Mac OS X’s Mail: Using the “To:” field

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
June 27th, 2003 • 4:08 pm

In spite of Mail’s attempts to catch my junk mail and move it out of sight, I still get a fair amount of junk that Mail’s filters are not able to identify as such. (It seems to me that Mail’s junk filter stops learning once you put it in Automatic mode. It’s a shame. It should be able to both work automatically and continue to learn.)

For obvious reasons, I cannot file all email from unknown senders as junk mail, since I’m always likely to receive feedback on my articles or requests for work from people that I have never corresponded with.

I am usually pretty good at guessing that a message is junk mail from the combination of its unknown sender and telling subject line. (Recent examples include: “Did ya ever notice?”, “Never done this before”, “Don’t be silly”, “Cheer me up”, “ruin anyone anywhere vwt”, etc. You get the picture.)

Still, it’s a tedious task, and anything that can make it easier — even slightly — is a bonus.

Yesterday, quite accidentally, while fixing all these damaged email messages from my old Eudora import, I stumbled onto one thing that is likely to help in the future. For reasons relating to the message fixing process, at some point I asked Mail to SHOW both the “From:” and the “To:” fields in the list of outgoing email messages that it was displaying. Since Mail is a bit stupid and tends to transfer view settings from one mailbox to another without the user’s consent, I soon ended up with Mail showing both the “From:” and the “To:” fields in my main “In” mailbox as well.

I was going to remove the “To:” column to revert to the view that I normally use for my “In” box, but then I realized that seeing the contents of the “To:” field at all times might actually be useful. Of course, in many cases the “To:” field in the “In” mailbox just contains one of my several email addresses (since this mailbox contains messages sent to me). But quite often for junk mail the recipient is identified only as “undisclosed-recipients”. Seeing this is a fairly good indication that the message in question is spam.

Even though HAVING this additional column visible leaves less room for the “Subject” column, I think I’m going to leave it on. It’s quite useful to be able to distinguish more clearly between messages that are sent to you personally and messages that are sent to a list that you are part of. Due to the various ways in which mailing lists work, it’s not always obvious from just looking at the “From” and “Subject” columns. In other words, HAVING the “To” column on as well helps me catch junk mail more efficiently. Good.

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