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Mail in Mavericks: Is It Safe Yet?

[Note: The OS X 10.9.2 update addresses many (though by no means all) of the remaining bugs in Mail. For details, see "Mail Improvements in OS X 10.9.2," 25 February 2014.]

Since I was the one who raised such a ruckus about the original release of Apple Mail in OS X 10.9 Mavericks (see “Mail in Mavericks Changes the Gmail Equation,” 22 October 2013), lots of people have been asking me whether the recent Mail update fixes everything (see “Apple Updates Mail to Address Mavericks Bugs,” 7 November 2013). Is it now safe to upgrade to Mavericks and use Mail with Gmail accounts, and can you now experience at least the same degree of email functionality found in the 10.8 Mountain Lion version of Mail? My official answer is a qualified “Maybe, sorta.”

On the positive side, the update — which leaves Mail’s version number at 7.0 but increases the build number from 1816 to 1822 — appears to address two big problems for most people. The first is that if you have Gmail’s All Mail label hidden, messages you delete or file should no longer reappear in your Inbox. And the second is that Mail should no longer spend extended periods of time out of sync with your Gmail Inbox. I’m glad to see those fixes, as those were probably the two most serious problems.

But you’ll notice I’ve used weasel words like “most” and “should” and “appears,” because some users are still having trouble in these two areas. Anecdotal evidence suggests that you’ll increase your chances of success by deleting your Gmail account from Mail, adding it back, and waiting for all your messages to sync yet again.

Even though the release notes for the update claim it also fixes problems with unread message counts, numerous people are still seeing incorrect behavior there. And, as far as I can tell, all the other problems with Mail in Mavericks are unchanged. Rules and smart mailboxes still have issues, AppleScripts targeting Gmail mailboxes won’t work, Gmail mailboxes can’t be arranged in arbitrary order, you’re still forced to use default locations for Sent and Trash, IMAP accounts must download all messages in their entirety, and the list goes on.

If you were holding off on upgrading to Mavericks because of the Mail problems, all I can say is that it’s safer now than it was at first. I can’t guarantee you a trouble-free experience, and without a doubt, some people upgrading from Mountain Lion will feel the new version of Mail is a distinct downgrade. It all depends on how you use Mail, and as we’ve seen, each person approaches it a bit differently from the next.

As for me, I haven’t had any complaints about Mail in Mavericks since I stopped using Gmail and switched to a conventional IMAP provider, as I discussed in a Macworld article. I don’t know if Mail would be working as well if my 300,000+ messages were still on Gmail’s servers, but I’m certainly not going to move them back there just to find out. For my own needs, Mail in Mavericks is back to usability — and would have been even without the recent update. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

If the Mail update doesn’t cut it for you, your options remain as before. You can do as I did and switch to a different provider if your problems are specific to Gmail. You can switch to a different email client, of which there are many choices. You can use a Web-based mail interface, assuming your provider offers one. Or you can keep waiting and hope for better news in a future update.


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Comments about Mail in Mavericks: Is It Safe Yet?
(Comments are closed.)

Devananda dasa  2013-11-11 10:13
Thanks for your continued effort on this issue. I've been reading your posts on this and I am not going to upgrade to Mavericks until I hear a completely "ALL SAFE" from you. Like you said, people use according to their needs and I use it, no, I rely on it, like searching old messages for data. It is basically a database for me. So, this is a very important issue and I appreciate your posts.
Joe Kissell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-11 10:25
I won't ever be able to say Mavericks in general, or Mail in particular, is entirely safe for everyone. So please don't wait for that to happen—it can't, because there will always be differences in Mavericks Mail from previous versions that will bother some people. It's not like Apple is ever going to just replace it with the old Mountain Lion version.

All I'll ever be able to tell you is whether it works well enough for me (it does now) and whether there are reports of other people having problems (there always will be).

Harvey Barnett  2013-11-11 17:15
I upgraded and have had no problems with Gmail or apple mail on my computer iPad or iPhone
Scott Rose  2013-11-11 10:24
The new Mail update for Mavericks fixes MOST of the problems with Google email accounts, but not ALL.

