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Author Topic: The Bat! (Some constructive criticism)  (Read 9891 times)
superboyac
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« on: January 30, 2006, 10:47:38 PM »

I thought I would offer some constructive criticism for the Bat! in an effort to bring to the forefront some of the issues that I have with it, considering that I just migrated to it after nearly 10 years of dedication to Pegasus Mail.  The Bat really is the most powerful email client available and I'd like to do what I can to further make it the best and most complete email client available.  There may already be solutions to some of the problems I mention, and if you know it, please don't hesitate to share it here.  Being a rookie, I'll admit that i haven't figured everything out.

(1) My first issue is the navigation through the message lists or folders.  My problem mainly arises when you double-click a message to view it in a separate window.  There are two buttons (Follow Next/Previous) and what they do is use the date of the email to go to the next/previous email in the folder.  I find this confusing because "Next" really means the next oldest, and "Previous" means the previous newest email.  In other words, the Next button will send you back in time chronologically, and the Previous button will send you forward in time Chronologically.  I like to read my email in chronological order, so I want next to mean the opposite of what it's doing.  This wouldn't be a problem if those two buttons followed the order that the mailbox is sorted in the window, because then the user can control what the buttons mean simply by changing it's sorting method.  But that feature is not available.  The only way this can be done is if you use the "up/down" key while scrolling through a mailbox with the message preview pane on.  But it would be nice to navigate the same way USING BUTTONS when messages are opened in their own window.

(2) Hotkeys:  programs this powerful generally have a sizeable amount of keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys).  The Bat is no different.  However, most of the hotkeys are preassigned and cannot be changed (except for a handful of "System" hotkeys).  I'm of the opinion, that they should allow the user to make the hotkeys fit their needs.  No big deal, but why not?

(3) Selective quoting in replies.  This is a feature I got used to in Pegasus.  When you reply to a message, typically the entire message gets quoted using the ">" symbol.  In Pegasus, if you highlighted a portion of the original message and then hit reply, you have the option to only have the highlighted portion quoted.  I know that you can just delete the parts you don't want, but it was a real handy feature.

(4) The Help file:  initially, I was extremely disappointed by the help file that comes with the Bat.  However, I later realized that it's better than I gave it credit for.  But it still is not as good as it should be.  I strongly believe that any checkbox and any word that is found anywhere in the preferences or options, should have the exact same word somewhere in the help file with a description of it.  Why add toggles and features and not explain it in documentation?  I think I couldn't find the descriptions of several optionsin the help file or anywhere else.  Also, next to the OK and Cancel buttons in the preferences dialog, there is also a Help button, but all it does is take you to a screenshot of that particular part of the dialog without any explanation of the options there.  The best way to do this, personally, is to have that little question mark button in the upper right hand corner, where you can click it, then click on a option, and have a little ballon explain what that option does.
Also, going back to keyboard shortcuts, the Bat has a lot of them, but there's no section in the help file that lists them all.  They list a few of them, but not all, like they should.  Fortunately, someone else in their forums has compiled a supposedly complete list of them, but it should be an official part of the help file.


Anyway, that's it for now.  I don't mean anything derogatory by all this, I'm doing this in hopes of helping others and helping the developers improve their program.  It's obvious that they care about power and customizability since they have put so many features into their program, so adding some more should be right in line with their philosophy.  Any advice/suggestions is appreciated, and as I become more experienced with the program, I will add more to this thread.
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mouser
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« Reply #1 on: January 30, 2006, 11:44:32 PM »

i think this is a great idea; i hope we do more of this on this site.
while i might not have the same needs as you, i think the sentiment is right on the money; thebat is great but it still needs some tweaking.  good news is they do seem to be very active developing it.

regarding quoting - i was just talking to author of mobysaurus about quoting options.  it may be possible to make a macro in thebat that does what you want as well..
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allen
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« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2006, 07:22:14 AM »

The Bat really is the most powerful email client available and I'd like to do what I can to further make it the best and most complete email client available. 
It truly is.¬† I used it from version 1.x through early 3.x until after I lost years of e-mail and configurations that I didn't have backed up (I know, I know, backup...).  I just haven't been willing to go through trying to start from scratch, not yet anyway.  I keep my license key current just in case, though.  Wink¬†If you're willing to spend some time learning her ins and outs, there's nearly nothing you can't do.¬† The documentation is clearly lacking, but The Bat! has a very active and knowledgeable e-mail discussion list -- you'd do well to check it out.¬† Also, you might want to repost this -- the developers do read and comment on the lists.

