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Three ways Apple could improve Apple Mail

Dan Moren | March 7, 2016
Email remains an important form of communication online, and yet, Apple's approach to email has remained largely static.

Despite all the many forms of communicating with people online - iMessage, Twitter, Facebook, Slack - email still reigns supreme for me. I conduct business via email, keep in touch with my family, send links to friends and coordinate events. And yet, Apple's approach to email has remained largely static for years.

That's not to say that the company hasn't tried to integrate new features into the email experience. Hardly a release of iOS or OS X comes without some improvements to the Mail app. While some are more successful than others, overall our email has hardly been - I hesitate to even whisper the word - disrupted.

Despite the surfeit of ways for us to communicate, I don't think email is going away anytime soon. And while dealing with it may not be the most pleasant of tasks, a few changes could bring it up-to-date with the rest of our modern online experience.

Security

Obviously, Apple's already mired in a whole foofaraw over security and encryption, but email remains one of the least secure forms of communication around. Even if we have encrypted connections to our mail accounts, our messages themselves are still transmitted in plain text, travelling the information superhighway in a car with no airbags.

And yet, many people continue to request (and send) sensitive personal information like social security numbers, business documents and more on a daily basis. Sure, you can securely encrypt that information with a little know-how, by using an encrypted disk image or installing an encryption plugin like GPGMail, but those are hardly easy for non-tech savvy users. (Sometimes not even for savvy users: I've tried to set up GPGMail a few times, and eventually gave up.)

Building a transparent encryption system into Mail, preferably using open standards, could go a long way to securing much of our communication. Even better if Apple could work together with some of the other major email providers, like Google and Yahoo, so that all of the systems interoperate. As a template, I'd look at Apple's Mail Drop system, which takes attachments too large to email and instead uploads them to iCloud and provides a link for your recipient. You don't notice it doing its thing; in the tradition of the best Apple technology, it just works.

Organization

I'm not an organiser: look at my Inbox and you might shudder at the sight of the 71,000-plus emails. Simply put, I don't want to spend my time filing things: if I need a particular message, I'll search for it. (That comes with its downsides, though. For one thing, though Mail generally performs surprisingly well, it can sometimes get a bit sluggish.)

Perhaps our mail clients could take on a little more of this organisation automatically. After all, it's a machine and should be able to handle some of the menial labour of sorting through email I'm likely to want to read and those that are less urgent. Google's been doing this for a while, filtering out promotional emails, purchase orders, travel information, social networking notifications and so on, and organising them into separate categories that are easy to browse. That kind of granularity is useful, since it doesn't bug you with information you don't need urgently, but can still notify you when there's an email you do need to see.

 

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