Dear Apple: iPad Mail gripes.

Over the years, I haven't had much luck communicating with Apple (or, in fact, most large companies) about their products through official channels, but as it happens, enough technical people read this blog that sometimes just griping here about it reaches the people who matter.

So, with that in mind:

Dear Apple, here are some things about the iPad mail reader that I really wish you'd fix.

Currently my "real" computer is in the shop, so I've been using my iPad and iPhone exclusively for work and blogging for two weeks (and probably another two weeks to go.) Mostly this works fine, but there are a few things about the mail reader that are real usability problems. Worst first:

  1. Replies do not respect the email address to which the message being replied to was sent.

    I have a single IMAP server to which half a dozen different (role-based) email addresses are delivered. In the desktop Mail.app, if I reply to a message that was sent to "jwz@jwz.org", the From field is set to "jwz@jwz.org" by default; likewise if that message was to "booking@dnalounge.com", the From field is set to "booking@dnalounge.com" (because both of those are configured as my comma-separated return addresses.)

    On the iPad and iPhone, the From field is always set to the first address in the list ("jwz@jwz.org") and every time I reply, I have to click on "Show From/CC"; "From"; scroll; and select the proper address from the list. This is a huge waste of time that I have to do for every single reply, that I don't have to do on the desktop Mail.app.

  2. There is only one "signature" field, making canned replies very difficult.

    A big part of what I do all day long is reply to email with stock responses. On the desktop, I do this by having dozens of signatures. I hit reply; select the appropriate signature from the menu in the compose window; and send. This is perhaps not what signatures are designed for, but it's the closest thing to a "stationary" system that Mail.app has, and it works pretty well.

    There's no reasonable way to accomplish these kinds of canned responses at all on the iPhone or iPad.

    The best you could come up with would be to store your canned responses in the "Notes" app. The process would be to start a reply; switch to Notes; copy; switch back; paste. That's a hell of a lot more clicking, and takes way too long. (There are also some 3rd-party apps that do this sort of thing, but since the iPad mail reader has no plugin architecture, this still means app-switching so it's really no better than using Notes.)

  3. Does not synchronize all my mailboxes automatically.

    I use "Sieve" on the server-side to pre-filter my incoming mail into several different inboxes. On the desktop Mail.app, when mail shows up in any of these folders, the "unread" badge is updated automatically. On the iPhone or iPad, I have to manually select each folder before it will check the server for new messages in that folder. It only automatically checks the single mailbox called "INBOX", which I don't even use.

    This is with the same IMAP account and login on both desktop and iPad, and it works on desktop, so it's not a server issue.

  4. No way to turn off quotation in replies.

    I don't want to quote the entirety of every message I'm replying to. There's no preference to disable this. "Select All / Delete" works -- if you do it every single time you reply -- but only if you don't have a signature. Otherwise, it's a more complicated and time-consuming set of drag gestures to delete the quotery but leave the sig intact.

  5. There is no "load images" button.

    I have image loading off by default in Mail to speed things up, but every now and then there's a message where I want to see the images. No way to do that without going all the way out to the Preferences app.

  6. Mobile Safari does not implement "form upload".

    When someone sends me a flyer image for one of our events, I have to post that image to our web site. If I'm on a real computer, I can drag it to the desktop, and then either scp it, or upload it through a web form... if I'm on an iPad, well, there's just no way to do it at all. I can save the image into the "Photos" app, but the <input type=file> form element is ignored on Mobile Safari. One would expect it to at least let me select items from my photo gallery. I'd be thrilled if I could select from my mail attachments (e.g., PDFs or other documents that can't be stored into the Photos app first.)

    I solved this by implementing a magic, secret email address on my server -- when I forward a message to that address, it extracts all the MIME attachments and saves each of them in a tmp directory, where I can get at them after ssh'ing in. But this is dumb, and I shouldn't have been forced to resort to such an indignity. It's also not an option for most other people.

Like I said, I find the iPad mail reader to be really good for most things. These are just the remaining things that really get in my way, usually multiple times a day.

So... if any of you reading this who are Apple insiders could pass this along to the people who might be able to actually effect change here, that would be awesome!

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AT-AT For America

One Man's Plan To Build A Full-Scale, Functional Imperial Walker

AT-AT for America is a crowdsourced project that aims to build, no fooling, a fully fuctional, full-scale model of an AT-AT Imperial Walker from The Empire Strikes Back. They've gotten preliminary approval from Kickstarter to make it happen, so it sounds like they just need some funding plus a bunch of engineers from Kuat Drive Yards, or failing that, an alliance of Earthlings with a level of mechanical expertise equaled only by their hardcore sci-fi geekiness.

In case you were wondering, an AT-AT stands nearly 75 feet tall and has a maximum speed of just under 40 mph. It can carry 1 ton of cargo, or up to 40 Imperial Storm Troopers.

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Atmospheric cutaway of the airship `Italia' in a blizzard during its flight to the North Pole in 1928.

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"Whisperer in Darkness" wax cylinder!

The Wilmarth Recording:

  • Wax cylinder with a mysterious & chilling recording (2 minutes, 5 seconds).
  • A 30 page copy of Albert Wilmarth's manuscript describing the events in Vermont.
  • Two large contemporary photographs taken by Henry Akeley.
  • A guide on how to handle your cylinder recording.

Previously.

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DNA Lounge update, wherein we rearrange the office, and you all panic about Big Brother.
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