Quote
(1)  There are two buttons (Follow Next/Previous) and what they do is use the date of the email to go to the next/previous email in the folder.  I find this confusing because "Next" really means the next oldest, and "Previous" means the previous newest email.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but I am pretty sure that is controlled by the sort order.  When you're viewing a message, you can view the message list by clicking view > message list or something to that effect.  Give you a look at how they're sorted.  I may be wrong, but I believe you can have a separate folder view setting for the main message list and for the popup message list display.  That may be why your results are somewhat unexpected? Conflicting view settings?

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Hotkeys:  programs this powerful generally have a sizable amount of keyboard shortcuts (hotkeys).  The Bat is no different.  However, most of the hotkeys are preassigned and cannot be changed (except for a handful of "System" hotkeys).  I'm of the opinion, that they should allow the user to make the hotkeys fit their needs.  No big deal, but why not?

Fortunately for you, you're totally wrong on this point Wink It's not immediately obvious, but try this: Right click on your toolbar, select "customize".  Here, you can modify any of the toolbars and/or menus in TB, including the assigning of hotkeys/shortcuts.

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Selective quoting in replies.  This is a feature I got used to in Pegasus.  When you reply to a message, typically the entire message gets quoted using the ">" symbol.

Actually, TB does support this.  It's in the right click context menu under Message, i think.  Should be . . . F4 to quote selected text. Maybe. I know the feature is there, anyway.

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(4) The Help file:
The help file has been a source of nagging for TB users for as long as I can remember -- almost a decade.  While they've made some strides in recent years to update the help file, it still falls short.  I don't know if they'll ever catch up.   There are a few user made help sites and the mailing list -- those are what have kept the bat going -- it can be a bit daunting without a little help and those sources do help, especially for getting a handle on the more advanced features.

Here is an excellent source for TB related information, including the TBUDL mailing list.
http://www.silverstones.com/thebat/tbfaq.html
« Last Edit: January 31, 2006, 07:26:10 AM by allen » Logged
superboyac
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« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2006, 10:19:01 AM »

Allen, thank you.  You really know the program well!

Quote
Correct me if I'm wrong, but I am pretty sure that is controlled by the sort order.  When you're viewing a message, you can view the message list by clicking view > message list or something to that effect.  Give you a look at how they're sorted.  I may be wrong, but I believe you can have a separate folder view setting for the main message list and for the popup message list display.  That may be why your results are somewhat unexpected? Conflicting view settings?
Hmmm...I really can't find what you are talking about.  Maybe it's different for the newer versions of the Bat or something, but I can't find any popup message list, nor can I find where the view settings are that control the next/previous settings.  I see where the "view modes" are, but changing the default sorting there doesn't seem to affect how the next/previous buttons work.  I'm having such a hard time with this.  I posted this issue in the Bat forum like 3 or 4 separate times, and no one has suggested a thing.  I can't figure it out.  If you can look into it more, I'd really appreciate it.  My problem is that I'll open a message, and I know how the list is sorted (because I did it, obviously), but then I'll click next/previous, and I'll get lost because the buttons ignore my sorting method.  I mean, it shouldn't be this hard to simply go down and read messages as I've sorted them.

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Fortunately for you, you're totally wrong on this point Wink It's not immediately obvious, but try this: Right click on your toolbar, select "customize".  Here, you can modify any of the toolbars and/or menus in TB, including the assigning of hotkeys/shortcuts.
Yes, I was completely wrong.  I see that now, so that's great.

Quote
Actually, TB does support this.  It's in the right click context menu under Message, i think.  Should be . . . F4 to quote selected text. Maybe. I know the feature is there, anyway.
Ah!  Beautiful!  I kind of had a feeling I just missed this one.  Problem solved.

