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Why don't they build it into Mail, etc.
Authored by: derrickbass on Jul 12, '05 08:27:31PM

Actually, it would be quite hard. Have you ever tried to envision a user interface for creating and editing arbitrary boolean expressions? Try it; really think about how you would do both simple things and complex things. Then think about your non-techincally savvy Uncle George doing things he might need to do.

I've developed software, and have thought about this really hard, and decided that the way described in this hint is close to the best way to do it. (The one thing I would add is a way to create an expression without creating a real mailbox; you may not care to actually see the mailboxes "Cocoa" and "Cocoa2".)

I've seen many attempts to create such an interface and none was very easy to use. Complex boolean expressions are just hard to show graphically, and even harder to edit.

That's not to say it can't be done. If anyone can do, it's Apple. But I doubt it's very high on their priority list, since there are easy workarounds (like this hint) for geeky people (like us) who actually want complex booleans.

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Why don't they build it into Mail, etc.
Authored by: googoo on Jul 12, '05 09:47:07PM

A simple advanced option could enable functionality that some would find too difficult. As for an intuitive interface, there could be "logic groups" identified by indenting them, coloring them, or connecting them in a bracket. I know it is more difficult that either "all and" or "all or," but I think that we can handle it.


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Why don't they build it into Mail, etc.
Authored by: smanzo on Jul 13, '05 04:56:41PM

See Advanced Options toggle widget

(On clicking)

Four buttons are available

Each criterion gets it's own line
Command+Click to select, pressing appropriate operand button while selected applies that criterion to all selected items AND groups them together into a single line with ( ) marks around it

Further edits nest as necessary.

It'll be messy once you get a few levels deep, but it's hidden under the Advanced Options button. You can click that same button to go back to the Simple interface (with a warning that this will undo advanced changes I would expect, as they wouldn't be viewable in the Simple interface)

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Why don't they build it into Mail, etc.
Authored by: mediaman on Jul 14, '05 12:56:29PM

Is this a suggestion? Or is it really an option? If it is an option, please elaborate on the "Advanced Options Widget" and how to access it.


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Why don't they build it into Mail, etc.
Authored by: horhey23 on Sep 15, '05 04:10:32AM

Where is this Advanced Options toggle in MAil? Or are you referring to Spotlight?

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Actually it can be easy
Authored by: adsmart on Jul 18, '05 03:53:00PM

Having tried, and failed, many times to design simple UIs for simple people to do highly complex things... it can be nearly impossible to do.

But lets for a minute keep in mind our users. Who is likely to need this feature? In general, we're talking about folks that are smarter than your average bear; people for whom entering a Raw Query (where have I seen that before?) is undaunting. Granted, for my grandmother it may as well say, "Here there be dragons," but so what? Odds are, having loads of useless smart folders won't be all that painful for them.

But lets consider how we could build a UI for the average Joe to build very complex queries. As it turns out, Apple has all the UI elements we need, all we have to do is extend the paradigm and we're laughing. Here's what you do:

  • Allow individual Smart Mailboxes to be hidden (so I don't have to see all those boxes that are just waypoints to get me to some more useful state)
  • Allow Smart Mailboxes to contain child Smart Mailboxes, which by default filters its parents content. This is a simplification step. Often I build up complex queryies by filtering the results of the previous step.
  • Allow Smart Mailboxes to be visible but not their contents, this way you can have a smart mailbox that acts more like a folder, but without showing you unnecessary information

If you really just want to have one mailbox (not very good for ongoing maintainance, but there you go), then put in command to take a mailbox and simply integrate all the references to smart mailboxes so you only have one complex query.

There you go, a simple UI to allow users to create advanced complex queries. Granted it, its a little rough around the edges but you get the idea.

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