You can no longer map any custom folder of your choosing to become the "Trash" folder. You are now forced to use Google's default "Trash" folder instead of using your own custom folder as the "Trash" folder.

This is really bad for me personally, because if you use Google's default "Trash" folder, Google will ridiculously permanently purge anything sitting in its trash after 30 days. I want my Deleted Messages sitting around for a while so I can go back and find old mails.

The only (terrible) workaround for this problem is to use Google's "All Mail" folder, and then "Archive" messages instead of "Deleting" messages. However, I never want to use Google's "All Mail" folder because Google dumps EVERYTHING into the "All Mail" folder: Inbox msgs, sent msgs, deleted msgs, and msgs from every single folder!

You could custom-map folders in all previous versions of OS X, but not in 10.9. :-(
Seems like a corner case to me.
Scott Rose  2013-11-15 14:05
iOS still lets you custom-map your trash folder, so it's clearly a feature that people are using and that they depend on. It's odd that Apple would remove it from OS X, especially when it still works just fine on iOS.
Frank Marder  2013-11-11 11:12
Still messed up unread counts in Smart Folders. I am using Mail Unread Menu as it seems to be able top count properly.
This is on non-gmail IMAP counts. I suspect the problem is with online folders.
JerryNaples  2013-11-11 11:17
For me the "patch" to Mail did not solve the 3 issues I am having AND they don't seem to be related to a Gmail account.

1) Mail still doesn't see any Smart Groups in my Contacts to populate any of the 3 destination fields. If I start typing the name of a Smart Group (say MG0) the autocomplete doesn't offer up that or any other smart group name. My workaround is to use the "Show Addresss" icon to see my groups. Then select the vCards and click on the To:, Cc:, or Bcc link.

2) For about 60% of my Contact vCards I get a double copy of the vCard name after the AutoComplete gives me the single individual. I don't know if 2 messages are sent. I have cleared out Previous Recipients but that isn't the issue. I have no pattern of who.

3) Typing a vCard name is not reliable. Sometimes I get the vCard identity and the name is "blue" which indicates it was accepted. Other times the "blue" isn't there and I can't type a , to add another name, etc

These problems are on iMac and MacBPro
Shameer Mulji  2013-11-11 11:42
Sounds to me like people should just stop using Gmail.
JerryNaples  2013-11-11 11:59
I have disabled all my gmail accounts and am just using @me, @mac , @iCloud and the 3 issues are there

I am not having a Gmail caused problem
Kevin Patfield  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-11-11 14:35
Jerry: Do any of the contacts who get duplicated after autocomplete have nicknames in your contacts database? Last night I confirmed (and reported to Apple) a bizarre bug that resulted in duplication in the message header of any contacts that had a nickname containing a comma. Look for this or a similar pattern in your contacts.
JerryNaples  2013-11-13 07:19
Thanks Kevin. I don't have comma in the nickname field but do use a comma in the last name field

Unfortunately, some vCards that are not having problems have a comma in the last name.

