Mail 4.x: More on dragging in message list

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Mail
September 25th, 2009 • 8:37 am

Yesterday, I wrote about what I believed was a new behaviour introduced in Snow Leopard’s Mail application when dragging items in the message list.

As a reader pointed out to me, however, it appears that this behaviour already existed in versions of Mail prior to Snow Leopard. (I don’t know how far back it goes.)

The fact remains that I never noticed this behaviour until I migrated to Snow Leopard a couple of weeks ago. I don’t believe that, all of a sudden, I would have changed my dragging habits, causing Mail to display a behaviour that I never caused it to display before.

What is going on here then? Well, I do not have hard evidence to support this (it’s too complicated to obtain), but I strongly believe that what happened is that, while the direction-dependent behaviour did indeed exist in previous versions of Mail, Apple’s engineers tweaked it in Snow Leopard and made it so that it is now easier to trigger the vertical dragging behaviour (extending the selection) than it used to be, i.e. the angle within which Mail interprets the dragging as a vertical movement is now wider than it used to be.

I have two reasons to believe this. One is that, in my fairly informal and limited testing on my wife’s MacBook Pro (still running Leopard), I can definitely sense a difference in the spread of the angle within which Mail interprets the dragging as a vertical movement. It seems much narrower to me in Leopard than in Snow Leopard.

The other reason is that there is another area of the Mail interface where Apple has most definitely tweaked something too in Snow Leopard (i.e. in Mail 4.x), and that is the mailbox drawer, and more specifically what happens when you drag a message onto a enclosing mailbox folder in the mailbox drawer, causing the mailbox folder to expand and reveal the mailboxes it contains, and that list of mailboxes extends beyond the visible portion of the mailbox list in the mailbox drawer.

In such a situation, you have to keep holding your mouse button down near the bottom of the mailbox drawer to cause it to start scrolling down to reveal the rest of the list of mailboxes. And I have definitely noticed that, in Mail 4.x, this behaviour is not as smooth/quick as it used to be in previous versions of Mail. I often have to spend more time down there waiting for Mail to reveal the mailbox that I am looking for, because Mail doesn’t scroll down as readily as it used to do.

I don’t know exactly what they have changed, whether it’s the delay before the list starts scrolling or something else, but they have definitely changed something, and it’s obviously a very minor tweak with not so minor consequences (enough that I notice it, and it annoys me).

So if they have tweaked one area of the Mail interface in such a subtle, but significant way, there is no reason why they wouldn’t have tweaked another area, and that is what I believe is going on with the vertical dragging in the message list—hence my initial reaction that there was a new behaviour in Mail. There is simply no way that I changed my own behaviour when it comes to dragging messages, so something has changed. It is not a new behaviour, as I initially thought, but it’s definitely different from what it used to be—and not for the better.

I should also mention, in closing, that another reader pointed out that there is at least one other Apple application where the dragging behaviour is the same as in Mail, and that is the Address Book application. Since, in my limited testing, the Address Book appears to be as sensitive as Mail to the “verticality” of my dragging, there is reason to believe that this behaviour is not actually Mail-specific but an underlying routine in Mac OS X that is used by both Mail and Address Book but not, for whatever reason, iTunes and the Finder.

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