Quarter Life Crisis

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Mail preferences

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I have been using Apple’s Mail for ages. It may not be the best Mail application around and ever since Apple decided to both remove its convenient mailbox drawer and to give it a severely broken toolbar with their X.4 update it even requires patching just to make sure I don’t have to puke over my keyboard just for reading my e-mail. But still it can do simple things like know all my addresses, do half-assed spam filtering, search my e-mails, encrypt my e-mails, store a number of signatures for my e-mails and fetch and send stuff through encrypted connections. So it’s getting the job done as well as the other mail applications would.

But one thing kept annoying me about Mail for the past years: the fact that it automatically sets the sender address for new messages based on the message that is currently selected in your inbox. And of course occasionally I’d forget about that (which is particularly hard as Apple decided to make the popup menu with the active account so narrow that you can’t actually read the relevant information in that popup menu – i.e. the associated e-mail address – if your window width is a sane one.

Recently I mentioned this problem to Dan Wood – who within seconds pointed out that there is a preference to set the default sender address. This is a preference that just improved my e-mailing life considerably (and that of the people unfortunate enough to receive e-mails from me – as messages will come from more reliable addresses). But how could this happen? Haven’t I been in that preference pane dozens of times in the past years? Haven’t I looked at that very option in the search for a solution to my problem? Of course I had. But I didn’t see it. Why? Bad terminology I’d say – and my unwillingness to click UI items which look irrelevant for my purposes ‘just in case’ (which should make it clear immediately to the inclined reader that I’m completely lost when having to use Windows).

The relevant preference lives in the ‘Composing’ tab of Mail’s preferences and looks like this in its default state:

Preference reading: 'Send new mail from:' followed by a popup menu with the default selection ' Account of last viewed mailbox'

So what are we seeing here? An option to set the account that new mails are sent from. And a default choice of ‘Account of last viewed mailbox’ for that. So what does that look like? Right, like a feature for people who are using several accounts. But that’s not me. To simplify things, I’m essentially forwarding all the messages from my various accounts to a single place and I’m just querying that one (and the other ones just need to exist because apparently you need to set up a whole account for Mail to be able to use different sender addresses – Update: this isn’t true!). So all the messages I have in my inbox already live in a single account. And if Mail just used the address associated to that account, everything would be nice and dandy.

But for some reason it doesn’t. Rather than looking at the account which actually received the message and stores it as the text suggests, Mail seems to extrapolate the ‘relevant’ account from the ‘To:’ address of the currently received message. And thus I ended up with the impression that Mail just does some strange selection of sender address/account.

Fixing this probably has been no more than three mouse clicks (for us old-fashioned people who keep the mouse button pressed while navigating menus) away for years I guess. And only now I discovered it. So big cheers to Dan for that hint…

December 5, 2006, 0:26

Tagged as Mac OS X.


Comment by Gregory: User icon

Actually, you don’t really need to set up multiple accounts in Mail if everything is forwarded to and collected from a single account.

To add additional “From” addresses to an account, add them as a comma-seperated list in the “Email Address” field for the account you configure in Mail.

Then, you only have a single account configured in Mail, but can still send from your choice of multiple addresses using that account. By default, Mail will use the first email address in the list.

Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I found this tip (either macosxhints.com or hawkwings.net) but it’s proven useful.

December 5, 2006, 18:21

Comment by ssp: User icon

Thanks for the hint Gregory (and Steffen who told me the same via AIM at the same time.) Steffen discovered this Mail’s help, btw.

I just finished dumping all the superfluous accounts I had accumulated over the years and things are looking good. Great feature, yet a bit hard to discover.


December 5, 2006, 18:25

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