Email composition: it sucks

As the internet has become more and more prolific and as technology has evolved, so applications have become richer.  Desktop applications can now do things I’m sure we once never dreamed of.  And slowly but surely, their browser-based younger siblings are becoming similarly powerful.

But there’s one application component that seems to have been left behind: email composition.

The GMail interface is famed and widely publicised for being the proverbial mutt’s nuts.  It’s quick, visually pleasing and rich in features.  But its main focus seems to be on providing an elegant intuitive interface for navigating and managing email—not on providing a rich interface for writing emails.  You can label emails with words and colours, search using a boastful array of criteria, and glide elegantly between emails that make up a conversation.  You can star things, mark things as spam, link off to calendar entries, attach documents, the list goes on.

But when it comes to crafting an email that is visually appealing, containing photos around which text can wrap, perhaps even multiple columns of text even, GMail sucks.  So, for the record, does Outlook.  (That is the limit of my modern-day email usage.  By modern day, I mean everything since my days at Warwick University in 1994–5, during which we used some system that Rob can probably tell you more about.  All I remember is that the terminals had big screens and it wasn’t Windows-based.  Oh—I did use Squirrel Mail for some time, but that was a bag of shit.  GMail for DOS, if you will.  Sorry, Rob.)

It may be that there are good email composition packages out there, and I just don’t know about them.  After all, lots of the marketing email I receive is all warm and lovely—from the likes of John Lewis, Streetcar and Expedia.  And I also don’t know whether (and if so, why?) the good composition packages are separate from the good email management packages.  Maybe it’s akin to web-page creation (the likes of Dreamweaver) vs. web-page surfing (Firefox and IE)—if so, I don’t think it should be.  Or maybe the plethora of email clients out there makes the creation of beautiful emails as difficult as creating web-pages that look good across the range of browsers.

Whatever the history, Google should focus as much on the functionality associated with email creation as it does on email management—to allow me to send emails as rich and as aesthetically pleasing as web-pages without resorting to creating them within an HTML editor.

Is that too much to ask?

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