Panther’s Mail: Basic shortcuts missing

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
November 23rd, 2003 • 12:39 am

It is always puzzling to use a reasonably mature program such as Apple’s own Mail application and find that it’s missing some basic functionality that should have been there since 1.0.

Case in point:

Mail - Are You Sure?

This is an error message that appears if you select a thread that includes a fairly large number of messages and then press the Return key. Normally, pressing the Return key opens every message in the thread in a separate window. Obviously in this case Mail is not sure that you really want it to open 12 separate windows, so it asks for confirmation first.

The trouble is that, if you pressed on the Return key, it means that, in all likelihood, your hands are still on the keyboard. Yet, if you don’t have full keyboard access on, the only thing that you can do with the keyboard when faced with this dialog is press Return again, which means “Yes”. There is no way to say “No” with the keyboard. The Escape key doesn’t work. The “N” key doesn’t work. Command-N doesn’t work. You are stuck.

Mail is right to think that I didn’t really want to open all these windows, but then it should give me the option to interrupt the process without having to grab my mouse or use a whole series of keyboard shortcuts to temporarily activate full keyboard access.

9 Responses to “Panther’s Mail: Basic shortcuts missing”

  1. Luis says:

    I would say that this is an OS X problem. It happens in lot of applications, I’m still wondering what’s the reason for not using tab to choose different buttons in dialog windows. The way it is usually only the default button, the Cancel button and the Don’t Save button have shortcuts associated with them.
    Having No and Yes in the case of Mail is strange too. I would say that it’s a bug and a bug report should be filed.

  2. René Puls says:

    Not to mention the fact that the buttons should rather be labeled “Don’t Open” and “Open”, according to Apple’s own Human Interface Guidelines. It’s a minor thing, but in often makes a real difference.

  3. MichelR says:

    Have you tried Command-N to get the “No” button?

  4. Clint MacDonald says:

    Responding to my own post, I checked the “cutoff” in the Finder: 24 items is the greatest number I can open without the dialog, and 25 items brings it up.

    And, I just checked for that annoying dialog when changing a file extension: it appears to be gone in Jaguar. Woo hoo! At last, a killer reason to upgrade!

  5. Clint MacDonald says:

    The Finder gives a similar warning when I try to open more than about 15 files in BBEdit.

    While *ocassionally* I select a number of BBEdit files mistakenly, not wanting to open them, much more often I really do want to open them. It can be frustrating.

    (And, don’t get me started about the dialogs one must navigate to change the three-letter extension of a file!)

  6. vaag says:

    I guess, the proper guidelines way to label them would be “Cancel” and Open”, with the esc-key as a keyboard shortcut to cancel.
    Keyboard life is really miserable if you haven’t checked the full keyboard access checkbox.

  7. Pierre Igot says:

    Not sure whether is should be “Open” and “Cancel” or “Open” and “Don’t Open” or “Yes” and “No”. I don’t really care as long as I can choose either option with the keyboard :).

    I still cannot bring myself to turning full keyboard access on, because it causes a significant increase in the number of times I have to use the tab key to go back and forth between controls.

    And we really shouldn’t have to turn this option on as a substitute for simple keyboard shortcuts such as those. Interface consistency remains the elusive Holy Grail in Mac OS X…

  8. Patrick Wynne says:

    I know I’ve seen “that annoying dialog when changing a file extension” since upgrading to Panther. Not often, mind you, but I have seen it.

  9. Pierre Igot says:

    Haven’t seen that one, Patrick — but I have seen the one when trying to open more than 24 files in BBEdit (and it has the same flaw as the Mail one). Interestingly, if I select the 54 files I have in a folder, which have a variety of different extensions/creators, I get no warning. So it seems that the warning occurs when you have more than 24 files of the same kind. Strange.

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