tom haynes

MODES

I’ve been thinking about this off and on for a while now.

Often I’ll be working on the computer, reading a book, or cooking a meal when I realize that I need to send an email. (And I can’t just write a note to myself to do it. I know what I want to say right now and I’m ready to type it and — in most cases — send it. Some things are time-sensitive and can’t wait long on a sticky or in a drafts folder.)

So I open my email client and I see 12 new exciting messages. Well, maybe one or two are exciting. Something new from a close friend or something that looks to be time-sensitive. I look at them, maybe I reply. Some of them are spam or look boring and I quickly delete them. And so on. And then five minutes later I’ve dealt with the new stuff and am ready to focus on … wait, what was it again? Most of the time I remember but I still I feel silly that I wasted time and mental energy on something unnecessary.

Now, I may not need or want to send my coworker or friend something if I have new correspondence from them. I care about e-etiquette and I don’t like to be rude. Not being up-to-date on our conversation will also make our communication less effective (bad for work and bad for life). That means I can’t just train myself to not look at the new messages, or create a keystroke that jumps me to a Compose screen or window. I have to know if I have anything new from my recipient(s), or anything else that might be relevant.

My ideal mail client offers two options when you open it up: Send Mail or Check Mail.

send-or-check

Which do what you would expect them to do. Check Mail goes to the all-powerful, dashboard-style interface of today, while Send Mail gives this simple screen:

smart-compose

A basic send interface, but with a twist. There’s a simple list of “possibly related” messages that shows up when you add each recipient. Hopefully it’s empty which means you’re good to go. If there are messages there, you can hover over them and scan quickly to see if any are relevant. There’s obviously some “smartness” here since we all have multiple addresses, mailing lists, aliases, delegated accounts, etc. But false positives aren’t a big deal since we can just ignore them (much less to ignore than an entire inbox). And maybe we’ll even restrict what you can do from these messages: you’re already in compose mode, so it makes sense that you’d have to explicitly leave in order to jump over to read-and-reply mode (that is, these messages don’t have “Reply” links on them).

Just an idea.