Panther’s Mail: “Move To” menu still needs work

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Macintosh
December 9th, 2003 • 12:44 am

The “Move To” menu in Panther’s Mail application is a vast improvement over previous versions. Instead of showing the entire mailbox structure in expanded form in the menu, which could result in a menu with thousands of items, now the menu is hierarchical, like it used to be in Eudora with the “Transfer” menu, for example.

Better yet, the exact contents of the menu depend on which mailbox folders are expanded and which ones are collapsed in the Mailboxes drawer. It’s an interesting twist, which assumes that the mailbox folders that you leave expanded at all times are the ones that you probably want to access most often.

There are problems with this assumption, however. First of all, when it comes to the “In” mailbox, it might be left expanded (i.e. showing the “In” boxes for each account) in order to see the status of each account (i.e. whether the account is active, how many unread messages, etc.), not in order to access the “In” boxes or transfer stuff to them. It’s certainly the reason why I leave it expanded. But that also means that I have absolutely no need to a “Move To” menu that shows the “In” mailbox in expanded form, with all 18 “In” mailboxes for my 18 email accounts as individually separate menu items. I never ever transfer mail from one “In” mailbox to another, so why would I need to see these “In” mailboxes in the “Move To” menu?

The other problem with the “Move To” menu is that it assumes that the mailbox you want to transfer your selected messages to already exists. I personally have hundreds of mailboxes inside mailbox folders, etc. When I start exchanging mail with a new individual, I don’t always remember whether I’ve already created a mailbox for him/her. So I select his/her messages in my “In” box, I go to the “Move To” menu, I browse down the hierarchy until I find the subfolder where the mailbox for this person’s mail is supposed to go, and then… I realize that I haven’t created a mailbox for this person yet.

So now I have to:

  1. release the mouse button, i.e. lose all the browsing work that I’ve just done
  2. go to the Mailboxes drawer on the left-hand side
  3. browse down the hierarchy following the exact same path that I followed a few seconds ago in the “Move To” menu
  4. select the containing mailbox folder and create a new mailbox for this person

Then I have the option either to go back to my “In” box, and drag all the messages to the newly created mailbox in the Mailboxes drawer, or use the “Move To” menu again and browse down the hierarchy yet again until I’ve found the mailbox I’ve just created.


Compare this to what Eudora lets you do: When you reach your destination in the “Transfer” menu and realize that the mailbox you are looking for doesn’t exist yet, without releasing the mouse you can select the “New…” command that appears at the top of each and every submenu inside the “Transfer” menu. This opens a dialog box where you can name the new mailbox, and then you click on “OK” and Eudora creates the new mailbox and transfers your selected messages to this new mailbox in one fell swoop!

Mail badly needs similar functionality. The current process is just too painful for words.

I also think that this “Move To” menu should actually be a separate menu in the menu bar itself, rather than a submenu in the “Message” menu — again, just like the “Transfer” menu in Eudora.

And I still think that people should have the option to view and browse their mailbox folder hierarchy in a separate window rather than in the Mailboxes drawer, where clicking on a mailbox automatically displays its contents in the main viewing area. We need an interface where the user can move mailboxes around, rename them, delete them, create new ones, etc. without having to view their contents.

Finally, just like we have aliases in the Finder for frequently accessed folders, we need mailbox aliases in the Mail interface for frequently accessed mailboxes. They could appear in the submenu inside the “Move” menu, under “Favorites”. They would provide a shortcut to mailboxes where the user needs to file messages most often.

In a nutshell, the functionality for moving messages around in Mail is improved in Panther, but it still needs work!

Comments are closed.

Leave a Reply

Comments are closed.