Much of the recognition with Siri on the new iPhone 4S is its ability to schedule meetings, set timers and reminders, and come up with some pretty humorous responses to off the wall questions. What hasn’t gotten a lot of press is one of the more powerful tools Siri’s voice-cognition capabilities offers to users of the iPhone 4S. Voice-dictation of emails, notes, and documents has never been easier. I decided to see for myself how well this is implemented with a few of the more frequently used apps on my iPhone 4S.
The Mac OS X 10.7 Lion PocketGuide
Author: Jeff Carlson
Publisher: Peachpit Press
ISBN-13: 978-0-321-77661-7, 240 pages
Price: Paperback US$11.99, Book + eBook Bundle US$16.19, eBook only US$9.59
If you’re after a quick pocket guide book that offers more detail than other competing books, I suggest you pick up The Mac OS X 10.7 Lion PocketGuide book.
The author, Jeff Carlson, takes readers through Lion in a way that anyone at any level can adapt to. Within the easy to follow guides in each chapter, readers will find a treasure trove of addition hints and tips to help you perfect your user experience.
Book Review: Take Control of Apple Mail in Snow Leopard (Ebook version)
By Joe Kissell
Take Control Ebooks
Apple Mail is a free product that comes with every Mac and OS X operating system disc. This is both a strength and a weakness. Apple Mail is a fairly simple email client, which means that it is easy to use in most respects. On the other hand, it has some idiosyncrasies that can make it feel limiting and frustrating at times. The ebook Take Control of Apple Mail in Snow Leopard by Take Control Ebooks from Tidbits Publishing, Inc., by author Joe Kissell, can help make using Apple Mail both easy and productive.
Take Control of Apple Mail in Snow Leopard is 133 pages, and covers every conceivable aspect of Apple’s Mail application. The book walks you through setting up accounts, reading and searching messages, address and contact handling, sending email, encryption and signed email options, managing mailboxes, synchronizing mail across multiple devices, and many more Mail related topics.
Company: CTM Development
Price: $49 US, $65 US with Spam Sieve included
For the first few years that I was using a Mac, I used Claris Emailer, versions 1 and 2, which quickly became my email program of choice. In 1998 when Apple lost interest in Emailer, I searched around for a replacement and found PowerMail 2.0.3 by CTM Development. PowerMail was the closest mail application that I found that brought out the best of Emailer and that has continued to be improved upon over the years. PowerMail 6 was released by CTM and I’ve been using it for the past few months as I have since 1998. I have emails that I imported into PowerMail that go back to 1995, all related to My Mac.
Company: Uncomplex LTD
This morning on my way to work, I was listening to the latest iPhone Alley podcast, and the podcasters had a brief discussion about how each of them handled email. It’s a topic that gets brought up in many circles and with great frequency, because managing email can be a huge chore. When I had just the MacBook Pro, it wasn’t really an issue. Then my brother amazed me with a hand-me-down Mac Pro, and as I used it more and more, I realized that syncing mail through .Mac (later MobileMe) and using Apple Mail wasn’t cutting it. It didn’t address the issue of mail saved in folders, and there were lots of problems. The more I researched it, the more I realized I was wasting a lot of time trying to deal simply with a problem that seemed a lot more complicated than necessary.
Then my brother sent me an email message with a word in it that changed my whole outlook (no really bad pun intended) on email. MailPlane. That was the word. It was his answer to my question about how he handled email. "But that’s a Gmail wrapper," I said. "That means you’re leaving all your mail in the cloud." "Yep," he replied. And thus began my own questioning about the nature of email, how I use it, and how I should use it.
I’m not going to write an essay here on the merits of online versus offline mail storage. But using Gmail and letting it deal with everything makes a lot of sense, so I would like to make a couple comments about it. First off, let’s get the privacy and security issue out of the way. The feds are already able to scan all your email. This is no secret. Given the fact that any ISP in the country will hand over whatever the feds want, whenever they want it, you may as well forget the notion that downloading your email using POP3 and only saving local copies buys you much in terms of privacy or security. Secondly, IMAP is still a remote to local sync technology. So having Gmail as your mail solution and not using any mail client at all gets around both of those issues. But if you’re like me, you probably don’t really enjoy having the browser be your email client either. It’s not quite the same thing doing email in a mail client and doing email through web mail. That’s where MailPlane comes in.
MailPlane basically functions as a wrapper for Gmail. It takes the Gmail web interface and puts a Mac window around it, complete with a toolbar containing various buttons for functions such as navigation between email messages, composing a new email, selecting an address from your Mac address book, and more.
