Mail, also called “Mail viewer” (by developers) and Mail.app (by uh… many people including myself) is a wonderful little application on which many of us rely for our daily workflow. Mail 2.0, included in Tiger, is a big step forward from the previous versions and its many new features have been acclaimed by heavy users — including its new found love for search capabilities.
For some users, however, the upgrade hasn’t gone as smoothly as they hoped: seemingly lost mails, crashes and the inability to send or retrieve messages have lead them to think that Mail was no longer to be trusted. Luckily, the solution is usually one little step away.
In issues like these, there are often as many solutions as there are causes — pretty precise, uh? Generally speaking, though, the best way to start is to ask yourself what could potentially interfere with Mail, which includes haxies, bundles, services and enhancers of any kind. Should you have any applications of this kind running, you might want to follow these steps:
- Quit or force-quit Mail, keeping in mind that force quitting it might cause some settings to be lost and could leave your mailbox indexes in a somewhat unstable state — Mail sometimes takes a long time to quit if you interrupt it in the middle of a server-related process, in which case patiently waiting is the best policy. Then, immediately backup your “Mail” folder, located in your “Library” folder.
steps, in order to ensure that no minor disk issue or permissions problem could interfere with your work. Sure, permissions issues have almost no chance to be, by themselves, the cause of a Mail problem but, as we are dealing with third-party installers here, it is better to be on the safe side.
- Navigate to your various “Library/Mail” folders and remove any folders called “Bundles”. “Bundles” are commonly used third-party “hacks” that add functionality to Mail and, since the application first appeared, enjoy some kind of love-hate relationship with it — everybody knows they exist and work but nobody really says so officially.
- Navigate to your various “Library/Services” folders and temporarily remove any third-party components you might see here. As services are constantly available from within your applications, a misbehaving service can cause unexpected trouble.
- If all this remains ineffective, you can delete (at a later time) your various “Library/Caches/Mail” folders.
- Update your Mac in order to ensure that you are using the latest available version of Mac OS X. Mac OS X v. 10.4.1, for example, improves Mail’s handling of misbehaving add-ons and plug-ins.
Once this is done, simply relaunch Mail and select your mailboxes one by one in the left hand side. For each one, use the “Rebuild” command of the “Mailbox” menu, which will force Mail to purge and re-create the indexes it keeps for the mailbox. Damaged indexes can lead to strange symptoms like “ghost” messages, messages that do not appear or general sluggishness — and while you are at it, try to delete as many attachments as you can (mail servers hate attachments) and ensure that you have purged any deleted messages from any POP server you might have.
Keep in mind that some of your accounts (such as Hotmail accounts) that are not natively managed by Mail and require third-party plug-ins might no longer work since the corresponding files have been removed. In that case, simply ask the developers whether an updated version is available and install it with caution. The best policy, of course, is to avoid these accounts or set them to “forward” any mail to an account you can check through officially supported standard methods but one does not always have the choice.
Should you have had issues with importing messages from your old installation, you can use the “Import Mailboxes…” menu item of the “File” menu in order to force the re-import of any potentially misbehaving mailboxes.
As you can see, these steps are pretty straightforward and basic. They should however help you work around most Mail-related issues and allow you to enjoy that great little application!
Have you found other troubleshooting techniques for Mail?