March 6, 2009

The Book of the Mac

I’ve been slowly getting disillusioned with working on Windows due to the various issues that have plagued me on that platform in recent years. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I would have switched away from Windows years back except for the fact that I had so many applications which were developed on (and for) Windows. I tried Windows Vista for a while and for a while, even swore by it. But that was before I started experiencing mysterious application crashes and lock ups. I then went back to Windows XP. And let me be honest, Windows XP has worked pretty flawlessly for me.

And then Microsoft released the first betas of Windows 7. It was touted as better than Vista and that it fixed all the biggest issues with Vista. So I took heart and tried out the Windows 7 beta. My opinion? Other than for some annoying and confusing changes which just made it look even more like OS X, it still had the same annoying application issues that I’d noticed with Vista. It was probably then that I began wondering if Microsoft was working so hard at emulating OS X, why not switch to OS X in the first place?

Of course, I can’t swear to the above but that thought. or something similar, has led me to finally switching allegiances and going over to the dark side :) Yes, baby, I’m a Mac user now!

Once I made the switch-over, the first thing I did, of course, was to try and find applications to replace all of my standard faithfuls that I’d used over the years under Windows. I knew that I might have trouble with some applications, especially since I wrote some of them, but I didn’t expect any trouble with e-mail since I currently use Thunderbird and there’s already a version of Thunderbird available for the Mac platform. But sometimes, when you’re wrong, you can be utterly wrong! 😀

I thought it would be as simple as installing Thunderbird for Mac and then copying over my existing Thunderbird mailbox files to for me to set for e-mailing under OS X. And at first, it appeared to work like that. Then I noticed that some of my mail folders were not accessible and this turned out to be a permissions issue (yeah, you don’t have that under Windows :p) However, once I fixed the permissions, Thunderbird started crashing all the time. It became so bad, that I had to find an alternative e-mail program.

So I looked at Mail.app, the standard mail client which comes with OS X. It imported in my existing Thunderbird mail with no trouble at all. (Since Thunderbird had an option to import Apple Mail, I thought I might be able to go back to Thunderbird by importing back my mail but Thunderbird unfortunately would only import the main mailboxes – not the mail in local folders.) I tried out Mail.app and it actually worked very well. It worked with IMAP folders better than Thunderbird had and it had this nifty feature called “smart folders” which allows a user to display mail from different locations/mailboxes fitting a given set of criteria as a virtual folder.

The only trouble I had with Mail.app was something trivial – the lack of customizable signatures :) Yes, I love my e-mail sigs. I like being able to insert a witty quote from a Terry Pratchett book in all of my e-mails and I couldn’t do this with Mail.app. Now most people would have shrugged and moved on but little details like that niggle at me :)

So, I first looked at alternative e-mail clients. But I didn’t find anything that had the right mix of features that I was looking for. So I went back to Mail.app and considered how I could leverage the application to do what I wanted to get done. That was when I came across AppleScript. AppleScript allows you to automate the various OS X components quite easily and it seemed easy enough to write a script that would do what I needed with regards to creating a dynamic signature.

But it turned out to be slightly more complicated than I thought and given that this entry is getting overlong, the actual process will have to wait till my next blog entry :)

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Tags: Real Life, Technology
Posted by Fahim at 7:52 pm   Comments (4)