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By Stephen Hackett

The Hackett File: The Future of Mail and Calendar

There’s a lot of talk that Apple is altering course when it comes to software development, being more willing to push features back a year if they need more time to ship as complete, polished parts of the operating system.

I’m in favor of this approach. I think a more thoughtful, well-paced Apple development organization will only stand to benefit the company and its users.

There is one part of this that makes me a little sad, though: the Mac’s built-in apps.

Whether it is comparing Calendar to Fantastical or BusyCal, or looking at Mail next to something like Airmail or Spark, an obvious pattern appears.

Apple’s first-party apps, especially on the Mac, are kept rather basic to meet the needs of many. Apple knows power users can go find something more powerful and flexible to better meet their specific needs. That’s why I’m typing this in Byword and not TextEdit, and will paste it into Google Docs running in Chrome when I’m done with it, as opposed to saving a Pages document in iCloud Drive.

There is one big exception to this, and it’s Notes. Apple took its basic, stripped-down note-taking application and has turned it into a cross-platform powerhouse. People who just need a few notes can still use it, while others of us are storing PDFs, creating tables and sharing checklists all in the same application.

I hope that, one day, Apple does the same thing to Mail and Calendar.

Features like snoozing, integration with third-party apps and more robust rules are commonplace in third-party mail applications, and I think Apple’s willingness to let Mail stagnate has created an environment where third-party developers are making good money writing email clients.

While I’m trying very hard not to encourage outright Sherlocking, I think it’s time for Apple to look at some of these features and work them into the Mac’s official email client. It’s sad that Mail in something like Mac OS X Leopard is still pretty much what we have today. The world has moved on, and has embraced new technology and practices when it comes to email.

The same goes for Calendar. While it is true that Apple’s application does have support for natural language entry, it’s rather basic when compared to what other apps offer. Many users love the ability to see Reminders data alongside their events, or to quickly toggle between sets of calendars. Apple’s app does neither of these things, leaving Mac users clicking and unclicking calendars as they go, and using the Reminders app for tasks, which is a whole other tale of woe.

There are examples beyond Mail and Calendar, but they are two apps that I have running all day, every day, and I’d like to see a sign that Apple cares about them as much as I do.

[Stephen Hackett is the author of 512 Pixels and co-founder of Relay FM.]

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