Easy and straightforward UI customization

by Volker Weber

The mail program on the Mac lets you customize the UI to your liking. In this video I want to demonstrate how you can add a BCC field or a REPLY-TO address. This customizations can be sticky or just on demand.

Please note that I am not explaining why I think Notes is too complex. I am just showing the easier way. And yes, that is not exactly news. :-)


I agree, there are a lot of mail clients out there, that have better UI's or are simpler to use, then Notes. And still ... we have now installed Notes, Sametime and Quickr and I have to say, that about 80% of the internal mails are replaced by sametime. IM is much more usefull inside (and sometimes outside) a company then mail. We will use the telephony of sametime and Quickr has completely replaced the need for a file server. The things you showed are not important for my work. I just need one mail address for the business and I do not want to mix with my private address (NotesBuddy for POP - not the best either). Notes is for me almost perfect now, because I have all the information inside one single application. There are things that are still not as I would like it, but I can change that myself ... and that is what I really like. I can change things. Gives me a lot of freedom.
The next Notebook will probably be a Mac and Notes will be on it.
To build quick and dirty an application that organizes leads, takes me less then an hour and everybody involved is happy. Supplying other informatin to people all over the world is just easy. Even for a limited time it does make sense to build an app quick and dirty. I think Notes is more about teamwork and fast information organization, then just the mail client. But hey, what do I know.

Christian Tillmanns, 2007-08-30

The bcc field is a toggle in Notes 8, pretty much just like your video shows (through an action button). So I am not sure why it is easier? It's just different.

Ed Brill, 2007-08-30

I fail to see how hiding some mail options on a pretty much unlabelled button is in any way intuitive.

This is more an example of familiarity than simplicity.

Ben Rose, 2007-08-30

Yeah, nothing to see here. Just move on. :-)

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Ben, heard of “tool-tips”? Hover over the button and it tells you all you need to know.

Ben Poole, 2007-08-30

Ben, small challenge: repeat the steps in the video on Notes, create a video of it and upload on YouTube. I'd love to see it.

Took me five minutes on the Mac. I'll give you an hour.

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

@Ben P - I have, but many of my users haven't

@Vowe - My RSS reader only works every 30mins as instructed...but gimme 5.

Ben Rose, 2007-08-30

I thought you would only need one. But five is fine with me. ;-)

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

I agree Mail.app has some very intuitive features and integrates well with a Mac and Mac applications.

I used it for quite a while but returned back to Thunderbird as it is lacking one very important feature (in addition of consuming way too much space for folders compared to Thunderbird).

It is not posssible to define more then one outgoing email adress per mail account.
Even worse, i can't even have two accounts with different from adress pointing to the same pop/smtp hosts.

I have a lot of different from adresses depending on where i send my mail. Helps alot getting less spam.

I also use Notes (not 8 yet) on work and like it alot. But IHMO Notes is a mail programm the same way as Emacs is a texteditor. You can edit your text files with Emacs for sure but there a plenty of easier lightwight programms for the same purpose. But there a lots of things you can do in Emacs and Notes where you need more then one other programm to acomplish the same.

Thomas Klein, 2007-08-30

i can't even have two accounts with different from adress pointing to the same pop/smtp hosts.

Why not? I can do that.

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Damn, looks like I was beaten to it...


Ben Rose, 2007-08-30

LOL. Not bad. But Alan has been missing one small step in my demo. I started a new mail, and then I changed the from address.

You see, UI design is not only about making things pretty. It is also about the interaction with the user. Having these options all over the place does not exactly make it easier. If you watch carefully, you will see how Apple even uses animation to make these interactions more natural and flowing. To me the two videos are miles apart.

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Oh, and before I forget: Put it on YouTube. I want to see it the same size.

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Seriously Vowe, if I had the time or indeed the inclination to do so, I could add the exact button you have in your Apple video to my Notes mail template and make it drop down into the same options.

I could but I won't because, as mentioned in my first response, it's more to do with familiarity than simplicity. I'm used to going to the action bar for these options and it would feel odd to me for it to be an unlabelled button on the left.

If your point is that IBM could have done this, and didn't, then you are correct.

If your point is that it was wrong not to do this, then that is just subjective.

Incidentally, I have a similar button on my corporate mail template that allows a user to book vacation, do a phone lookup, book a room and other handy functions. It works well and I added it myself, with no formal dev training.

Ben Rose, 2007-08-30

Umm... how about this?


