Mac OS X’s Mail: The little things that work

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
August 12th, 2003 • 1:28 am

I have done my share of complaining about Mac OS X’s Mail application and its many shortcomings (still not fixed for the most part). So today I thought I would share a positive note for a change.

By default, hitting the “Reply” button when viewing a message in Mail creates a new message that is a reply to the message you were viewing. This reply is, by default, address to the sender of the original message only. If the sender sent carbon copies (not “blind” ones) to other people, these other people are not included as recipients in your reply by default. If you want to send your reply to all, i.e. to the original sender and all the other recipients of the original message, you need to click on the “Reply All” button instead. (“Reply All” is admittedly pretty poor grammatically speaking, but I guess there are space constraints for these small text labels…)

The thing is, I often hit “Reply” almost automatically, and only realize that I actually mean to hit “Reply All” after the fact.

Fortunately, Mail gives you a way to correct your mistake after the fact. In the reply message window itself, you have a tool bar that contains a “Send” button, an “Attach” button, etc. And it also includes a “Reply” button. (If it does not on your machine, you can go to “Customize Toolbar…” in the “View” menu while in the reply message window itself.)

When the original had other recipients in the “Cc:” field, Mail is smart enough to change this “Reply” button to “Reply All”. And simply clicking on it adds the other recipients to your reply as well (and changes the button label to simply “Reply”, in case you change your mind again later on).

The meaning of the button labels in this particular case is not exactly crystal-clear, which makes the interface a bit confusing — especially since the “Reply/Reply All” button has the exact same icon as the one in the main Mail Viewer window in Mail. An uninformed user might wonder what this “Reply/Reply All” button in a message that’s already a reply is for… A reply to the reply that he’s currently composing? Mmmm…

But once you know what the button really means — i.e. toggle between “Send reply to original sender only” and “Send reply to sender and all other recipients” — it’s actually quite convenient.

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