Why I’ve Switched Back to Mail on iPad

After reading countless articles and looking for a better way to consume email on the iPad, I decided on Accompli, which ultimately became Outlook post Microsoft acquisition. I enjoyed Outlook’s speed, the swiping features and a few other things. After using it for about 2 years on two different iPads, I’ve done something that’s not very technorati acceptable: I’ve returned to Apple Mail.

You may ask why?

There are some key Apple Mail features often overlooked by App reviewers. Conversely, Apple has done things to improve Mail’s interface and functionality. For example, implementing swipes (made famous by the now defunct Mailbox App) has made Mail a more efficient tool. With a bit of tweaking, you make find Mail a better choice than the third party mail clients for iOS.

The features I’ve missed since moving away from Apple Mail:

  • Auto Outgoing Mail Account: I have a 11 email accounts on my iPad. Nothing is more annoying (read: embarrassing) than sending an email from the wrong business account. Apple Mail’s ability to recall the account you normally use to send mail to a specific recipient makes it idiot-proof. Strangely, I haven’t found another client that does this. For this reason alone, I prefer Apple Mail, but there’s more.
  • Portrait Mode: Mail’s portrait mode is simple and beautiful. Looking at an email in full-screen portrait mode is a joy. Pinch and zoom, just like iPad always promised. The Inbox slider elegantly slides away and doesn’t take up valuable portrait-screen real-estate. For some annoying reason, Microsoft doesn’t allow this in Outlook. No pinch and zoom in portrait mode and no full-screen email. Actually, Outlook will show you an email in full screen, but only in an email thread! If you want to see a full-screen email, have a recipient send another email, click the little dots within the thread and it works. Lame. After sending Microsoft  countless feedback about this, I’ve given up.
  • Creating Calendar Events: I use Fantastical as my main calendar App (and you should, too–it’s awesome). Fantastical uses iOS calendar services to display events. Apple Mail does a great job of detecting times, places, people and simply holding “10AM” in an email gives me the option to add the event. This is time saving and elegant. Outlook’s integrated calendaring is great if you live in one App, but I don’t live in one App.
  • Click-a-Link Compatibility: when you click a link in some other App, it always defaults to Apple Mail. Consider it a limitation in iOS, but I’m tired of fighting the annoyance with copy/paste. Click and go is a lot faster.
  • Loading Images: I don’t want images to load when I open an email. I’ve found one of the easiest ways to curtail spam is to load images only when I allow it. Why is this? Most spammers include a single pixel image in HTML email that signals to their servers, “example@xyzmailservice.com opened their mail!” Once that happens, you’re on their list. I wish Apple would move the load images link to the top of the email window from the bottom, but it’s an annoyance I’ve decided to accept for now.
  • Notification Control: In Notification settings in iOS you can set specific notifications by email account. If you get unimportant mailing list mail in one email account, simply turn off the notifications for that account. Whats more, you can alleviate the badge count by mail account on the App’s badge. This way, when you look at the badge count, you can see the count of new mail you care about.
  • VIP: this is one of those silly features that you miss. When you get it back, you think, “wow, I should really use this.” If I’m working clients and don’t want to miss their email whilst sifting through hundreds of unread email, I label them as VIP. Tap on the little star in the Inbox drawer and boom–all your currently important mail is there. Pro-Tip: tap the little “i” to see and edit your VIP list. Pretty nice.

Outlook for iOS is a great App. There is a lot to like about it. Yet, after fighting it for so long, I’ve happily reverted back to Apple Mail. I’ve tweaked the swipe settings (swipe left  to delete, etc), the archive/delete default settings with Gmail accounts (one account defaults to archive, one to trash) and limited the inbox previews to 1 line for more visible mail on the inbox (you can reduce to none). I’ve read complaints regarding speed, yet I’miPad_Mail not experiencing that with iPad Air 2. Perhaps the hardware has caught up to the code in this case? I find Mail to be very responsive. I’ve read that search is slow and even “useless” with Mail, but in my experience it seems competent searching 11 email boxes simultaneously. I particularly like Spotlight’s ability to search by person and not necessarily the email account.

On iPhone, I use Spark and recommend you take a look at that. If they make an iPad version, I’ll likely switch to that. To me, the Spark guys have really re-thought the email client. On iPad, however, there’s nothing better than Apple’s Mail client. You may need to tweak it and massage it for your preferences, but once you do, it’s quite rewarding to use.

Bloomberg: Nintendo Forecasting Loss

I’ve been beating the drum for Nintendo to start spreading its software across platforms and moving away from expensive hardware. They’ve fallen behind on consoles and unless they reinvent, like they did with the Wii, they will continue to bleed money.

Nintendo Mulls New Business Model After Forecasting Loss

In my opinion, Nintendo should take a Sega approach: but their popular titles on iOS and Android, which will limit the reasons to purchase a console, yet generate tons of revenue. They may even want to consider distribution through Steam, for PC gamers and the upcoming Steambox. They should not be afraid of losing DS business to iPads and their ilk, as this is already happening. People who love DS will buy it. The face it, they can build a richer experience on Apple’s better hardware, while still reaping the benefits of making money.