Quote
The help file has been a source of nagging for TB users for as long as I can remember -- almost a decade.  While they've made some strides in recent years to update the help file, it still falls short.  I don't know if they'll ever catch up.   There are a few user made help sites and the mailing list -- those are what have kept the bat going -- it can be a bit daunting without a little help and those sources do help, especially for getting a handle on the more advanced features.

Here is an excellent source for TB related information, including the TBUDL mailing list.
http://www.silverstones.com/thebat/tbfaq.html
Of course, I'm aware of the FAQ and the forum.  I've posted there a few times already.  But it's a little inconvenient to have to search forums to find the explanations to settings and options in the program.  I really feel that the help file should cover that.  Forums are more for ideas and problems that the developers couldn't anticipate.

Ok, thanks again, allen.  It looks like you've solved all of my problems so far, except for this sorting/navigating business.  Hopefully, we'll find the answer to taht also.
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allen
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« Reply #4 on: January 31, 2006, 03:06:01 PM »

Allen, thank you.  You really know the program well!
Spent quite a few years in it -- it's come a long way, in terms of usability, if you can believe it.

Quote
Hmmm...I really can't find what you are talking about.  Maybe it's different for the newer versions of the Bat or something, but I can't find any popup message list, nor can I find where the view settings are that control the next/previous settings.  I see where the "view modes" are, but changing the default sorting there doesn't seem to affect how the next/previous buttons work.  I'm having such a hard time with this.  I posted this issue in the Bat forum like 3 or 4 separate times, and no one has suggested a thing.  I can't figure it out.  If you can look into it more, I'd really appreciate it.  My problem is that I'll open a message, and I know how the list is sorted (because I did it, obviously), but then I'll click next/previous, and I'll get lost because the buttons ignore my sorting method.  I mean, it shouldn't be this hard to simply go down and read messages as I've sorted them.

Ok, in my copy here clicking follow next makes it move to the next message in the message list -- next being down.  Previous makes it move to the previous, previous being up.  So if I sort chronologically by date with older messages on the top and newer messages on the bottom, pressing follow next will take me to the next message by date.  If I reverse that sort, putting new messages on top, the next message will be the older one.  The follow buttons don't actually follow date, necessarily.  They follow your message list from top to bottom and back based on your sorting order.  If you're reading the messages in folder view (click on a message in the main window and it pops up in folder view) you may not see a list of messages, instead you'll see only the message you're viewing.  To view the message list go to view -> show message list.  See if it is following the order that folder is sorted by -- if so, you can just change the order by clicking the column you want once or twice to insure it's pointing the messages in the right order.  Remember, it'll read top to bottom when you're following.  If I'm misunderstanding or not being clear, we can exchange some screenshots or something.  There's some good software for that right here on this website Wink

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Of course, I'm aware of the FAQ and the forum.  I've posted there a few times already.  But it's a little inconvenient to have to search forums to find the explanations to settings and options in the program.  I really feel that the help file should cover that.  Forums are more for ideas and problems that the developers couldn't anticipate.

The help file should cover a lot of things it doesn't, but it's always been an afterthought to the developers -- and it shows.  People tend to often get frustrated with rit's development process -- at least at the end of the day, there's a good application in hand though.  As for the forum, I have no idea -- never been there.  I was actually talking about the e-mail discussion list 'TBUDL' -- which is where the real Bat geeks hang out.  Of course, if I can answer your questions I'm more than happy to--not trying to chase you there.  I'm just saying, I'm not the -best- man for the job.  I'm a little rusty, haven't used TB in a while.  Although you're making me strongly consider it again, I miss it.  You should see what you can do with the reply templates with a little regex/tweaking Wink
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superboyac
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« Reply #5 on: January 31, 2006, 03:37:48 PM »

Quote
To view the message list go to view -> show message list.  See if it is following the order that folder is sorted by -- if so, you can just change the order by clicking the column you want once or twice to insure it's pointing the messages in the right order.  Remember, it'll read top to bottom when you're following.
Yes!!  That's it!  Thank you so much.  I've been trying to figure that out for the last two weeks.  So, the folder list in the main 3-pane view is different than the message list when you open up ani individual message.  I wonder if there is a way to have the two synchronize to each other to avoid confusion.  You can see how it would confuse a newbie to sort the list in the main window, and then open up an indivdual message and see that it is sorted differently.  I'm assuming all of this can be controlled somehow with the "view modes" manager.  I'll have to look into that this week sometime.