Chris Whisonant, 2007-08-30

Funny that you are all falling all over yourself. :-)

Watch my video carefully. Second step: change the from address. And put it on YouTube. It has to work in this small space. Putting stuff all over the interface is not the same thing.

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Again, it's a use case scenario. 90%+ of Notes users never have a need to change the from address within their corporate environments. Perhaps "reply-to" should be surfaced more easily in the Notes UI. But it's a feature I've personally used exactly once, despite it being in the product for ten years.

Ed Brill, 2007-08-30


i can't even have two accounts with different from adress pointing to the same pop/smtp hosts.
Why not? I can do that.

Ok a missunderstanding. I meant i can not use the same username@smtp server for logging in in more then one Mail.app account. Ofcourse i can have use the same smtp server severaltimes if i have different logins each time. If i can do this i'd love to learn how.

i didn't mean to compare the change of from with Notes. Just with Mail.app. I agree in corporate environments thats hardly a usecase and thats where Notes is used most of the time.

Thomas Klein, 2007-08-30

It is not posssible to define more then one outgoing email adress per mail account.

Thomas, unless I missunderstood your complaint completely, try this in the Account prefs: Enter your e-mail addresses as a comma separated list into the field "E-Mail-Adresse" of the "Account-Informationen" (e.g. mm@somedomain.de, max.mustermann@somedomain.de, maxm@somedomain.de).

You can even enter a separator like "-----------" (e.g. mm@somedomain.de, -----------). The separator will be shown as a separate single line in the e-mail address popup. If you want to use more than on separator make sure they will have different sizes (one hyhpen less or more), otherwise they will not show up.

Helmar Steinberg, 2007-08-30

Ed, as a consultant you have this quite often. Different hats for different environments. But that is not my intended use case.

I have often been asked how to implement different from addresses such as volker.weber@smallcompany.com and sales@smallcompany.com, where sales@ is a separate mailbox shared by all sales people. I understand how delegation works and also reply-to, but people tend to forget this.

So I am finding it very convenient, if the mail client matches the from address to a mailbox, and still gives you the opportunity to change the from address if you want to take something from sales@ to volker.weber@

I also have seen a Notes customer who runs several companies. He has about half a dozen firms and mail addresses. That isn't exactly easy to handle, especially now that he wants to be mobile. BlackBerry on BIS allows him to control up to 10 mailboxes with different addresses, all from the same device. As does Apple Mail. I understand that this is a power user and does not match the 90% quantile of Notes users.

For those looking to implement several mail addresses in Notes, there is File/Preferences/Locations/Edit/Basics and File/Preferences/Locations/Edit/Advanced/Basics. Screenshots from Notes 8:

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Thanks ! Thats exactely what i was looking for.
Now i really have to give Mail.app a second chance ;-)

Thomas Klein, 2007-08-30

Nice screen shots, there. Did Microsoft recently buy the Notes/Domino team or why does the line of Basics/Advanced Basics (to be extended by Ultimate Basics in Notes/Domino X?) remind me of some OS I've heard of quite recently? But then, it's still missing the third and even fourth row of option tabs so it's got to be still IBM I guess.

Stefan Rubner, 2007-08-30

I can give you a third row in File/Preferences. There are more in the directory, but that is a place only an admin goes to:

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Oh, and before I forget. This is not just two or three rows of tabs. This is tabs within tabs. Depending on which tabs you select in the first row there will be completely different ones in the second. And as you select one there, you get different ones in the third. You can also traverse in the tree on the left hand side, and for some of them tabs will disappear, while for others there will just be different sets of options.

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Are you hinting at IBM programmers no longer being paid by LOC but by ROTs (rows of tabs) or even TITs (tabs in tabs) instead?

Stefan Rubner, 2007-08-30

Volker, as a consultant you use 2 Notes clients at the same time. Switching locations is not the way to go as you always loose your Sametime connection. And you are always in the wrong location to access your mail. We have Developer-IDs supplied by our customers which do not have Sametime access at our place and no access to any mail file. Our people use such IDs the entire day. Switching sender address on the fly would be cool...

...but this means switching identity.

Hubertus Amann, 2007-08-30

Today I would probably be switching VMs.

Volker Weber, 2007-08-30

Would you guys who need several sender addresses pay me if I give you such an option? I would just use different Domino accounts. Not POP or IMAP.

That is not really rocket sience to do this... and that is what I like, as Alan said it in his blog, because I can change things.

Cheer up. It is not a war of mail clients. It should be a competition of integration capabilities.

Christian Tillmanns, 2007-08-31

Let's not forget the excellent team mailbox here...


Ben Rose, 2007-08-31

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