With its latest update, Apple added some new features to their Mail.app that I think are more than worth mentioning. New in Apple’s Mail application is the ability to compose notes and tasks. Of course you could already write tasks in iCal, which worked fine, but Mail.app can do more.
First of all, Mail has the ability to store notes and tasks on the server. If your server supports this, as IMAP servers such as GMail and my own do, this allows you to access all of your notes and tasks remotely. Even without your Mac nearby; no synchronisation required. Best of all, these server-side tasks still show up in iCal, so it won’t break whichever workflow you may already have.
But it gets better. Mail.app also allows you to add tasks to your mail messages. I was a little sceptic at first at the idea of using Mail.app to manage my tasks or my calendar (I particularly don’t like the way this turned out in Outlook), but this is huge. I only now realise how often incoming mail messages lead to tasks. Now I can read a mail message, decide it needs action and add a task to that message with the click of one button. When completing the task at a later time, I can always open the corresponding message directly from the task by clicking on an arrow icon next to the task.
There are still some quirks Apple needs to work out though. For instance, selecting a message in the message list and then clicking the “Create a To Do” button does not add a To Do to the selected message. You need to click inside the message pane or open a new window for the message first. Also, the list of tasks in Mail.app is less clear than the one in iCal (no use of colours, priority indicated with text instead of icons etc.) even though a lot more space is available. I want to use iCal for that anyway, but Apple could at least have given iCal a facelift to make better use of these new features.
Overall, the new features make Mail.app a lot more powerful. They perfectly complement the “inbox zero” philosophy I adopted recently.
Some more images illustrating Mail.app’s new feature:
|Extended options||Task list, with arrows||A task in iCal|