You've definitely got mail

This one won’t follow the recent trends of people who’ve been writing about Gmail. Apologies for the back-to-back Mac posts, but I’m finding my situation interesting enough that everyone could probably share in both its humor and its pity. Enjoy.

Prior to last year, I’d been an old-school Eudora user for a very long time, on both Windows and Mac. That’s the email client the HotWired IT department installed for Mac users in 1996. I just kept using it, and never tried anything else. When I switched back to the Mac last year, I decided to start anew with email and to give Apple’s a good try. (I won’t go into issues with the name, others have already covered the topic, but I will refer to the application as simply “Mail”, with a capital M, from here on out.) Unbeknownst to me, I somehow ended up importing seven years worth of email into Mail, with no idea how many messages that actually represented.

For the most part, I think Mail is fine, and I’ve continued to use it. Although I wish Apple would iterate versions of it a little faster, and provide more a robust feature set (which I’d gladly pay for if need be). But overall, as a free app provided with Max OS X, it’s worked well enough for me since the switch, and I have no desire to try other Mac desktop email clients at this time.

The biggest annoyance appeared when first switching over to Mail. Every time I clicked on a new mailbox for the first time, Mail would suddenly scan and index that folder, then report every message in that mailbox as unread. After using it for a couple days, and successfully correcting all my read messages in my most frequently used mailboxes, my “unread messages count” went back to normal.

One piece of background information before I get to the punch line: For non-Mac users, or those who haven’t ever used Mail, by default, Mail will add a small red burst to the dock icon whenever it knows unread messages are sitting in any of your mailboxes. Inside the burst, a count of the unread messages appears (if you have dock icons sized large enough to read the number, or have magnification turned on when mousing over the dock). [Apple's Mail icon, showing a count of 44 unread messages.] Among other available apps, plugins, and patches, it’s one of the convenient ways of knowing when you have new mail, and how much of it you have. So if you have 44 unread messages, the dock icon looks something like this image. When no unread messages exist, the little red burst disappears from the Mail icon.

This afternoon, I was reminded of the way Mail can suddenly “discover” unread messages in mailboxes it has never indexed. I was trying to find an old email message from someone specific, but it wasn’t showing up in the usual places I expected. I had never done a global search throughout all of Mail, but it didn’t take long to find the drop-down modifier within the search box to select the option to search “In All Mailboxes”.

Allow the following screenshot of my dock, its magnified (and unaltered) Mail icon, and my current unread messages count serve as a gentle warning to any of you who might find yourself in a similar situation with an urge to do a global search through [what is now] eight years of email. The global search forced Mail to index every mailbox and every message in my entire archive, which enabled it to suddenly discover all kinds of new unread messages it didn’t even know existed before today.

[Screenshot of my current dock and Apple's Mail icon, showing a count of 27,385 unread messages.]

Hmph. To say that I’m buried under a load of unread email right now… that’d be an understatement.