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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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