Quote
As for the forum, I have no idea -- never been there.  I was actually talking about the e-mail discussion list 'TBUDL' -- which is where the real Bat geeks hang out.  Of course, if I can answer your questions I'm more than happy to--not trying to chase you there.  I'm just saying, I'm not the -best- man for the job.  I'm a little rusty, haven't used TB in a while.  Although you're making me strongly consider it again, I miss it.  You should see what you can do with the reply templates with a little regex/tweaking Wink
So that's where the real users are, eh?  I'll have to check out the list.  But I don't want to get that heavily involved yet.  I'm already on too many lists as it is.  Is there a webpage where you can search the archives of the discussion list?  As for templates, I haven't got into them too much besides some simple tweaking of the general reply, new message, etc. templates.

So, I'm curious, what do you use for email now?  Webmail?  Gmail?  For someone who seems to have spent so much time with something like the Bat, I find it surprising that you'd move away to something else.
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allen
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« Reply #6 on: January 31, 2006, 04:00:24 PM »

I wonder if there is a way to have the two synchronize to each other to avoid confusion.

You're in luck, there is -- in the view modes, as you suspected.  You'll benefit from playing with them, but to save you the trouble I'll walk you through getting your folders squared away real quick right now.

Get the sorting etc. setup the way you want it in any of the windows/pains -- once things are perfect, right click on a column title (like date, from, etc. it doesn't matter what one) and select "save view mode to" then "<generic view mode>". (or you can give it your own name, doesn't matter.  To make sure that one is used by all the folders, click view -> global view mode -> manage view modes.  Select your preferred view mode, select 'use by' and then check all the folders you want to display with that view mode.  Probably most of them, but not trash, sent or drafts.  Once that's done, any edit you make to that view mode will reflect on all the folders that use it.  Handy.  This is a fairly new feature, back in the old days we had to configure each folder/view manually.  It was painful.[/quote]

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You can see how it would confuse a newbie to sort the list in the main window, and then open up an indivdual message and see that it is sorted differently.

Yeah, absolutely -- and the view modes aren't immediately obvious/transparent for those who weren't betting testing them while they were being developed.  Unless you're there for the feature announcement, it's easy to miss the feature when there are as many as there are in TB!

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So that's where the real users are, eh?  I'll have to check out the list.  But I don't want to get that heavily involved yet.  I'm already on too many lists as it is.  Is there a webpage where you can search the archives of the discussion list?  As for templates, I haven't got into them too much besides some simple tweaking of the general reply, new message, etc. templates.

Yeah, it's a fairly high-volume list, but I'll tell you what--there are few, if any, questions that go unanswered there.  The archives are here:
http://www.mail-archive.c...tbudl@thebat.dutaint.com/

Another cool thing, related to the templates, "cookie" text -- you can specify an external file or copy/paste into the cookie field in your account settings -- using the cookie in your signature %cookie% will print a random line from that file! So you can have a random quote in your message.  Very cool.

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So, I'm curious, what do you use for email now?  Webmail?  Gmail?  For someone who seems to have spent so much time with something like the Bat, I find it surprising that you'd move away to something else.

I lost all my TB data/settings -- everything -- with my hard drive and just haven't had the time or energy to set it up again to where I'm 'happy'.  Installation is easy, but getting all the templates and everything else the way I want them, filters, etc. -- lot of work.  Talking about it though has got me thinking mourning time might be over, time to pick it up again.  I certainly didn't 'move away', I was pushed away Wink There's nothing out there with a better featureset.  Not that I've seen, anyway.  Presently I'm using gmail and Opera's built in client. Weak Wink
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superboyac
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« Reply #7 on: January 31, 2006, 06:32:16 PM »

Quote
Yeah, it's a fairly high-volume list, but I'll tell you what--there are few, if any, questions that go unanswered there.  The archives are here:
http://www.mail-archive.c...tbudl@thebat.dutaint.com/

Another cool thing, related to the templates, "cookie" text -- you can specify an external file or copy/paste into the cookie field in your account settings -- using the cookie in your signature %cookie% will print a random line from that file! So you can have a random quote in your message.  Very cool.
I checked it out, it's definitely a good forum for the Bat, now I know where to look for answers.  That cookie thing is cool.

