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Bug Report Friday: Threading in Mail

418 words on

I’m a bit cheating today as I haven’t really filed this problem with Apple yet as I’ll have to make an effort to find words which are both sufficiently polite and calling attention to the problem.

The problem itself is a problem of Mail. It could be thought of a problem of localisation, but it can also be thought of as a problem of bad design. Probably anyone who is using Mail and the ‘threading’ feature that was introduced in X.3 will have seen related effects: Namely, that the ‘threading’ feature sucks. On the one hand it seems to match subject lines and/or authors, thus potentially grouping together messages which don’t belong together. On the other hand it doesn’t even make an effort to group things together which are clearly in the same thread of conversation by the IDs of their In-Reply-To headers.

In many cases you won’t see these problems as subject lines tend to stay the same but in non-English situations and the not-quite-uncommon situation that you communicate with people who have to use Outlook for their e-mail, you’ll get in trouble. The German version of Outlook, for example, likes to change a subject ‘X’ of a message to ‘AW: X’ when you’re replying to it. Just like any other mail program would change it to ‘Re: X’. And the short story here is that this causes Mail to not recognise that these messages are related because of the unusual string.

The long story is more complex. I could tell that the Mail team actually seems to be clueful enough to have localisable versions of these strings but consciously decided to not replace the ‘Re’ by anything localised exactly to avoid such problems. Nice one… but it still fails in the situation where this problem is caused by another common product. Together this brings me a situation where Mail utterly fails to do what it claims to do but where it’s difficult to be upset as the Mail team has shown (to those who are looking) partial cluefulness and the main blame, i.e. using ‘AW’ in the first place, is with Microsoft anyway. On the other hand: If Mail did a proper analysis of the message headers which follows references for more than a single step, the junk in the subject line wouldn’t matter anyway.

So what kind of bug / problem / feature is this? How should it be filed? There are so many facts, known and unknown, in this that I have no idea.

September 23, 2005, 1:32

Tagged as bug.


Comment by hillbilly: User icon


Nice forum design. Okay, I need your help. So, I wanna make online-store, and I am looking for site template. Can you suggest some online store or other resource where I can find many site templates?

It would be better if it will be free:) I think many of us have personal sites, do you design it yourself?

Thx, Bill.

January 9, 2007, 3:42

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