Mail 2.0: Arbitrarily resizes columns after search

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
March 26th, 2007 • 10:47 pm

I have already written about the fact that, in Mail 2.0, after a search, changing the sort order in the list of search results affects the sort order in the main message list as well, which can be very irritating.

Well, I am afraid it is actually even worse. It turns out that, as far as I can tell, simply doing a search, even without changing the default sort order of the list of search results, can have an unwanted impact on the display of the main message list after you exit the search mode (by clicking on the small “x” button in the search field).

Here is a partial view of my column headers when displaying the contents of my Inbox in Mail 2.0:

Mail column headers before search

And here is the exact same area of the screen immediately after doing a search using Mail’s search field and exiting the search, thus returning to the exact same location, i.e. a view of my Inbox:

Mail column headers after search

See the problem? Mail has changed the width of my columns without my consent. It’s a pretty serious offence as far as I am concerned. I do not want the columns to have the width that Mail has given them here. I want them to have the width that I had given them, so that I can see more of the content of the other columns.

Do I sound like the kind of user who enjoys resizing his columns all the time, just for the fun of it?

As far as I can tell, the core of the problem is that Mail’s interface doesn’t really support mailbox-specific view settings. It does support them to a extent, but it’s just far too easy to throw things off and lose those settings. I mean—I just did a search! I didn’t resize anything. I didn’t click on any column headers.

It really is unacceptable behaviour. Of course, we all know that Mac OS X’s Finder is equally bad at remembering folder-specific window positions and other view settings. But somehow it seems to me that this problem in Mail is even worse. After all, in the Finder you do need to move things around and resize them all the time, because you are constantly shuffling files around.

In Mail, on the other hand, you are always viewing your Inbox. And you have a preferred view of this Inbox, which does not change. So having Mail change it for you without your consent, so often and so easily, uncontrollably, is clearly not acceptable.

Yet it’s the sad reality in Mail, and it has been this way from the very beginning. So there’s very little hope of it changing any time soon. (I file an “enhancement request” with Apple for mailbox-specific view settings ages ago. I have yet to see any sign of increased support for such a feature.)

4 Responses to “Mail 2.0: Arbitrarily resizes columns after search”

  1. ssp says:

    Oh yes, I have been hating this problem for ages (and reported it ages ago). I don’t know how many times I had to reset column widths so far. (Although my impression is the problem isn’t quite as bad as it used to be).

  2. danridley says:

    Do I sound like the kind of user who enjoys resizing his columns all the time, just for the fun of it?

    And you’re right, this is a pain and a disgrace.

  3. sjk says:

    Has anyone noticed a correlation between Mail’s seemingly random column resizing and changing the default columns that are displayed (using View > Columns) in a mailbox? Why I’m wondering is because that ()*@#$ resizing doesn’t happen in Mail in my wife’s account (AFAIK) and she’s using the default columns, whereas it happens too frequently for me and I have customized columns.

  4. stevew says:

    Hi, I came across this blog post when trying to deal with this very same annoying issue in Apple Mail. It turns out the column-resizing bug only happens when you have threading turned on.

    Since I like threading, I came up with a compromise set up: I have my main InBox set with threading off, so searches don’t screw up the column sizes. I have threading left on for the individual accounts, however. Since I generally only look at the inbox most of the time, I don’t get nailed with the bug as often.

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