Mail 2.0: Fails to select next message after deleting thread

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
July 8th, 2005 • 3:50 am

This is yet another example of the lack of polish that still plagues Mac OS X’s Mail application.

It affects people who, like me, use Mail without the message preview area in the bottom half of the main viewer window. When I want to read a message, I select it in my Inbox and then double-click on it or press Return to open it in a separate window.

I then read the message in the separate window, and if I want to delete it, I just press the Delete key. Mail automatically closes the message window and moves the message to the trash. However, what’s important is that it also automatically selects the next message in the list of messages.

Why does it do that? Well, it’s because, when you have your hands on your keyboard, it’s a pain to have to grab the mouse and point on the next message and click on it to select it. Since the most natural thing for people to do when they have received a slew of new messages is to read them one after the other, the automatic selection of the next message after a message deletion is the most intuitive thing to do. This way, if your hands are on the keyboard, you don’t have to grab the mouse. You just press Return to open the next message, and so on.

The problem is with what happens when you get a series of new messages with the same subject line — which will happen on a regular basis if you are subscribed to mailing lists with several people participating in the same discussion on the same topic.

If you are viewing your messages organized by thread, then messages that are part of the same discussion thread are grouped together and appear as a single line in the message list, with a triangle on the left-hand side.

If your hands are on the keyboard and the thread is the current selection, you can either press Return, which will automatically open all the messages in the thread, each one in its own window — or you can use the Right cursor key to expand the thread and then select individual messages with the Up/Down cursor keys and open them individually.

Let’s say you open the entire thread by hitting Return when the message thread itself is selected. As I said, this opens each message in its own window, and the focus is switched from the mail viewer window to the message window that was last opened. You then read this message, and press Delete to delete it. Mail closes the window and deletes the message, and then switches the focus to the next message window. You read it and press Delete, and so on until you’ve read all the messages in the thread.

But then what happens when you delete the last message in the thread? Mail closes the message window and moves the message to the trash, and switches the focus back to the main mail viewer window with the message list. However, in this case it fails to automatically select the next message in the message list. The focus is indeed on the main mail viewer window, but you have to grab your mouse and click on the next message to select it.

It’s a pain — and it’s an example of a certain lack of attention paid to small details in Mac OS X’s Mail.

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