You should get back to the Bat...a little bit each day, spend a few minutes at a time, you'll be ready in no time!

Here's a quick question:  if I want to pick between a variety of signatures (say 4 or 5), how do I do that?  Do I have to make a different  template for each signature?  Or is there a signature manager somwhere?  Pegasus has a drop-down box in the message composer window where you can pick a signature, so that's why I ask.
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« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2006, 06:52:55 AM »

Yep, seems as good a time as any to pick it up again.  Particularly cool is their new "voyager" that comes with professional edition--so you can run TB from a removable flash drive.

It's not handled in the same way as Pegasus, but TB does know a signature from a template -- though its' all handled through the template system.  It's not immediately obvious how to do it, but it's not too tough and really powerful if you want to get into the macros one of these days.

Here's what you do to simply toggle signatures -- go to options > quick templates
Now, click new.  First type %ISSIGNATURE in there and hit enter. Under that, put your signature as you want it.  You can create as many signatures as you'd like in this way.

What the %ISSIGNATURE macro does is tell it that this isn't a message template but, rather, just a signature.  When selected, it will do one of two things -- if you already have a proper sig delimiter in your message (-- ), it will replace everything under it with the quicktemplate you just applied.  If you do not have a sig delimiter then it will append one and your sig text to the bottom of your e-mail message.

So, for example, you could automatically include your main quicktemplate signature at the bottom of your e-mail by putting %QINCLUDE="MySig" at the bottom of your message template.  You could then switch signatures as easily as utilities -> insert quick template (or ctrl+space).
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superboyac
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« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2006, 10:57:56 AM »

OK, I understand about the signatures.  I've got to say, it's not the simplest process, but it is really cool.

Here's a kind of weird question...what do people put in their templates with this kind of power?  I mean, what kind of emails are people sending out with the Bat?  I can see myself using the templates for setting up my replies, signatures, and different kinds of new emails, but there are so many other things to use!  I'm just wondering what kind of crazy complex emails people are writing using this stuff, it would be interesting to find out.
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superboyac
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« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2006, 11:51:57 AM »

I have yet more to say...

I find this MicroEd text editor thing in the Bat fascinating!  I like how you can switch between the stream/column/line mode for highlighting and the fact that you can start typing anywhere is cool.  But what is the history behind this editor?  How does it make writing more efficient?  It's cool to play with and all, but I wanted to hear how this feature is used by the veterans.
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« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2006, 12:38:07 PM »

i can't answer the microed question, but i thought it might be useful in this thread to point out that Jibz has written an extremely cool little plugin for thebat called PIPER, that lets you shell out and execute any commandline program and capture its output to feed back into a message:

http://www.donationcoder....are/Jibz/Piper/index.html

(as usual if you use it please send jibz a little donation to support his work)
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« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2006, 04:59:55 PM »

I don't necessarily know all the advantages to the microed as far as efficiency and such things are concerned but when I started using TB it was -the- editor and I've used it since.  It's quick and responsive, that's always nice -- and I love how it reflows text -- I've always had it set with "persistent" selections, automatically reflowing with full justify.

The truth is, though I'm rather comfortable with these settings, they're not of the importance they once were.  When Microed was in its prime, it was common for mail clients to have trouble with long lines--sometimes reading, but at the very least with replies having ugly broken lines.  Microed rose to the occasion, elegantly wrapping incoming and outgoing mail and was/is fully capable of seamlessly reflowing quoted/forwarded text.  Things are handled more elgantly by other mail editors now than they once were, making MicroEd less important, I suppose--but I still have yet to find an editor that handles plain text mail more elegantly.

