Mail.app & Exchange ToDo’s: unhappily ever after…

April 16, 2009

As I recently complained, I have quite a lot of problems with Mail.app. The most recent one involves ToDo’s.

Many of my tasks are triggered by emails, so I started using Mail.app to manage them. One interesting feature is that todo’s created in Mail.app are shown in iCal.

I was feeling increasingly comfortable with this functionality when, suddenly, the activity window was showing a single activity which was reconciling todo’s (can’t remember the exact wording) and which was basically hanging without any visible progress for a long time. I tried stopping it in the Activity window, without success. 

So, I renamed the com.apple.mail.plist file, following some advice on macrumors. Then, I had to create the same account again and wait for the long process of synchronizing email. This seemed to work fine but all the ToDo’s simply disappeared. 

After a few days, I decided to give it another try. This time I only created a couple of ToDo’s before getting the “reconciling todo’s” problem. After resetting my mail settings again, I found that there were two ToDo’s left in the account (“Reminders – To Do – ACCOUNT”)… but were two dummies which I created previously for testing purposes.

Naturally, I decided to quit using ToDo’s in Mail.app, so I’m back to the problem of finding the best way to align my computing infrastructure with my work management strategy. Good luck to me…

messenger

April 7, 2009

Currently I use instant messaging a lot to communicate with my colleagues. I installed instantbird because it is based on mozilla technologies, although it is not a mozilla project.

I’m not very happy with it. On one hand, it is very simple. One the other, it does not support many protocols and has very few features. I particularly miss having a simple interface to twitter.

But, the worst part is that it is not very stable. It (too) often fails to (re-)connect, especially when the network changes (e.g., from LAN to wireless).

There are other possibilities, like pidgin (which was the one I used before), adium (which is specific for mac os x and popular with mac users) and microsoft messenger. (which… is… a microsoft application 😉 ).

But I just realized that there is a new version out (0.1.3.1), so I’ll download it and come back to this issue later.

iWish iHad…

April 6, 2009

… less email problems. I’m using the Mail app.

I use email a lot. It’s an alternative file system for me. Wait, it is probably THE file system for me, these days. I send or receive by email most of the documents I work with. I store them in the disk if I have to change them but other than that, they are just stored in my email folders. 

My email is on an Microsoft Exchange Server and recently imaps access has been made available. After using Mozilla Thunderbird for many years and I’m generally happy about it but I decided to give Mail App a try.

The truth is, it’s far from perfect. Here are my complaints:

  • crash & bang: it reindexes its mailboxes every once in a while. The truth is, I’ve got some very big mailboxes – yeah, yeah, I know I shouldn’t I that I’ll probably never need their content – but, the fact is that I have them and have to work with them. Of course, I could make the problem disappear by organizing them… naaahh! I couldn’t 🙂
  • weird folders: sometimes it creates some weird folders. For instance, if I have a folder named bar inside a folder named foo, it will create a folder named foobar. I think this happens when I move a message to a folder when it is being reindexed, but I’m not sure.
  • wrong dates: I recently found some messages with a strange date, which was the same for all. I haven’t checked this thoroughly, so I’m not really sure whether this is a problem or not (or even a mail.app problem or not). Maybe later. 
  • attachments (in): it took me sometime to realize that I could see a list of the attachments in the header of the message. Prior to this, I was really mad with this because I had to scroll down to the end of the message to handle attachments individually. This was really awkward in messages with many attachments. Of course, I could use the “Mail Downloads” stack but it didn’t really grow on me yet.
  • attachments (out): it is really a nuisance to have to drop attachments at the point of the message where I want them to be. The problem is that I’m still used to adding them at the end of the message (the “annex” perspective). Maybe this will be better if I can get used to placing them next to the place where they are mentioned in the message.

Ah, I guess this requires too many changes in the working habits of an old person. We’ll see how it goes.

There are some very good aspects as well, but I’ll leave that to a future post.

screen capture: ignorance is not always bliss

April 5, 2009

I recently complained about the screen capture functionality, essentially because you have to make strange combinations of keys.

But, I stand corrected: in the Services menu, which is available for all applications, there is an option (“Grab”) with three possibilities: “Screen”, “Selection” and “Timed Screen”.

Simple, hey?

Well, but apparently there are some cases for which these options are not enough. For instance, how to grab the login screen? It seems impossible, doesn’t it?

offices

March 31, 2009

I frequently work with spreasheets and presentations, which makes me one in a… one-dot-three (or maybe less). I don’t work that much with word processors (and when I do, I mostly use latex but this will be the subject of a different post).

So, I installed microsoft office and openoffice and here are my first impressions:

  • open office is not really Mac OS X look-and-feel. I heard that NeoOffice is a more mac-like version of OO but I haven’t tried it yet.
  • MS Office: it’s big, it’s complex and last but not least, it’s microsoft… Yeah, I’m prejudiced, so what? Oh, and it has these annoying toolboxes that are always in the wrong workspace. Maybe the toolboxes are not the only ones to blame but that’s a tale to be told at a different time. 

beautiful

March 28, 2009

You’ve got to hand it to the designers at Apple: the macbook is a beautiful machine.

Well, it is true there is some debate over the quality of the glossy screen, in particular concerning reflection. Interestingly enough, right now I’m sitting with my macbook in front of me and an old CRT screen behind it and I can see myself in both of them… But, I guess that this is not much of an argument.

Here’s what I think. I became conscious of this problem when I bought the macbook. The fact that some colleagues were teasing me about it, didn’t help, of course. After working with it for a few weeks, I’m rarely affected by it. Of course, I can see my reflection if I concentrate.

And, if you can get past the reflection issue, the quality of the image is really good.

Of course, there are also some ways to reduce the reflection effect.

annotations

March 27, 2009

I’ve recently started to use A.nnotate to make annotations to documents that I’m discussing with colleagues.

But, the “easy” perspective on things struck again. I was reading a document on Preview and I started getting that “I wonder…” feeling again. I checked the Tools menu and… there they were: highlight, strikethrough, underline, draw rectangles, post notes and add links. It’s all there. Easy!

Then, I thought “Hmmm, I wonder if I’m the first to realize this…” Suprise, surprise, I wasn’t. And Preview actually does more than that.

the “easy” perspective on things

March 26, 2009

Selecting files is really a nuisance:

  1. click the browse button
  2. navigate to the directory containing the file
  3. click on the file

If this is something you must do often, as is my case, it is really a lot of wasted time. But, I’ve been used to doing this for so long, that I didn’t even question if a better way was possible.

After using my macbook for a few weeks, I – almost unconsciously – dragged a file which I had visible on a Finder folder, onto the “browse” button and, voilà, it worked. 

I guess it is the “easy” perspective on things that is starting to grow on me.

Then I realized that other OSs must implement the same behavior. However, I found that there is a plugin for Firefox that does the same, so, I guess that not all OSs must have this functionality…

 

panic!

March 25, 2009

No! All my applications just froze. I had to do a hard reboot! I can’t believe it. Quick, must blame it on Microsoft… Yes, I was running Excel (several worksheets were open) and Powerpoint. That must be it. Those damned MS Office applications…

…but not always

March 25, 2009

I’m guessing that OS developers have some pact with the devil: every system they develop, no matter how simple to use it is, screen capture can only be made by an exotic combination of keys, such as [CMD]+[ALT]+c (3 seconds), followed by [CTRL]+[FN]+% (2 seconds) and then jump three times on your left foot…

Why not a simple option in the finder menu?