Mail 3.1: Replying removes text colour from message in message list

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
November 21st, 2007 • 2:21 pm

In the category “Old bugs that keep resurfacing,” this one is rather annoying, although ultimately of a purely visual nature.

I have a number of rules in Mail that change the text colour (or background colour) of some of my messages when they arrive, depending on specific sets of criteria (usually involving the “Sender is member of Group” test), so that those messages stand out in my Inbox.

Right now, however, when I select one such message and compose a reply to it, as soon as the reply gets sent, Mail strips the text colour from the original message in the list, and changes back to black.

I can restore the proper text colour by reapplying the rules to the message in question (command-option-L), but it’s an annoyance.

For some reason, this only seems to affect text colour. If my Mail rule changes the message’s background colour rather than its text colour, then the colour is preserved even when I reply to the message.

What makes the bug even more frustrating (and harder to pin down), however, is that it does not seem to happen all the time, for all text-coloured messages. I have yet to determine whether this is related to the exact conditions of each rule or whether it’s just because the bug itself is flaky.

Intriguingly, this is a bug that I first remember encountering back when I was testing the early builds of Mail 2.0 (part of Mac OS X 10.4) in the AppleSeed program. The bug eventually got fixed by the time Tiger shipped (or in a subsequent incremental Mac OS X 10.4.x update—I honestly can’t remember).

But now it’s back.

What is also interesting is that a bunch of other older bugs are back as well. This Information Week article mentions an old security issue with JPEG attachments in Mail that was fixed at some point in Mac OS X 10.4 but has resurfaced in Mail in Mac OS X 10.5.

Personally, I have noticed the recurrence of other bugs related to Mail’s rules. Some of my rules, in addition to colouring certain messages, also play certain distinctive sounds when incoming messages match their criteria.

Well, right now, Mail 3.1 tends to play these other sounds in a rather random fashion. It plays them properly when the messages come in. But then it also plays them again sometimes even when no new message coming in matches the criteria. And it plays sounds when outgoing messages match one of the rules.

Now that last bit might be correct behaviour. Mail 2.0 never did play sounds for outgoing messages, but some of my rules are indeed fairly loose and apply to a wide range of messages. For example, I have one that applies to messages where “any recipient” (not just the sender) contains “@xxxxx,” where “xxxxx” is a specific domain name. This is intended to catch incoming messages where the important person might be in the “Cc:” field rather than in the “From:” field. But that means that outgoing replies to that person also match the rule. So I guess it is normal that Mail plays the sound—although it never did in previous versions.

To address this, I would suggest that Apple add a test for “message is incoming,” or something like that. But then we would also need Apple to add advanced boolean logic to Mail’s rules. Right now, the only options for rules with multiple conditions are “any” and “all.” I would need a rule that allows me to tell Mail to play a sound if Condition 1 AND (Condition 2 OR Condition 3 OR Condition 4) are met (where Condition 1 would be “message is incoming” and the other conditions would be my existing criteria). Right now, this is not possible—although similar advanced logic is possible in Spotlight in Mac OS X 10.5.

But I digress. The bottom line is that Mail 3.1 is still a bit buggy, and some of these bugs are in fact recurrences of older bugs that we thought had been squashed for good. It’s almost as if Apple had lifted some older bits of code and reused them in Mail 3, without properly tracking the bugs in that code that were fixed later on.

We’ll probably never know exactly what happened here, but it still means we have to live with these bugs again until Apple bothers to fix them again. If these bugs annoy you, I encourage you to submit bug reports, in the hope that this will cause Apple to fix them sooner rather than later.

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