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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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