I will watch to see if I get any duplicates where there isn't a comma in last name''
crateish  2013-11-13 10:09
That's how I eliminated my Gmail problems, a long time ago. I only use Gmail for 'throwaway accounts.' I treat Google like the spamming pariah they are.
barefootguru  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-11-13 15:12
Google has faults but spamming isn't one of them.
for 2 MacBookAirs, the recent update to Mail was a disaster. after what appeared as a successful install, the first launch provided a window that asked me to wait a few minutes while it updated emails. the window never went away. i tried restoring, reinstalling the update and waiting up to 28 hours, not necessarily in that order. only thing that worked was to reinstall Mavericks. the MBAs are not identical, 1 is a few years older, both had been updated to Mavericks w/o issue. so i'm now waiting for the update to the Mail Update.
Scot Mcphee  2013-11-11 13:57
I switched to Airmail and frankly I don't want to go back to
Skylar  2013-11-11 15:16
one of my biggest issues with it presently is that you cannot uncheck the "store sent messages on server" and "store drafts on server"
Thompson Ray  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2013-11-11 17:49
Isn't ANYONE ELSE having THIS problem? MY MAIL GROUPS DON'T WORK! I can't type them into mail address OR drag them in, the way I always have! Haven't heard anyone else mention this!
Bye R@y
Mike Bowie  2013-11-11 22:07
How about dumping gmail IMAP in favour of gmail POP? Otherwise it seems to me that we're trying to play catch-up with a game to which nobody knows the rules—even Apple! Doesn't Apple realise that they're playing with people's lives and livelihoods?! Enough is enough: ‘When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I imagined as a child; but as soon as I was a man I put away all childishness …’. Are we reading the same script?
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-12 08:46
POP would probably work fine, since the messages would all be local, but you'd want to think about how to configure Gmail to handle the messages internally. There are four choices: keep unread, mark as read, archive, and delete. Which of those makes the most sense for you depends on how else you use Gmail - if you were accessing it from an iOS device, for instance, you'd probably want to decide among the first three.
Peter Stoneberg  2013-11-12 06:11
My gmail/macmail setup is still broken after the update. My Mail folder has grown from 10 gig to 70 gig, and no matter how I try I can't shrink it. Any ideas?
Also, I hate having to store the entire Allmail folder from gmail to try to make this work. Do I still need Allmail after the update? If so, any ideas on how to shrink it?
B. Jefferson Le Blanc  2013-11-12 07:31
I'm probably not the first one to say this, but screwing up Mail is a really bad move on Apple's part. It's a backbone OS X app for a great many people. Whether or not it will be broken in every use scenario, the fact remains that a Mavericks upgrade is problematic if you cannot be sure Mail will work properly. The only way to reliably test it is to clone your system before you upgrade to Mavericks. That way, if Mail - or any other program or feature you depend on - doesn't work, you can easily revert to your old system from the clone.

Actually, making an up-to-date clone backup of your system is a good idea any time you are doing a major update or upgrade. There would be a whole lot less buyers' remorse around OS X upgrades if more people took this simple precaution. In this regard, Time Machine is less than optimal - you cannot boot from it and restoring from Time Machine is slow, when it works, as it often does not.

While Joe's solution - changing his mail service provider - is a viable alternative, it's not something one should have to do after an OS upgrade. Nor is it something everyone would find equally easy to do. Given how ubiquitous Gmail is, one can only wonder how such a problem could escape Apple's quality control testing.

One other lesson to be had from this experience is to make a habit of waiting a month or two before upgrading OS X to the latest version. Those first few months are invariably a shake out period, when Apple uses its customers to do the final road tests on its products. Of course, some people enjoy being unpaid beta testers; but for those who find the experience less entertaining, a bit of caution and patience could save them a lot of headaches. At least clone your system first so you have a credible fall-back position.
Abbi Vakil  2013-11-12 08:54
Downloading email to the local HD when using IMAP has got to be the most annoying aspect of the new If you have a small SSD, every bit of storage is needed- perhaps the box for new Macs should include a warning for customers using Gmail O:-)
Oshkosh  2013-11-12 10:56
I use corecom for eMail as I can go their website from anywhere and send and receive. Corecom works automaticly with my Mac --until I entered 10.9 on my desktop. It will no longer send messages. Did not upgrade my laptop and it still works fine. Apple techs have not been able to solve.
Bruce Shore  2013-11-12 16:18
Most of the comments are well beyond my understanding, though I do recognize some of the problems I have had with Mail under Mavericks. I wonder what people think about Eudora OSE, now run by Mozilla, to replace Apple Mail. And I would like to understand how, and why, I should change from Google imap to Google pop.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-13 09:04
Honestly, I don't recommend Eudora OSE at all - it's based on an obsolete version of Thunderbird and doesn't seem to be getting any development attention at all. Thunderbird itself is a better alternative.

