labels”. It’s a nifty idea. What it isn’t, though, is folders. I don’t want to set up IMAP mail and find that I’ve got bloody 4 copies of an email because I labelled it twice and it’s still in my inbox (you can use the Advanced IMAP controls in Labs to sort some of this out, but I still resent it).

And it leads to mix-ups. I’ve got a conversation in my inbox which I labelled as something. I subsequently received more emails in reply. They all look like they’re labelled appropriately, so I archive them. Are they in fact all labelled right? Not via IMAP they’re not. Pah. This is my housemate’s issue, but allow me to be angry on his behalf.

Until everyone’s email client supports tagging (or until Google take over the world, whichever comes first), “Labels” should be a nifty extra and not a replacement for folders.

4. I Want Threading

Gmail’s pretty awesome in this regard. It kicks the arse of actual, proper desktop Apple Mail as well, which insists on grouping years-apart emails from different people together because they have the same subject heading.

Needless to say, MobileMe isn’t on top of this yet. Baby steps. But if we could all get good threading, we could stop quoting every damn thing in all our emails. And that’d make me feel better. For some reason.

Ahem. That’ll be all for now. In conclusion, I want MobileMe and Gmail to have sexy sexy web-based email babies. If they did, I’d probably stop using a desktop app completely.

(Updated: I did mean to mention that Yahoo!Mail had some of the features I mentioned. But they don’t properly offer IMAP as far as I can see. Maybe. Anyhow, I don’t have one of their emails so I don’t care.)

Tom Charman Mastodon