Mountain Lion’s Mail: Selection highlighting issues after hiding application in background

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
September 20th, 2012 • 7:52 am

There are on-going issues with Mac OS X’s Mail application when it comes to selection highlighting. Some of them date back to the first release of Lion. Others are new to recent builds of Mountain Lion. But they all are issues that Apple does not seem to care much about or be in any hurry to fix.

The core issue is that these issues occur when you do the following:

  1. Select something in Mail.
  2. Switch to another application.
  3. Use Mac OS X’s “Hide Others” command to hide Mail while it is in the background.

The problems cannot be reproduced by simply selecting something in Mail and then using the “Hide Mail” command. The Mail application needs to be relegated to the background first while remaining visible (as a background application) before you hide it in order for the problems to manifest themselves.

When I do this, on my machine, I encounter the following two issues:

First of all, if a message in the message list was selected and highlighting with my foreground selection colour before I switched away from Mail, like so:

mail-selectedmessage1

then, after I switch away from Mail and then choose to hide the application while it is in the background, when I bring Mail back to the foreground, the selection highlighting looks like this:

mail-selectedmessage2

In other words, the selectiong highlighting colour remains the neutral grey that is normally indicative of a selection that is in the background, even though the window is now in the foreground. And even if I click on the message again to confirm that it is selected, the selection highlighting colour remains the neutral grey that is normally indicative of a selection that is in the background. Worse still, even when I click on another message to select it, it too is highlighted using the neutral grey that is normally indicative of a selection that is in the background.

The only way to force Mail to switch back to the foreground selection highlighting colour is either to switch to another application and then back to Mail (without hiding it this time), or to open one of the messages in a separate window and then close the window. The switching of windows without hiding Mail causes it to regain its ability to use the foreground selection highlighting colour.

There is a similar issue when composing a new mail message, but this time it also affects the I-beam blinking cursor. In Mountain Lion’s Mail, if I compose a new message, put the cursor somewhere inside the body of the message, so that the I-beam cursor is blinking, and then switch to another application, leaving the message composition window open like this, if I hide Mail while it is in the background and then switch back to it to resume composing my message, now the I-beam blinking cursor is invisible, even though the window when I am composing my message is in the foreground and I can resume typing my text. (Typing without a blinking I-beam cursor is very disorientating.)

Of course, if, instead of the I-beam cursor blinking, what I had in my message composition window was a text selection in the body of the message, then if I switch to another application, hide Mail and switch back to Mail, the selection highlighting stays stuck in the neutral grey that is normally indicative of a selection that is in the background.

So it’s basically the same problem as with the message list. However, while the problem with the selection highlighting colour in the message list was already there in Lion, the problem with the selection highlighting colour or I-beam cursor in the message composition window is definitely a new problem in Mountain Lion.

In other words, things are steadily getting worse.

Apple has not done anything to fix the problem with the selection highlighting colour in the message list since Lion was first released, more than a year ago. So I am really worried that we are going to have to live with these selection highlighting colour issues for quite a while.

In fact, in my experience with the latest Mountain Lion update, Mac OS X 10.8.2, things are now even worse and also affect other third-party applications. For example, the Grand Robert dictionary application that I use all the time is affected too now. When I have something selected in the application’s search field, if I switch to another application, hide all background applications, and then switch back to the Grand Robert application, OS X fails to put the visual focus back on the search field, even though the focus is back on it. The selection highlighting colour remains the background grey, and the I-beam cursor is not visible.

I can also reproduce the problem with several stand-alone browser applications that I have created with Fluid. So things are definitely getting significantly worse now.

I have submitted detailed, 100%-reproducible scenarios as bug reports to Apple. I have yet to receive signs that they understand that there is a problem and are working on a fix.


2 Responses to “Mountain Lion’s Mail: Selection highlighting issues after hiding application in background”

  1. Michael Tsai - Blog - Mountain Lion’s Mail says:

    […] Pierre Igot: In other words, the selectiong highlighting colour remains the neutral grey that is normally indicative of a selection that is in the background, even though the window is now in the foreground. And even if I click on the message again to confirm that it is selected, the selection highlighting colour remains the neutral grey that is normally indicative of a selection that is in the background. […]

  2. Betalogue » OS X 10.8.2: Event-handling bug and other glitches says:

    […] already talked about the selection highlighting issues after hiding background applications. The problem is […]