Switching from IMAP to POP is not generally a good idea, since it introduces confusion in where messages are, given that POP downloads everything and optionally deletes it from Gmail. That makes it more confusing to work with email on iOS devices, for instance.
Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-13 10:21
I wouldn't recommend Thunderbird either, since Mozilla is putting it on the backburner.
Ed Thome  2013-11-12 22:17
I switched from Mail to MailMate several years ago because it worked so much better than Mail even then. Fastforward 3 years and Mailmate has gotten even better. It works well with Gmail (including Gmail labels and All Mail) and it had tagging and super search capabilities.
Sherman Wilcox  2013-11-13 08:27
Entirely agree. MailMate is now my preferred email client. Powerful, just works, and highly responsive developer.
I hate this situation, and like you guys don't want to change using the Mail app, or Gmail. I have my website/domain mail via google apps running through Gmail's IMAP.

What do I have to do to prevent my deleted mail from ever being actually purged?

Josh Centers  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-13 10:24
Personally, what I did to solve the problem was abandon Mail for Gmail in Chrome. Chrome gives me desktop notifications and Gmail has keyboard shortcuts, so it actually works pretty well.

Not my favorite interface, but I feel much more in control of my email.
It seems to work as Joe Kissell says, including the drawbacks. I've changed my Gmail setting back to my original setup: "All Mail" is turned off for display in the Mail client. That allows me to search messages and see search results in Mail that show the folder in which resulting messages reside...instead of "All Mail" for every retrieved message.

One thing that hasn't been mentioned: on my machine, every so often Mail goes and checks every single folder and syncs with them. Very few folders have new filed messages, so bandwidth use of this behavior presumable is low...but it sure is annoying. You can see it happening by choosing "Activity" under the Window menu, and watching for a while.
John Cooper  2013-11-14 08:15
I've noticed this too. It also happens with standard IMAP servers that have several folders, not just Gmail.
Dave Mc  2013-11-23 14:21
Same here. I have two Gmail accounts with many messages, and all that frequent synchronizing uses a lot of CPU time.
I broke down and purchased airmail yesterday. It seems to work great -- though I still feel burned that Apple broke this, in the native Mail app. The Mail App should either work flawlessly with the overwhelmingly largest email provider on the planet, or Apple should provide a free alternative that's just as good at hosting my needs as Google Apps/Gmail IMAP is.

Very frustrating. I have an archive of mail going back over a decade up on Gmail. I can't even begin to really understand what the recent changes in Mail for Mavericks have wrought on everything.
Pissed off  2013-11-14 08:16
Ever since I made the horrific mistake of installing Mavericks I have had nothing but trouble with Gmail and Mavericks. I have to resort to looking at my individual mailboxes on my iPhone or iPad. The Apple mail program chokes and barfs everyday. The upgrade did absolutely nothing to solve my problems and Apple tech support are so stupid they did not even know an upgrade was being worked on - or when it would be released.

It is situations like this that remind me never to do upgrades when things are working fine and also that Apple is badly screwing up the hardware software interface badly.

Where is Steve Jobs? Oh, he's dead.
Bill Kish  2013-11-14 12:03
When I migrated from mavericks on my MBA to a new MBP, Apple mail just locked up on my standard account. But it work on my administrator account. The fix is to delete the container "~library/" Fixed my problem. Mail work great now.
Same here. Even after the upgrade, Mail is still noticably slower to display message lists; will crash at random times; has issues with Flagged and Unread counts; makes mails disappear and reappear.

Not too happy.
Brett O  2013-11-14 17:46
Might I add this. My Mail, after the update, does not search for emails properly. It does not show in search emails I know are there, when searching by name. Reindexing Spotlight has not corrected this. So, the patch solved my original issues but ....
Ron Penix  2013-11-17 12:28
Brett O: my new MBP has the same problem searching for emails. Frustrating...
uselessapp  2013-11-25 08:24
This is why I have to change clients. Of all of the unacceptable downgrades in Mail/Mavericks, that I cannot even SEARCH for mail I know is there... profound "uselessness" and scariness!
Ken Tan  2013-11-15 01:24
Archive is still not working!
Rick Lobrecht  2013-11-15 16:00
Still pretty broken for me. Mail that is read, filed, or archived on one of my iOS devices, or in the web UI, just stay in my Inbox marked unread.

