Review: .Mac Webmail Mostly Delivers on Its Promises

At the close of September, Apple teased us with news of an upcoming .Mac webmail upgrade, and true to their word, they delivered yesterday. The revamped service is quick and introduces several innovative features that set a new standard for similar platforms. Despite its enhancements, some persistent issues remain unaddressed, and new features have introduced fresh quirks. However, my recent renewal of my .Mac membership attests to my overall satisfaction with this significant update to a crucial part of Apple’s .Mac service suite. Let’s explore the details of this mixed-bag upgrade.

.Mac webmail goes web 2.0
The most noticeable change is the completely redesigned user interface, now mirroring the look and functionality of Apple’s desktop Mail.app.

The new layout features a three-pane view: folders on the left, a customizable message list above, and a preview pane below. The divider between the message list and the preview pane is adjustable, enhancing the user interface significantly.

However, the update isn’t merely cosmetic. It includes numerous keyboard shortcuts, though they are not enabled by default, which might be a slight oversight considering the user base of .Mac. These shortcuts cover a wide range of functions from message navigation to searching and printing, accessible via the preferences menu.

Additional UI enhancements include clever features like an Address Book search positioned below the folder list, displaying results directly beneath the input field. Clicking on a contact name opens a popup with their details, and links to their email and public iDisks are readily accessible.

Another notable feature is the Quick Reply window, which appears next to selected messages, reminiscent of a feature first seen in iTunes 7 and similar to functionalities in Opera’s email client.

Address Book enhancements
The web version of the Address Book also sports a new look and improved functionality, complete with keyboard shortcuts for managing contacts. Users can now toggle between a list view and a grid view of contacts, the latter providing a visual representation of contact information.

Desktop experience in a webmail client
One of the goals of the new .Mac webmail was to emulate the desktop client experience within a web browser. Creating a new message, for instance, opens a new window—a departure from the inline message composition found in most traditional webmail interfaces. This might be disorienting for users accustomed to more conventional webmail systems or those who prefer browser-based tab management.

Other desktop-like functionalities include the ability to drag and drop messages into folders, although this feature feels somewhat out of place in a web browser environment.

Limitations and discrepancies
Despite its advancements, the new .Mac webmail has its shortcomings. Notably, it lacks a rules system for message management, a feature robustly supported in Mail.app.

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Thomas is a dedicated writer for TUAW, bringing insightful news and updates about Apple products to readers. With a deep understanding of the Apple ecosystem, Thomas covers everything from the latest iPhone and iPad releases to MacBook innovations and Apple Watch features. His clear and engaging writing style helps readers stay informed about the tech world. Thomas’s expertise and enthusiasm for Apple products make him a valuable contributor to the TUAW team.