Troubleshooting tips for Apple Mail on OS X Mavericks

OS X Mavericks users continue to complain of problems using the incredibly essential Mail app on their machines. Apple hasn't yet fixed things, so here's some tips to help you meanwhile.

Troubleshooting tips for Apple Mail on OS X Mavericks

The problem: Mavericks users originally reported annoying problems when retrieving, deleting or moving messages. That's in addition to a host of additional problems with the software (best info here).

These problems mean questions regarding Mail, Contacts & Calendar on Apple's own Mavericks Discussion Forums now number in excess of 4,800 posts. Only the Using OS X Mavericks category has higher traffic. Some (but not all) users find they can get things working properly once again by fixing permissions using Disk Utility.

The quick fix: Some Mavericks users find that quitting and restarting Mail forces the app to download new messages.

Apple's temporary fix: Apple recommends an alternative way to force Mail to recommence message downloads. This approach doesn't require you to restart Mail.

Choose Mailbox>Take All Accounts Offline

Choose Mailbox> Get All New Mail

It's possible to build a shortcut for the two above processes in your Mail toolbar.

Choose View>Customize Toolbar

Drag the Take All Accounts Offline button to the Toolbar if that button is not already present.

Drag the Get Mail button to the Toolbar (though this button is very likely already present in your app toolbar).

In future when you want to receive new messages, you need to click the Take Offline button, after which you must click the Check Mail button. It may be possible to build an Automator script to do this, but it scarcely seems worth the while.

Ditching Mail

There's no word yet on when Apple will manage to ship a stable fix for Mail. It's unlikely to take too long -- the company must surely recognize that email is a pretty basic requirement for any connected user. Perhaps there's a good alternative to Mail?

I've taken a look at alternate email applications to replace Mail. Postbox and Thunderbird seem too limited. I also looked at Mailplane and Sparrow, but at just under $10 I felt these to be too costly for the return of the stable email I've enjoyed for free since I first went online in the early '90's (bar a wrong-minded detour to a Microsoft email solution at one point in my existence). A free version of Sparrow (Sparrow Lite) is also available.

If you want better email right now, then I suggest you take a look at Airmail ($1.99). It's not perfect -- the interface takes getting used too, but it does support OS X notifications and the software is easy to set-up.

Mail appears to be suffering from a series of additional problems. I've had a look around to provide links to helpful resources to help you deal with the most frequently reported problems below:

Problems sending and receiving messages.

In addition to Apple's fix above it seems worth watching this discussion on Apple Support.

Gathering messages from an inactive account

Some users claim old POP accounts are still being polled despite the system being told this is not required. The only fix seems to be to delete the account. More here.

Poor performance

Some Mail users claim the performance of their Mail app has degraded. This may not be specifically a Mavericks problem. It's possible that damaged preferences (p.list) files may be to blame. You can try to force your system to replace the damaged preferences using the tips listed here by user tonyrk, but don't approach this fix if you lack experience working with system files.

I hope this information helps some people get better use from Mail, though I understand the solutions presented don't address all the problems I've heard about. For example, some users with larger Mail databases appear unable to make stable use of the application unless they maximize RAM in their Mac.

Mavericks Tips and Tricks

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