I've often wished they'd release Microed as a standalone text editor/notepad.  No luck there, but The Bat! does now have "Smart Bat" -- a built in notepad/calendar -- jot down notes with it and it can be used to have e-mail messages automatically sent out at certain times/dates.  Once upon a time, scheduler saved me face when I'd forget birthdays, it'd still mail them.  They'd think I remembered Wink
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« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2006, 10:28:59 PM »

For the record, I've set my gmail account to make all messages available for download and am in the process of downloading15000 + messages, dating back to 2002.  In '01, a roommate pawned my computer and ran, so I lost everything from '98 - '01, but I'd imported everything after that into gmail when I started using it -- so at least I'll have a few years searchable archive.  Have a few templates configured and am slowly moving back in.  I learned from this thread I haven't forgotten as much about using TB as I'd thought, which makes the move a bit less daunting Wink
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superboyac
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« Reply #14 on: February 03, 2006, 02:39:42 AM »

That's great, allen.  I'm glad you also got something beneficial from this thread.  That sucks about losing the 3 years of email, I would have been so pissed.  I consider email like letters, part of your personal history.  Just a few days ago, I was showing my cousin the Bat, and we were reading some of our old emails from almost 10 years ago...one of them got us cracking up to tears because I was basically informing him of my discovery of "these things called mp3's" and how amazing they were.
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« Reply #15 on: February 03, 2006, 03:19:01 AM »

hahhahahahaha love it.
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allen
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« Reply #16 on: February 03, 2006, 05:15:29 AM »

I'm a pack rat -- losing my e-mail archive was far more traumatic than the loss of the computer itself, or the DVD's, or anything else for that matter . . . it was a growing experience, I had to learn to let go :-)

-- it took most of the night to download all my gmail messages into The Bat!.  As it would turn out, I had almost 50,000 -- I have a nice, full mailbase on TB now smiley
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superboyac
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« Reply #17 on: February 03, 2006, 05:25:47 PM »

Nice...it's good to be back, right?  You just reminded me, I should get back to a good backing up regiment soon, before something happens.

I remember how big a decision it was for me a couple of weeks ago to go from Pegasus to the Bat.  You have no idea, for years, I would defend Pegasus with my life.  But the Bat just did too much and had too many features.  I think Pegasus actually got me into this "poweruser" mode back in 1997.  I had moved into an apartment at school, and whoever lived there before got this thick magazine about computers, and inside it, there was a little shootout for email clients.  At the time, Eudora was the standard (my, what's happened to them?!) and I was surprised that they picked Pegasus as their top choice as far as customizability and power.  So, I gave it a shot, and have loved it ever since.  But it's a one-man show by the author (David Harris) and I don't think he's able to implement new features as quickly as the shareware email clients like the Bat.  But he's done an amazing job, and his philosophy is probably in sync with guys like mouser, where he really wants to provide quality software for free.

Boy, that brings backa lot of memories...
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superboyac
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« Reply #18 on: February 03, 2006, 11:53:17 PM »

Here's what you do to simply toggle signatures -- go to options > quick templates
Now, click new.  First type %ISSIGNATURE in there and hit enter. Under that, put your signature as you want it.  You can create as many signatures as you'd like in this way.

What the %ISSIGNATURE macro does is tell it that this isn't a message template but, rather, just a signature.  When selected, it will do one of two things -- if you already have a proper sig delimiter in your message (-- ), it will replace everything under it with the quicktemplate you just applied.  If you do not have a sig delimiter then it will append one and your sig text to the bottom of your e-mail message.

So, for example, you could automatically include your main quicktemplate signature at the bottom of your e-mail by putting %QINCLUDE="MySig" at the bottom of your message template.  You could then switch signatures as easily as utilities -> insert quick template (or ctrl+space).

I made a quick template for the signature, and it works well.  I'm having a problem using the signature quick template inside my message template.  When I put the line %QINCLUDE="MySig" at the bottom of the message template, it inserts the text of my signature, but without the "-- ".  Am I supposed to put in the template:

--
%QINCLUDE="MySig"

or just:

%QINCLUDE="MySig"

I'm not sure, I thought by defining the quick template as a signature, it would be inserted in the message as a signature, but maybe I'm wrong.
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allen
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« Reply #19 on: February 04, 2006, 07:10:05 AM »

Yeah, I'm a bit rusty Wink but you should include the -- yourself if you're using quick templates to switch the signature -- that's what tells it where to delete the text before inserting the new one.

I have the sig delimiter in my main template, beneath that the qinclude -- so swapping among quicktempaltes -should- replace everything beneath the delimiter with the quick template text.

I think.

:-)
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