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Mail in El Capitan and iOS 9 Ignores Named Anchors

In the latest edition of “It’s not you, it’s Apple!” (for others, see “Dealing with Inexplicable Apple Error Messages,” 10 December 2015), I now have direct confirmation that Apple is aware that the versions of Mail in both OS X 10.11 El Capitan and iOS 9 do not properly honor navigating to standard HTML named anchor tags. A number of readers have complained about this to us, since the HTML edition of TidBITS includes a table of contents whose entries link to articles further down in the issue. If an anchor tag has a NAME attribute, it can be used as the destination of an incoming link; such a named anchor tag is at the top of every article in the HTML edition of TidBITS issues.

In El Capitan and iOS 9, clicking or tapping those table of contents links does nothing, unlike all previous versions of OS X and iOS. A few weeks ago, I put some time into verifying that my HTML code was correct, and even tweaked things so that our anchors contained characters other than digits and included the HTML5-required ID attribute as well as the NAME attribute. Nothing made a difference, so I filed a pair of bug reports with Apple, one for each operating system. Apple’s engineers first asked for more information about the report I filed against Mail in El Capitan and have now closed both reports as being duplicates.

This is all good, since it means that the company is at least acknowledging the report, and the fact that others have reported it as well adds to the likelihood of it being fixed. In my experience, getting any sort of response to a bug report is unusual, whether or not the bug is ever fixed — the oldest open report in my account documents a bug in iPhoto 7.1 from 2007 — so we can hold out a little more hope that Mail will be fixed in the next minor updates to El Capitan and iOS 9.

Frankly, I find this bug extremely distressing, not because it’s all that significant — you can always just scroll down in the TidBITS issue — but because named anchors were described in the 1992 CERN document (presumably by Tim Berners-Lee) that was the very first public documentation of HTML. It boggles the mind that Apple’s engineers could bungle such a simple behavior that sits at the very core of HTML and had worked properly for many years, and then fail to fix it in the two minor updates to El Capitan and iOS 9 released so far. (While they’re fixing basic functionality broken by recent updates, Mail’s developers could revert to their previously functional code for handling email via POP in iOS — lots of iOS 9 users who rely on POP instead of IMAP have been unhappy with Mail’s behavior since upgrading.)

As an aside, if you’ve been reading the plain text edition of TidBITS in email and would prefer the HTML version (which includes screenshots and styled text), or if you’d like to switch between getting the full issue and just an announcement with links to articles on our Web site, you can tweak all these settings on your Subscriptions page. You will need to log in first.


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Comments about Mail in El Capitan and iOS 9 Ignores Named Anchors
(Comments are closed.)

ccstone  An apple icon for a TidBITS Contributor 2016-01-05 11:29

A very good word Adam! :)

Unfortunately many things are bungled in OSX and iOS.

Apple needs to spend a little more time fixing bugs and refining features than they do on useless and *time consuming* eye candy.

Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-01-05 11:38
Josh gets credit for that word. I'd originally written "biff" but that was a bit too slangy. :-)
William Lisowski  2016-01-05 13:31
"It’s not you, it’s Apple!"

Perfect name for a series in either TidBITS, or at the rate things are is going, in a (large and growing) Take Control book.

Copyright it quickly before it gets taken!
John Cooper  2016-01-05 14:53
It does boggle the mind. For so many years, Apple set the standard for attention to detail and quality control. What is it about becoming the biggest that works against remaining the best?
Dennis B. Swaney  2016-01-12 00:14
Steve Jobs died and there isn't anyone AR enough to replace him. Say what you will about his management style; he kept an eye on the details.
Unfortunately, this episode simply confirms my reluctance at upgrading to OSX El Capitan (mostly due to the Apple-Mail Client not working correctly). I am currently running Mavericks, and was planning on upgrading for 10.11.3. Am I being too bold?

Ok, Adam has stated previously that the Apple-Mail Client (and the Apple software engineers responsible for Apple-Mail) has (have) to be ready to roll into the next OSX update, regardless of whether or not Apple-Mail is ready for an incremental update.

Similar to the Safari software updates, Apple could simply de-couple the Apple-Mail Client releases from the OSX releases. Hmm. We can dream.

Whatever happened to the notion of "increasing the stability and security" of the OSX system?
Lewis Butler  2016-01-09 14:31
OS X is very stable and very secure. There have been many improvements.

While this bug in mail is annoying, it is annoying to a microscopic minority of users. I mean, seriously, other than tidbits do you get any emails with internal links? Any at all?

I did a quick grep of my main account and in over 250,000 emails I had *zero* which had internal anchor links. (My list account has several, but almost all are tidbits)
William Lisowski  2016-01-09 16:08
I doubt that any bug is annoying to more than a very small fraction of users. So what? It certainly wasted Adam's time tracking down the source of the problem. Or perhaps Adam should just blow off the affected users by telling them that TidBITS is well written and timely.
Ed Siebel  2016-01-12 02:18
Actually, if you go to the forums, you'll find that Apple Mail is demonstrating all kinds of wierd behaviors. For me, the inbox of one IMAP account (of three) keeps showing up blank and then, when I click on another account and back, showing up again.
Thanks for posting this. I am using Yosemite and subscribe to an Australian newsletter ( which makes extensive use of named anchors. After reading this I will be sure to wait before upgrading to 10.11!
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-01-06 09:23
We'll be sure to note in any coverage of updates to El Capitan and iOS 9 if this is fixed.
Terry D Younkin  2016-01-12 10:57
I switched from MS Outlook to Mail about two years ago and remember distinctly the internal navigation links not ever working in tidbits email, so I was seeing this issue in Apple Mail before El Capitan. I noticed it only with emails from tidbits.

Perhaps it was present with email from other senders, but not that I recall. I've always assumed it was a tidbits problem, but wasn't worried about it. Quite possible that the use of this type of link is rather rare these days, which would account for me not seeing this behavior in other email from other senders.
Adam Engst  An apple icon for a TidBITS Staffer 2016-01-12 11:00
Interesting. I know it worked generally in previous versions, so I wonder if the problem could have been related to your ISP rewriting the HTML in some way.
Andres Saldana  An apple icon for a TidBITS Angel 2016-01-14 22:48
Same thing here. Those Links have never worked for me since memory serves.
Judith Battershill  2016-01-12 11:16
I wondered what was up with this. I was beginning to think I'd imagined that function. I will be glad to have it back. It's useful.
Andrew James  2016-02-11 22:16
Every time I'm tempted to jump to the latest and greatest (as I did in the 80s and 90s), my impulses are checked by such revelations as this. I stuck with Snow Leopard as long as I could (before security issues and no iCloud frustrated me) and then jumped to Mavericks when Yosemite was out. I'm still with Mavericks and think I'll stay put there until no more security updates force me to make another jump...