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Read Mail Messages

Before the iPad, I thought the iPhone’s implementation of Mail was fine. Not great, but after all, email is mostly just text, right? Now that I’ve used Mail on the iPad, though, the iPhone version seems like I’m viewing my messages through a keyhole. It works, but the added screen real estate of the iPad makes a huge difference.

Mail presents two different views of your messages, depending on whether you’re viewing the iPad in landscape or portrait orientation. The widescreen view displays mailboxes in a pane at left, with the currently selected message at right (Figure 4.3). Tap a message to view it.

Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3. Mail in landscape orientation

The tall view displays only the current message. To browse messages one by one, tap the Previous and Next buttons (Figure 4.4). Or, to view and access other messages in the mailbox, tap the button at upper left, which is labeled with the name of the active mailbox. The list of messages slides into view.

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4. Mail in portrait orientation

Read email conversations

Email is a time-delayed medium: You could send a message to a friend, who replies several hours later, and then you respond to his message a few minutes after that. Meanwhile, other messages are arriving in your Inbox. Mail helps you keep conversations sensible by grouping them.

Look for a number and angle-bracket (>) symbol to the right of a message’s preview; the number indicates how many messages are in the conversation (Figure 4.5). Tap that message to reveal a list of the messages in that conversation.

Figure 4.5

Figure 4.5. Viewing an email conversation

Navigate accounts and mailboxes

It’s not unusual for someone to have more than one email account. Mail’s unified Inbox displays all incoming messages as if they’re in one mailbox. The unified Inbox is the default view, as you can see in the figure above; the title of the message list indicates you’re viewing “All Inboxes,” with a number indicating how many messages are unread.

When you do want to dig into specific mailboxes, you can use the controls in the navigation bar that appears either at the top of the left-hand pane (landscape orientation) or at the top of the list slider (portrait orientation). This works for accessing any account’s mailboxes, such as Sent Mail, not just the Inbox.

  1. Tap the Mailboxes button to view the Mailboxes and Accounts lists (Figure 4.6).
    Figure 4.6

    Figure 4.6. Navigating an account hierarchy

  2. Tap the name of an account.
  3. Tap a mailbox to open it.
  4. Tap the message you want to read.

View file attachments

Although email isn’t the most effective delivery mechanism for sending files, people frequently attach documents to messages. Mail on the iPad does a good job of handling most common types of files you’re likely to encounter, such as images, PDF files, and Microsoft Word documents, among others.

A file attachment is included in the body of a message (Figure 4.7). The appearance of the attachment depends on the file’s type and size:

  • Images generally appear unaltered, as long as Mail can preview the format.
  • Large files are not automatically downloaded, and appear with a dotted outline and generic download icon.
  • A file that Mail cannot display within the message body shows up as an icon containing the file name and size.
Figure 4.7

Figure 4.7. File attachments

To preview or open an attachment, do the following:

  1. Tap the icon to see a full-screen preview (if Mail can read it), which Apple calls Quick Look.
  2. In the preview, tap the Action button in the upper-right corner of the screen. A popover lists which apps can work with the file; tap one to launch the app and open the file. You can also print the attachment from here.

You can also access those options directly without first viewing the Quick Look preview. Touch and hold the icon until a popover appears with options to open in a compatible app or to choose another (Figure 4.8).

Figure 4.8

Figure 4.8. Choose how to view or open the attachment.

Act on special data

As you read your email, Mail recognizes some data types and turns them into links. Tapping a Web address, as you might expect, opens the site in Safari. But Mail can also identify and act on street addresses, phone numbers, and email addresses. Tap an email address, and a new outgoing message is created. Tap a street address, and the Maps app launches and shows you the location.

You can also choose how to interact with the data. Touch and hold a link and then choose an option from the popover that appears (Figure 4.9).

Figure 4.9

Figure 4.9. Acting on a link in a message

View information about senders and recipients

In its attempt to shield people from complexity, Apple chose to show email senders and recipients as friendly named blobs instead of addresses like “” Those blobs become useful buttons, however.

Tap any sender or recipient to view more information. If the person is not in your list of contacts, you can easily add them by tapping the Create New Contact button (Figure 4.10). The popover changes to let you edit contact information; tap Done to add the person to your Contacts list. Or, tap Add to Existing Contact if this is a different address for someone you already know.

Figure 4.10

Figure 4.10. Viewing sender information

On the other hand, tapping the button of a person already in your address book displays all of their information. That makes it easy to tap their address to view the location in the Maps app, for example.

Check for new mail

When the iPad is connected to the Internet, it can check for new messages, even when Mail isn’t the active app, using two methods: Push, where new messages are delivered to Mail as soon as they’re available; and Fetch, where Mail contacts each account’s server to see if there are any new messages. Of course, you can also perform a manual check whenever you want.

Check mail manually

Opening the Mail app triggers a check for new messages, so that’s usually all you need to do. If you’re eagerly awaiting a response from someone, you can also tap the Refresh button (mail_refresh_button.jpg) at the bottom of the side panel or popover to load new mail.

Get new mail using Push

Push is available for iCloud, Exchange, and Yahoo accounts. Do the following to enable it:

  1. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Tap the Fetch New Data button.
  3. Make sure the Push option is set to On.

Generally, Push applies to all of your accounts that support the feature. However, it’s possible to disable Push for some accounts: On the same Fetch New Data screen as above, tap the Advanced button, tap an account name, and then choose the Fetch or Manual option instead of Push.

Check mail on a schedule

For accounts that can’t use Push, you can specify an interval for when Mail does its check, which happens in the background no matter which app is running and even if the iPad is asleep.

  1. Go to Settings > Mail, Contacts, Calendars.
  2. Tap the Fetch New Data button.
  3. Tap a time interval to select it (Figure 4.11). If you choose Manually, the accounts are checked only when you open Mail or tap the Refresh button.
Figure 4.11

Figure 4.11. Specify how often Mail checks for new messages.

When new mail arrives, the Mail icon on the Home screen appears with a badge indicating the total number of unread messages in all accounts. The mailbox navigation button within Mail also displays an unread message count (Figure 4.12).

Figure 4.12

Figure 4.12. New mail indicators

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