I have previously covered timesaving features in the latest version of Apple’s Mail client, but despite its improved user interface, search features, favorites bar and VIP folders, there are still missing features Mac power users could use to be more productive in Mail.
Fortunately, there are several third-party plug-ins that enhance Mail and address some of its annoying problems or missing features. Today, I would like to review five plug-ins that I think are well worth downloading and given a try before purchasing. These plug-ins help you handle attachments, preview your messages, and conveniently set reminders for messages.
After you download and install a plug-in, you will typically need to restart the Mail application, and then open Mail’s Preferences to enable and customize the plug-in. Whichever plug-in you download, be sure it’s compatible with your current operating system.
If memory serves me correctly, by default when you add an attachment in a Mail message, it does not display the file as an icon, which can be annoying when you’re trying to compose or read a message. Attachment Tamer ($14.99) is a handy feature for controlling how you want to display attachments in Mail.
The plug-in includes controls for viewing text and HTML files, PDF documents, audio files, and images as icons, with optional size limits and exceptions. Sending files as icons also makes it easier for the recipient to read your text without being distracted by a full display of the images themselves.
Attachment Tamer also provides options for how you want to view files from specified senders — either as icons or displayed as they were sent. You can also choose to display the full names of attachments, which by default Mail truncates.
By default when you quote text from a sender’s email message, Mail puts the cursor above the message in your reply; this is called “bottom-posting”. This is odd because typically you want the recipient to first read what part of the message you are replying to. The plug-in, QuoteFix (Free/Donate), fixes this annoyance by placing the cursor below the original message when you reply or forward a message.
Other features include removing the sender’s signature from the reply, removing trailing white space, customizing attributions (including HTML and templating), and selecting whether or not to remove the sender’s signature.
Spending some time customizing how you want QuoteFix to handle your quotes and replies can make your mail messages a lot easier to read, and could inspire others to use better mail etiquette, rather than the sloppy approach of including full mail messages in a reply.
Since I work at my computer throughout the day, I have a bad tendency of checking my mail whenever new messages arrive. This is still a habit I’m trying to break, but another Mail plug-in I use, called Mail Perspectives ($24.95) helps cut down on how often I open Mail.
Mail Perspectives is a compact window that displays the latest message or most recent message list in your Mail inbox. I have the window sitting on my second monitor where I can glance at it as I work. Mail Perspectives has three embedded windows, which allow you to either view all the mail messages in your inbox, only the new messages, or all the messages for the current day. You can view messages as a list or navigate through a display of each message one at a time.
You can also hover your mouse over a message and get a pop-up window that allows you to view the entire message outside the compact window, in a handy Quick Look window, or you can reply, print, delete, or open the message in your Mail application.
There are also features for selecting which inboxes you want Mail Perspectives to display, as well as options for how you are notified when mail arrives. This plug-in is a little pricey but it does come with a 30 day free trial so you can see how useful it might be in your workflow.
The popular Mailbox app for the iPhone includes a handy feature for attaching a reminder to individual messages, and recently I discovered that another Mail plug-in called MailHub ($19.00), includes the same capability, with additional options for setting template reminders. MailHub does add a toolbar to the Mail application, but you may find its handy features worthy of taking up some space.
The Reminder feature includes options for setting time shortcuts (as well as pre-installed Snooze times) that you can quickly select for a message, or you can set a specific date and time. Your reminders get added in the Calendar app like any other reminder.
Some of MailHub’s features are similar to the default features in Mail, but they are quicker and more efficient. For instance, while Mail can expand mail conversations or threads, MailHub does it better by making it easier to click individual messages in a thread.
MailHub also allows you to filter messages by a sender. If you want to quickly review past and recent mail messages by a sender, you simply select a message sender, and then click on the little head and shoulder icon in MailHub’s toolbar. To filter messages like this without MailHub, you have to actually do a search in Mail of the sender’s name.
MailHub includes several other features for deleting messages, creating new mailboxes, organizing, and filing away messages into different folders. There are preferences for setting the color theme of MailHub’s toolbar, an option for auto-hiding it, and over a dozen keyboard shortcuts for nearly every feature in the plug-in.
MailHub also has a 30-day trial, and I highly recommend it if you need to manage lots of mail on a daily basis.
Many Mail plug-ins are highly useful, but remember they can be broken by updates to the Mail client, and you may even have to uninstall them in order for Mail to function properly. The plug-ins I reviewed above all work in the latest version of Mac OS X Mountain Lion. There are several other free plug-ins that you can find on the net, but you need to make sure they have been updated for the latest version of the operating system you’re using.
Let us know what you think of these Mail plug-ins and which plug-ins you recommend.