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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app Apps
Have you ever used a three-column email application, like Thunderbird or Entourage? Ever wanted the same for Apple's own Mail? (In other words, the Preview column would appear next to the list of messages, instead of below it). Well, I found this discussion on an Ars forum, and it shows you how you can have exactly that. I tried this, and it works beutifully. I find this to be a very nice hack, and hope you will find this usefull. No need to credit me, because I just found it.

All you need to do is download and install MailWidescreen, a simple Mail plug-in. Here are the very simple installation instructions:
  1. Download and unzip the plug-in from the above page.
  2. Quit Mail.app.
  3. Have you previously installed one or more Mail.app plugins?
    • If yes: Drop MailWidescreen.mailbundle into ~/Library/Mail/Bundles.
    • If no:
      1. Open Terminal and type these two lines:
        defaults write com.apple.mail EnableBundles -bool true
        defaults write com.apple.mail BundleCompatibilityVersion 2
      2. Open ~/Library/Mail, and create a folder named Bundles.
      3. Drop MailWidescreen.mailbundle into ~/Library/Mail/Bundles/
  4. Launch Mail, and see if it works!
[robg adds: This worked perfectly for me -- the columns are resizable (one via the lower-right window resize widget, the other by the thin gray bar to the left of the Preview column. On a widescreen display, it's great! Not so great on a smaller or normal-aspect screen.]
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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app | 43 comments | Create New Account
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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: tmtomh on Jun 05, '06 08:28:41AM

Works great for me - although, like others who've commented on this elsewhere, I find the three-pane layout not nearly as good in practice as it sounds in theory (and I have a widescreen Mac). The message-list pane is too narrow to fully display many of the subject lines of the messages I recieve, and most emails are too short to make full use of the increased height of the message pane.

Matt



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: danmannus on Jun 05, '06 08:35:17AM

It worked fine but I prefer the old layout. I have removed MailWidescreen.mailbundle from the library. Do I have to reverse the Terminal stuff? If How?

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diem



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: Akira on Jun 05, '06 09:07:51AM

If I'm not mistaken, you don't have to set those variables back with Terminal. Those steps were just to enable .mailBundle plugins. If you don't have any plugins there, Mail will run just like normal, although you still *can* use plugins when you drop them in the plugins folder.



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: mithras on Jun 05, '06 09:32:27AM

Yeah, that's right, there's no harm in leaving the defaults changes when you uninstall. Sorry, I should put up a note about how to remove the plugin.

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mithrastheprophet.net (coming soonish)



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Display
Authored by: davew135 on Jun 05, '06 09:15:49AM

Can somebody post a screenshot of this display? Would this be something a MacBook Pro user would benefit from; I'm not interested in risking something as vital as email to 'test' a patch if it has no real good use for me.

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I know I am wrong, you don't have to tell me.



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Display
Authored by: mithras on Jun 05, '06 09:30:19AM

Hi. I'm the developer of the plugin.

Most people with MBP-sized screens (1440 wide) seem pretty happy with it. At MacBook or older TiBook resolutions (1280), reaction is more mixed, with a majority against it.

When I get some free time in the next couple of weeks, I'll look at developing an improved version that can show subjects on a second line. This initial version was a one-hour hack -- I really didn't anticipate that it'd become so widespread so quickly :).



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Listen To My iTunes Library (6500+ songs, iTunes 4 required)



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Display
Authored by: rmiller021 on Jun 05, '06 05:51:53PM
I use this plugin now happly on my TIbook at 1280x854

I used the scale factor hint from a while back to adjust the window size.
This command will reduce the size of mail by 25%
defaults write com.apple.mail AppleDisplayScaleFactor -string "0.75"
Here is a screen shot.
http://rwmiller.iweb.bsu.edu/1280x854.jpg

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I have no clue what i am doing

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Display
Authored by: bkemper on Jun 06, '06 08:11:58AM

Note that if you like to see the icons at the top of the window, they will be messed up.



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Display
Authored by: rmiller021 on Jun 06, '06 09:48:26AM

Sorry, i forgot to mention that.

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I have no clue what i am doing



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Display
Authored by: d. on Jun 06, '06 12:46:41AM

I really like the plugin. Amazing work!

However, on an aesthetic point of view, could tou make the light grey vertical space between the message and preview column 1 pixel wide?
It's now a approx. 10 px wide, color #e1e1e1, I would like to see it 1 px and color #939393, just like the divider between the mailboxes and the message columns.

Regards.



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Display
Authored by: bkemper on Jun 06, '06 07:56:30AM

Seems logical, except that at 1 pixel it would be hard to grab to adjust width without hitting the scrollbar, unless he put a "grabber" area above the scroll bar.



