For a geek, the second best thing to finding a new solution to an existing computer problem, is finding a new problem to an existing solution. While fiddling around with Mail.app a few weeks ago, I stumbled over the window that pops up if you choose “Get Info” from the action menu at the bottom of the mailboxes column. Its most interesting feature is a list of all the messages stored in the selected email account on the server.
The list conveniently states the size of each message and can also be restricted to those messages that have already been removed from, or downloaded to, your Mac. Messages that have not been downloaded yet, are marked with a blue dot. The thing that makes this list really useful is the “Remove From Server” button: make a selection from the list, hit that button, and you can delete messages right there on the server — no need to download them first. Very neat!
This feature provided a welcome solution to a problem I ran into this week: sometimes when getting new email from my server, the download will stall: the progress bar will freeze, and even clicking on the stop sign in the Activity Viewer to abort the download will not help, either. Unfortunately, force-quiting Mail, relaunching the app, and restarting the download doesn’t help much: since Mail apparently hasn’t marked the downloaded messages, all downloaded messages are re-downloaded and the download stalls again at the very same message. While I still haven’t found the source of the problem, I can at least manually remove the messages I have successfully downloaded thanks to the Account Info window, and then download the rest of the mail as usual.
There are other uses for this feature, as well: if you’re traveling and only have access to a slow Internet connection, being able to manually delete very large incoming email messages (especially if you have a colleague who just loves to send you the “hilarious TV ad du-jour”…) may be a God-sent. The thing that baffles me, though, is this: why haven’t Mail’s programmers included a “Download From Server” button as well? Being able to download only the few messages that you care about, instead of having to remove all the others first, would be so much more efficient.
P.S.: If you have any ideas as to what may cause those email downloads to stall in the first place, please feel free to share them in the comments. Thanks!