I’m not saying they must do this to survive, but I think it’s a pretty good strategy. They can gain profits, while they create the next big thing to take the market by storm.

Teambox Great for Cloud Project Management Collaboration

Since as long as we’ve been developing Web sites and other products, finding quality solutions for project management has been a real challenge. We’ve looked at many cloud applications and landed initially on 37Signals’ Basecamp for project management. Although an excellent product, we found spending the time to setup smaller projects to be a poor use of time and adding outsiders into a project was a challenge for many of our collaborators.  We found ourselves using 3 different systems for managing projects, depending on the size and scope of each project.  A cocktail of Google Docs, Dropbox, Basecamp and email made up our project management system and was definitely a kludge.

Enter Teambox.

We find Teambox to be elegant, simple and with a lot less clicking around necessary to be productive.


Microsoft Surface Ad, um, Surfaces.

This commercial sort of reminds me of Tic-Tacs and Mentos.

I’d like to know who at Microsoft approved this spot and what the pitch was from the agency.  Let me take a stab at it (in smooth-talking ad-guy voice), “We want to reach a young crowd, exemplifying fun and highlighting a key feature that makes the Surface different from the competition.”  What they’ve made is a scary Glee-style embarrassment.  Not even RIM would approve a spot this silly.  Hey guys, you’re selling consumer electronics, not candy, snack food or other sundries…remember?


Thoughts on Steve…

Many people have said many things already, which have brought tears and chuckles, but I’d like to tell a personal story.

A few months ago, I stood in the same room as Steve Jobs, while visiting Apple.  He was walking with Jony Ive and another executive in MacCafè at the mothership.  Standing 50ft from him was paralyzing, yet he was just a guy, walking around with his co-workers with a smile on his face.  I really wanted to walk up to him, but feared security would tackle me and my host may become embarrassed.  I  just watched him and thought, “wow!”

You keep memories of certain things close, like the birth of your child or visiting a breathtaking location.  That image of Steve and Jony walking is one of those memories for me.

Sounds corny maybe, but let’s face it–the man was and remains one of my true heroes.  I aspire to accomplish a small percentage of what he has.  The lessons learned by his entire history is something I think about often.  The company he founded, the products, the reasons behind the products, the people he’s inspired, the comeback and the iPhone have profoundly changed my life.

In 1985, I was fortunate enough to receive my first Mac.  My father did not know anything about computers, but was an expert at consumer electronics (he was in the biz) and loved gadgets.  He also trusted my opinion on computers.  In 1984, I saw my first Mac and was enamored.  The local camera shop was the only Apple dealer in the small town where I resided.  I didn’t know from 1984 Superbowl ads or what was on the cover of Byte or Time, all I saw was the amazing little box with a mouse connected to it.  The signs and point of sale materials intrigued me, but after I sat my butt down in front of the 128k Macintosh, it was hard to pull me away.  At that young age, I was working the mouse, copying and pasting–it was miraculous.  After programming in Microsoft Basic on a TRS-80 Model 4 and running TRS-DOS using 5 1/4 inch double-sided, double-density floppies, this new Macintosh thing was extraordinary.

The Macintosh changed my life.  My perspective of what is possible widened dramatically.

Later that year, I bought some 3.5″ disks and begged the local bank to use their Macintosh for a school project. My teacher was blown away and I got an A just for what I did with MacWrite–clipart was something no one had seen on a document with text around it and proportional-spaced fonts.

So the Mac 512KE and ImageWriter II printer arrived Christmas 1985 and I was absolutely blown away by the computer; moreover that my dad sprang for it.  He read my enthusiasm and knew this was the proper next step for me.  My homework was never the same again.  In fact, school was never the same again.  I completely lost interest in programming and moved onto creating.  I gained a reputation as the “computer whiz” in school, but had limited programming knowledge.  I was the only kid in the whole school district with a Mac.

Since then, even though I consider myself quite proficient (if not expert) on things Microsoft, I’ve always owned a Mac.  Then the iPod came and we all know how that changed our lives.  For me, however, the biggest impact since that original Mac is the iPhone.  I’m not even sure how I lived without it prior to 2007.  It’s truly the phone I always dreamed of when I used to bitch about mobile phones.  Yep, I was that guy who bought a new mobile every 6-months.  I went from Motorola to Nokia to Sony-Ericsson and back to Motorola again and was never quite satisfied.  When I saw the liveblogs of the original iPhone keynote from a hotel room in San Francisco, I nearly cried with overwhelming joy, “someone finally got the mobile phone right!” Two hours later, I was staring at it in a glass enclosure and thinking, “cool.”

The Web also changed my life and is the vehicle on which our company was founded.  A recent visit to the Computer History Museum, in Mountain View, California (just a few blocks from Google HQ) taught me that the World-Wide Web was created on a NeXT by Mr. Berners-Lee.

So Steve, his companies, his visions and the teams that he’s inspired truly changed my life on multiple levels and all for the better.  Rest in piece, Mr. Jobs, you will be missed, yet your legacy will continue on forever.  You’ve changed the world for all of us–the rest of us.