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Display
Authored by: bombcar on Jun 05, '06 09:44:53AM
Try http://schnecke.bombcar.com/random/ars/MailScreenSnapz001.png or read the thread, there are a few images.

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It's been a couple of years now...
Authored by: bogdescu on Jun 05, '06 09:23:45AM

...that I was missing such a feature.
Thank you!



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: daiyi on Jun 05, '06 09:51:27AM

That's great! Apple should make this a regular feature. But Entourage still has a superior design. I really like much of Apple's software (iWork, Safari, and iCal). But why don't they integrate those applications better? It would be so Mac-like given how iLife is conceived and designed. Then I could give up Entourage (and Office altogether,save for Excel). In other words, why do we have to install all those third-party useful bundles? Apple should be implementing these features with Mail.

Thanks for the hint!



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: stewf on Jun 05, '06 10:26:28AM

Thank you! Most useful hint I've seen here in weeks. Narrow column measures are better for email reading, and I can see more important info at once.



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: ubi on Jun 05, '06 11:47:24AM

Awesome! Had to change my font prefs so it would be usable on the 12" PowerBook. It's great! So much more info at a glance. Now, if there's a hack to put the Activity Viewer into a status bar at the bottom, everything would be perfect…



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: danmannus on Jun 05, '06 01:18:19PM

Thanks for the info. It is handy to know.

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diem



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possible conflict with HTTPmail plugin?
Authored by: tshehan on Jun 05, '06 01:39:49PM

I popped the widescreen file (Contents folder) into the Bundles folder and noticed that my Hotmail folder and account disappeared when I opened Mail subsequently. Upon removal of the widescreen folder Mail then displayed my Hotmail content in Apple's Mail as usual.



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Even better: alternating row colors + more
Authored by: boli on Jun 05, '06 01:52:06PM
There a do-it-yourself way to further improve (IMHO) the three column view this plug-in provies.

Following a tipp by Malacoda I modified Mail.app/Contents/Resources/English.lproj/MessageViewerContents.nib with Interface Builder.

Result: the mail list (middle column) now has alternating row colors + vertical lines + small scrollbars. I set the mail display (right column) to use small scrollbars as well.

I posted a picture here.

If you try this, better do so on a copy of Mail.app ;) and make sure to select the correct *.lproj Folder for your language.

There's more room for improvement of course, for example I like the 2-line approach this mockup shows intriguing - especially for smaller widescreen displays. (source)

Cheers, Oliver

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Even better: alternating row colors + more
Authored by: exsilio on Jun 05, '06 02:33:39PM

Yes I think this is a nice touch as well...but sadly, it doesn't work very well if you thread your messages as I do. Too many colors/highlights will confuse/clutter the interface.

Other than that one caveat, I really like the idea.



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Even better: alternating row colors + more
Authored by: boli on Jun 05, '06 04:26:14PM

Even with threaded view it works for me, I just choose a different color for related messages in the "viewing" preferences (a very light warm brown).

The vertical lines also help.



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Even better: alternating row colors + more
Authored by: boli on Jun 05, '06 04:34:05PM
Added picture for threaded view.

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Even better: alternating row colors + more
Authored by: zane on Jun 06, '06 06:56:16PM

Nice tip add-on, boli. I'm a big fan of alternate colored lists, always wanted them in Mail.app, never thought to hack it with Interface Builder. Thanks for the heads up!

Now you've got me looking thru all my apps wondering what I can tweak! (I already unified Safari a whiled ago... brushed metal is just so pre-Tiger)



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Even better: alternating row colors + more
Authored by: boli on Jun 09, '06 06:49:44AM
you're welcome, though credit should go to Malacoda (see link in my earlier post). :)

his tipp also made me think about what else one could do with some IB tweaks.

as for the unified look: i also like it very much, so i just ran Iridium to unifiy everything. Yes, it still works in 10.4.6.

Cheers, Oliver

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Even better: alternating row colors + more
Authored by: daiyi on Jun 06, '06 04:40:52AM

The mockup is great; akin to Entourage's three-pane display. Now if Apple could only make Mail a little more powerful, I could dump Entourage for it.



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: whodisbe on Jun 05, '06 01:58:50PM

This is perfect! I've been looking for this type of functionality for awhile now, and it has made my life much easier. I have a 12" iBook g4, and honestly there is plenty of room. I have Mail set to smaller fonts (10 point) just as a norm, and with the 3 pane view, it fits perfectly. Granted, it would look much better on a wider screen, but this will do until I upgrade next year :)

Thanks again to the hint poster.



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Kick ass!!
Authored by: exsilio on Jun 05, '06 02:31:23PM

I have been looking for this feature for a while. It's more crude than Entourage, but it's a nice fix until Apple wises up and makes Mail.app more of an enterprise level solution.