It takes a little use of the app before the beauty of this sinks in. First off, you get integration to your Mac’s address book, as well as media libraries such as your iPhoto library, iTunes library, and movies on your hard drive, for easy email attachment. In fact, MailPlane supports drag and drop file insertion. The address book integration is very nice. I’ve never done much with my contacts list in Gmail. I have an address book on my Mac and it syncs to all my computers and devices nicely thanks to MobileMe. And thanks to MailPlane’s handling of address book contacts, I haven’t had to change that thinking to use MailPlane at all.
The file handling with the Media button for quickly finding and attaching files from your computer is nice, as is the drag and drop. When you drag and drop a picture onto an email you are composing, for example, it gives you a dialog with options for how you want the image optimized. When you’re done with that, it uploads it and attaches it. You can also tell it to use those settings as your default settings.
Probably the nicest thing for me personally, and the one that made using Gmail without a traditional mail client a real option for me is that MailPlane handles multiple accounts very nicely. You can have as many Gmail accounts as you like, and switch between them by using the accounts drawer. Just double-click on the account you want, and you’ll be in that account’s inbox. You can have the account info stored in the keychain and it will really be just like moving between mail accounts in Apple Mail, or whatever your previous mail client was. Smooth and easy. Much better than dealing with multiple Gmail accounts in the browser.
There are also a bunch of other little niceties, such as how it works with Gmail’s labels for organizing your email. I won’t go into all those here, but the web site (http://mailplaneapp.com/) has screencasts and examples which point these out.
There are a few glitches, but I think those might be partly due to Gmail itself rather than MailPlane. Sometimes you might switch to one of your accounts and find it never loads, so you jump back and forth a couple times before it does. However, this type of delay seems to happen periodically with Gmail in the browser also. And sometimes you’ll read your emails in your inbox, go to move them to another folder or delete them, and the action never seems to finish. Then you’ll notice when you go back to that account that it still shows the emails as unread. Again, I have seen similar oddities with Gmail through the browser directly, so I’m not really sure if it’s Gmail or MailPlane that is at fault. It’s annoying when it happens, but it’s not frequent enough for me to get angry at it. Therefore I rate it at an anger level of 0.5, which takes away from a perfect 5 rating, leaving me at a 4.5.
MailPlane has changed my entire mindset about email. I no longer deal with sync issues between computers. I no longer worry about managing local copies of everything. If you can wrap your brain around having your email in the cloud, or even if you just have a few Gmail accounts you want to manage in addition to some other email accounts that you do deal with through a regular email client, MailPlane makes things smooth and easy for you, just like using a regular email client. I recommend it to any heavy Gmail user on the Mac.
Stationery Pack 2
Back in January I reviewed Equinux’s Stationery Pack software which adds over 100 stationery templates to Apple’s Mail program. Well, Equinux has recently released Stationery Pack 2, and if you are hooked on stationery in your email, and Stationery Pack 1 is not enough for you, Stationery Pack 2 might be worth checking out.
Stationery Pack 2 adds another 122 templates to mail. Within these 122 templates are variations on most templates bring the total to 660! Some templates have over 80 variations. The templates might vary in color, or the imagery might change. Below is a bowling template with its four variations.
One of the upgrades that I looked most forward to for my business was Apple’s new Mail Stationery feature. I’ve always wanted a way to send graphic emails as opposed to simple text-based letters. I’ve tried using various programs – both web-based and 3rd party applications, but all of them were too time consuming for simply creating a few graphic personal or business letters that I wanted to do right within my Mail application.
Image heavy/graphic HTML emails, however, can be a turn off for some computer users who may have low storage email accounts. And recipients of rich text emails may not always get the email has it was originally formatted. But graphic emails are often more appealing for certain types of letters and information. I would say nearly 80% of the emails I receive these days have graphic content. A well done attractive email with graphic content can often get the message across ten times faster than mere words. It’s like the old adage says, a picture speaks a thousand words. One the other hand, a poorly done graphic email can also be a turn off for many readers because it’s weight down with graphic and obscuring the point of the message.
So what do I think of Mail’s Stationery now that I have the ability to finally create graphic emails on the fly? Well, I have mixed reactions.
Like many of you, I get graphic emails from Apple that look like this:
Many Macspirations ago I wrote about alternatives to using Safari for surfing the web. In this Macspiration I’m going to discuss some alternative email programs you might want to try. All of these programs have their differences. Some are free, some are shareware.
This is my favorite alternative to using Mail. Thunderbird is based on the email part of Mozilla, and could be considered the email partner to Firefox. I use Mail for my personal email and Thunderbird for all of my other accounts. I find it easier to organize these accounts in Thunderbird. It is free, so give it a try.
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