Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Dear Apple Mail, log in and stay logged in!

On the whole, Apple Mail does a pretty reasonable job as a GUI-based mail client. It's not great, but then all mail clients suck. I use it to read mail stored remotely on my IMAP server. What I do find inexplicable is the "Go Online" and "Go Offline" pseudo-features found under the "Mailbox" menu. It's not so much that they are there, though I personally can't conceive of a use for them (I want my mail client to log into the server, and stay logged in until I close it down or the network disappears, thanks), it's that Mail seems to log in and out at some very bizarre moments. Here are two common examples, both of which I've seen multiple times today:
  • After the PowerBook wakes from sleep, it will sometimes check for new mail (it should do that every time, in my opinion), and the remaining times I'll hit "Get Mail" to force the issue. I often have the "Activity Viewer" open so I can keep tabs on Mail's odd behaviour, and not infrequently I see this: Mail checks for mail, downloads new messages, applies rules, flashes the new headers in the header list pane, hides them again, and then, as if at the crescendo of its tantrum, goes offline and idles. To reveal the new mail, I need to manually select "Go Online" from the "Mailbox" menu.
  • Mail also falls offline in the middle of operations that ought to be atomic, such as deleting a folder. I've just watched it happen about five times: Ctrl-click a folder, select "Delete", Mail goes offline. Bringing it back online manually completes the delete operation. Mad.
Does anyone have a rational explanation for any of this? Actually, I'll accept irrational.