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: Robert Hancock on Jun 05, '06 02:51:32PM

I get this response in terminal to the second line of input

2006-06-06 06:47:43.354 defaults[6799]
Rep argument is not a dictionary
Defaults have not been changed.
roberts-computer:~ robert$

Anyone know why?



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: fredrikw on Jun 05, '06 03:16:21PM

Most likely you have mistyped the line. It says that you entered the argument "Rep" which the program couldn't understand. I'd try again, making sure that everything is spelled excactly correct.

/Fredrik



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: michelle_eris on Jun 05, '06 03:46:13PM

I installed it, and it works as advertised; well done! However, in my 1440 by 900 display 17" iMac), I can't get the middle column wide enough without making the right hand column too narrow. With my eyesight, I can't use smaller font sizes than I'm already using. So back to Apple's original three-pane system.

If only one could open a message in its own window (this part we can do, I know), and open the next unread message when closing the window (as Claris Emailer does/did), I'd be very happy.



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: Idletask@mts.net on Jun 05, '06 03:47:10PM

I followed these instructions - and nothing happens. do I need to enable the three pane view somewhere afterward?

I have 12" powerbook running 10.4.6



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: donquichote on Jun 06, '06 02:34:18AM

Same problem here. Then I realized, that I had put an applicationon into mail bundles. Make sure to use the right link – may be the same problem there.



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: macpaul on Jun 06, '06 02:26:37AM

What I REALLY want from Mail is the ability to be able to select and read a message WITHOUT Mail marking it as read. Entourage lets you do this, even Thunderbird (which I've started using) lets you set a time before a selected message is marked as Read.

Does anyone know of a plugin/hack/method to make this work?



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select message w/o marking as seen
Authored by: sjk on Jun 06, '06 01:41:19PM

Add Mulberry to the list of mail clients with that capability. Haven't found any way to do it in Mail yet except by hiding the preview pane.

And I'd really like shortcuts for selecting the next/previous unread message.



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Great start, can be improved
Authored by: vincentpace on Jun 06, '06 07:04:59AM

This is a great idea and it works wonderfully on my PowerBook G4 17", although I wonder how well it would fare on a smaller screen.

My big complaint is that the modification looks rough and it's out of place with the new interface as updated in Mail and iTunes. I say get rid of that divider completely and use a single line as is used between the source pane and the other panes in both Mail and iTunes. To modify the size of the panes, you'll have the three hash marks like you do in the menu bar of the source pane in iTunes.



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Great start, can be improved
Authored by: bkemper on Jun 06, '06 08:26:04AM

Actually, Mail has the three marks too, at the bottom of the mailbox list, for resizing that panel. It would make sense to extend a similar bar across the bottom of the message list for resizing (maybe also use it to also display some information about the selected message(s), such as our choice of one of the things that normally appears in a column). It only uses up a little bit of space vertically, of which we now have oodles.



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Great start, can be improved
Authored by: whodisbe on Jun 06, '06 09:41:43AM
I have a 12" iBook G4, it works great. I posted a screenshot here.

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Screwed up my Mail.app
Authored by: MacOSXAddict on Jun 09, '06 04:51:52AM

I installed the bundle, ran the console commands, now when I start the mail app the message window dows not apear (I have to go to the menu to make it appear). and I cannot normally quit the mail app. I have to do a force quit. Even when I try to log out, if I don't force quit the app it comes back saying cannot logout mail.app is preventing it.

Can anyone explain to me how to re-install the mail.app?

I have MacOSX 10.4.6 and the latest versions available of all applications.

Thanks

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Bob



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Screwed up my Mail.app
Authored by: robg on Jun 12, '06 11:47:14AM

No need to reinstall Mail. Just remove the items in the plug-ins folder, and it should be fine. The Terminal commands are fine to leave as is; no need to undo them.

-rob.



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Screwed up my Mail.app
Authored by: MacOSXAddict on Jun 14, '06 04:57:00PM

Been there, tried that, didn't work. Mail still comes up without the message frame, and only allows force quiting, not regular quit


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Bob



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Screwed up my Mail.app
Authored by: MacOSXAddict on Jun 14, '06 04:52:45PM

Bump...

Can Someone Answer the above?

Thanks

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Bob



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Screwed up my Mail.app
Authored by: osxpounder on Jul 09, '06 09:03:19AM

Bob, is your Mail still screwed, or did you find the help you needed?



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Create a three-column version of Apple's Mail app
Authored by: ednsb on Jun 16, '10 12:37:44PM

All of these plugins are broken in the new release of mail under 10.6.4. Mail catches them and puts them in a folder but I really like being able to view mail in columns so any help would be appreciated. I was using widemail but also tried the hint here.



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