Wednesday, October 04, 2006

New .Mac Webmail Coming Soon

The following message from Apple just came in our .Mac mail with this .Mac Webmail Illustration:
The new .Mac webmail is coming soon, and you'll feel like you've seen it before.
With its smart use of the latest web technology, it'll remind you of the Mail application on your desktop, with a simple and elegant interface, drag-and-drop capability, built-in Address Book, and more.

A new look

Everything is within easy reach. Your mail folders are next to the Inbox, and you can read full messages and access your contact info without leaving the page.


Manage your Inbox easily, by dragging and dropping messages, just like you do on your desktop - even multiple messages at the same time.

Message pane

Read entire messages in a pane located right below your message list, just like you do in your desktop Mail application.

Smart refreshes

.Mac webmail keeps page reloads to a minimum, by refreshing only the portion of the page that needs updating, instead of reloading the entire page.

Quick Reply

A .Mac webmail exclusive. Dash off a response without leaving your Inbox, by clicking the Quick Reply button next to the message to which you're responding.

Built-in Address Book

It's fully integrated, so you can quickly access and search your contact info. Start typing in a name, and all your matching Address Book contacts appear in the address field.

Message previews

The .Mac webmail Inbox displays the beginning of every message, so you can quickly scan your messages without opening them.

Message flagging

Flag and unflag messages with a single click.

Keyboard shortcuts

Save time with keyboard short-cuts for common operations like composing new messages and searching your mailboxes.

Thoughts: Whenever we try to replicate desktop-like functionality within web documents, that's typically when web browsers are pushed to their limits of web standards support. It's rather feasible to achieve fairly advanced functionality in a cross-platform manner. But it's obviously far from trivial, and most often an exercise in pulling one's hair out. Cross-browser research and advocacy from guys like Peter-Paul Koch is invaluable to the developer community.

Building advanced user interfaces often requires going to the edge of CSS support, and Windows Internet Explorer's horribly broken box model and many missing advanced CSS features sure don't help. I've often noticed script execution speed issues in Safari, even when compared to OS X Firefox on the same machine. And when we start manipulating too many cross-referencing objects, I recently learned that Win/IE will leak memory. The list goes on.

It's reasonable to expect that Apple's web-based email will have to work flawlessly, with its most advanced features in Safari. I'm curious to see whether Apple will also strive to keep their application working flawlessly in other browsers, such as Firefox, Opera, and Win/IE. After all, the whole point of having access to .Mac Webmail, is to be able to access our mail from any machine, even if it isn't a Mac.

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