April 14th, 2011 • 2:54 pm
A while back, I wrote about message filing in Mac OS X’s Mail and, in particular, I mentioned the third-party tool MsgFiler and its apparent pros and cons.
In spite of my initial reluctance (due in part that I had already shelled out some cash for Mail Act-On and didn’t want to add too much to the complexity of my e-mail setup), I ended up purchasing MsgFiler and quickly became a fan of the product.
Then Apple announced the Mac App Store, with all its rules and limitations, and I started to worry about some of the vital third-party tools that I use and what they might become in a Mac software industry dominated by the Mac App Store and its staunch rejection of any software that might not be 100% above board in terms of the way it interacts with the underlying operating system.
I read Jon Gotow’s post about the disappearance of the “Apple Downloads” section of the Apple web site and its potential impact on Jon’s products. I am a long-time user of Default Folder and I simply cannot imagine life without it.
Jon says that Default Folder X and his other products aren’t going away, but it’s still a concern when the provider of the underlying OS has such a restrictive vision of what its developers and users should and should not be able to do with their computer. Who is Apple to decide that my use of a tool such as Default Folder X is “bad” and cannot be condoned? I am more than willing to temporarily disable Default Folder X whenever necessary to verify that a bug in Mac OS X is not caused by its presence, but I am definitely not willing to stop using Default Folder X simply because Apple decides that it’s not consistent with its software development philosophy. We are not talking about a third-party hack that unnecessary wastes CPU cycles to display trendy useless 3D junk on the screen here. We are talking about a third-party utility that is really useful, no matter what Apple thinks or says.
Anyway, back to MsgFiler… The original MsgFiler that I purchased last year and became an avid fan of was a Mail “bundle,” which is some kind of extension that is sort of supported by Apple for Mac OS X’s Mail. (Such extensions go in a folder called “Bundles” inside your home library’s “Mail” folder.) I say sort of supported, because whenever I submit a Mail bug report to Apple with a crash log, the first thing that the engineers ask in the reply, in a very terse tone, is that I disable my Mail bundles and try to reproduce the problem without them. (I usually am, but they won’t take my bug report seriously until I verify this myself.)
So, when Adam Tow, developer of MsgFiler, sent an e-mail to everyone back in February 2011 announcing that he would discontinue his current product and start selling a new version of MsgFiler exclusively through the Mac App Store, I became a bit worried. Could he really sell a Mail extension/bundle through the Mac App Store? Would it work as well as the current version did?
When MsgFiler 3.0 came out on the Mac App Store, I went ahead and purchased it, but the first impression was not good. MsgFiler had indeed become a stand-alone application and was no longer a mail extension. There were some serious bugs, and there seemed to be a loss of functionality, especially in the ability to undo a message move done by MsgFiler with a simple command-Z within Mail.
However, much to Adam Tow’s credit, I must say that, within a week of the initial release, all of the problems were solved. Adam fixed the bugs that I had encountered, and explained what I needed to do to regain the ability to undo. It was stellar service and I was quite impressed.
While the MsgFiler application is now sold exclusively through the Mac App Store, Adam still provides an free download of something called the MsgFiler Engine on his own web site, which helps alleviate some of the limitations associated with the fact that MsgFiler is now a stand-alone application. The MsgFiler Engine is effectively a Mail extension that replaces the old MsgFiler bundle and duplicates some of its benefits for the new application. (It is apparently particularly useful for people with IMAP performance issues, which is not something that affects me much, since I still mostly use POP accounts.)
It should be noted that the existing MsgFiler 2.x extension/bundle still works with the latest version of Mac OS X’s Mail, and that you can even keep it as an extension in Mail alongside the new MsgFiler application, as long as you assign two different shortcuts to the two utilities. (I have shift-command-Return for the MsgFiler 2.x bundle and control-shift-command-Return for the MsgFiler 3 application.) But in truth I now find myself using the application exclusively, and I am comfortable with it and no longer worried about MsgFiler being negatively affected by the transition to the Mac App Store.
The only drawback I see in the MsgFiler application is the time it takes to load the full list of mailboxes the first time you launch it. I have a lot of mailboxes, and the process can take a while. But now whenever I need to create a new mailbox, I do it within MsgFiler itself, so that it automatically updates its own list of mailboxes and does not have to rebuild it from the list of mailboxes in Mail. This way, I no longer experience any delays with MsgFiler having to reload the list of mailboxes from Mail.
All in all, I have to say that, in spite of the initial bumps, the transition to the Mac App Store, at least for MsgFiler, was a success, and that I will definitely continue to use and support the product.
Of course, what happened with MsgFiler tells us nothing about what will happen with a third-party tool such as Default Folder X, which is another kettle of fish, since, even though I am not a developer, it is quite obvious to me that there is simply no way that Default Folder X could ever become a stand-alone application that complies with all the restrictions imposed by Apple on Mac App Store applications.
Then again, given the way things are evolving in the computing world at present, with the convergence of mobile and desktop computing, it is really hard to tell where we will be ten years down the road in terms of processes such as creating/saving and managing files and folders. So who knows what Default Folder itself will become further down the road? For now, though, it’s still an essential part of the Mac OS X computing experience for me and losing it would be a significant step back in my productivity.
Ultimately, my productivity was not affected by the MsgFiler transition from extension/bundle to stand-alone application imposed by the Mac App Store, but in the long run, it still remains to be seen how this transition might or might not affect some essential third-party tools that so many advanced Mac users cannot do without.