I have deleted and recreated my account twice, once after the Mavericks upgrade, and once again after the mail patch.
Chris R  2013-11-15 18:25
Rick L., This is my only grievance with Gmail on Apple Mail after last week's update. Can't figure it out. The badge will read "1" and a message that I've previously dealt with elsewhere remains in the inbox - despite the fact it should have been moved elsewhere. Somehow an "inbox" label is still attached to messages I've archived or deleted in iOS Mail, the Gmail iOS app, or at - providing I had Apple Mail open at the time the message was initially received. Anyone else with suggestions on this? Otherwise it's OK.
Jeff Lawrence  2013-11-17 21:33
So Joe, if we do decide to dive in, upgrade to Mavericks, and use Gmail with Apple Mail, what are the recommended settings for "Achieving Email Bliss"? Same as before (the article title I'm quoting) or something else?
Joe Kissell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-11-17 21:37
Basically: I don't know. I'm not using Gmail anymore. In theory, default settings should work best, but clearly that's not the case for everyone. I'm not sure there is a path to Gmail bliss anymore, which is why I switched providers.
My Mail now crashes whenever I try to switch to Gmail in the Account preferences. It will only work with the Mac account. It's worse now.
Stephen Scheaffer  2013-11-28 10:40
Just came back from a 4 week trip. Updated the latest mail fix. It looks better but most of my archived messages are still missing....bummer.
Stephen Ward  2013-12-04 20:08
Gmail still not playing properly with Apple Mail. Huge CPU use and can't rearrange folders. Have tried AirMail and several others. None do what I need. Have looked at alternatives to gmail. Looking for 50GB IMAP at the same price level without the complications. comes close but no coconut. Hoping 10.9.1 fixes the mail issues and I can stop all this. Am looking at using Mailsteward as a way of archiving old mails and that has been a surprising positive side consequence of all this hassle. Pls 109.1 … fix mail...
I don't have a solution for 50GB storage for you, but check out Email Archiver Pro for storage.

What I like about it is that it makes PDFs of all the mail you designate. For me, PDFs are preferable for an archival solution. And once they are archived lots of other programs can access them, tag them, etc. I used Mail Steward for a while, and loved its search capabilities, but having the PDFs was a much better solution for me.
Interesting...most commenters seem to want to stick with gmail and try to find a Mail or Mail alternative fix to their woes.

But as the original Kissell article documented, a bunch of this is Google's problem. They designed a free mail service to be used on the web as an adjunct to their other services, not something to be a Mac OS friendly server for the Mail client. So, bottom line is you're getting what you paid for.

The easyDNS solution Kissell described, which I also use, is only $35 for crying out loud. And you get three mailboxes, a bunch of redirects (basically like aliases), and a bunch of storage. And your own name on the internet instead of And it works great with Mail.

I humbly submit that if your time is worth anything just pay some money and save time. And then just forward all your stuff from the old gmail account and fergedaboutit.
Brian S.  2013-12-18 17:33
Rule to move old SENT folder content to the Trash is still not working after the 10.9.1 update. This is via the "Apply Rules" menu item from the Messages menu
Joe Kissell  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2013-12-18 17:36
From what I'm hearing, the list of Mail problems still not fixed in 10.9.1 is pretty long. Sigh.
JerryNaples  2013-12-19 14:46
Just to list my issues with Mail in OS 10.9.(Which are NOT ANYTHING about Gmail) the update to OS 10.9.1 did not solve:

1) They have not fixed the issue if a Contact vCard has a comma character (,) in: Group Name (e.g. Jokes, cats) or any of the person fields (First Name, Last Name or Nickname). If any of the above have a common the email message will place two copies in the destination field AND send two copies

2) Mail, in Mavericks, does NOT know anything about Smart Groups in Contacts in OS 10.9 Typing a smart group address into a destination field yields nothing. The name of the smart group is not recognized (even if fully typed).

The iOS world doesn't accept smart groups. Neither does Mavericks. Contacts still lets one create Smart Groups BUT Mail in Mavericks has no view of Mavericks' Contacts smart groups.

Since iOS is unable to support smart groups at any level I'm afraid that Mac OS will go there soon.

Jerry Naples
Naples MacFriends User Group, Inc