QuoteFix — a great way to rectify messaging flaws

When it comes to e-mail etiquette, I’m old-school. For example, I always use plain text instead of styled text or HTML when composing messages. But perhaps my most old-school habit is that I still prefer “top-quoting” (a.k.a., bottom-posting) to “bottom-quoting” (a.k.a., top-posting).

For the uninitiated, bottom-quoting/top-posting–which is especially common in messages composed using Microsoft Outlook or Gmail–is when you place the text of your reply at the top of the message, with the entire text of the original message quoted below.

Top-quoting/bottom-posting is when your reply positions the quoted text–preferably cut down to provide just the necessary context–at the top of the message, with your reply text beneath. To quote a humorous e-mail signature:

A: Because it reverses the natural flow of conversation.
Q: Why is top-posting frowned upon?

Interleaved posting (also called inline replying), where you intersperse replies within quoted text, conversation-style, is also a form of bottom-posting.

Of course, Mac Gems isn’t the place to debate e-mail etiquette, so let’s just posit that top-quoting/bottom-posting has been the preferred method of quoting/replying since the early days of Usenet. The problem for people like me is that Mac OS X’s Mail, like Outlook and Gmail, encourages top-posting by automatically putting quoted text at the bottom of replies and forwarded messages, placing the cursor at the top. Mail doesn’t even provide an option to top-quote.

This flaw can be fixed using QuoteFix, a plug-in for Mail that offers a number of message-quoting fixes. First and foremost, whenever you reply to or forward a message,

QuoteFix automatically places the attribution line (On [date], at [time], [sender] wrote:) at the top, followed by the quoted text, with the cursor waiting for you at the bottom. QuoteFix even correctly places your signature below the cursor. I also like that QuoteFix removes the blank line between the attribution and quoted text, although if you’d rather keep the blank line, you have that option (in QuoteFix’s preferences, which are accessible via the Mail menu).

Other minor quoting tweaks include the option to remove all quotes above the level (1 to 10) you choose. This is useful when replying to or forwarding long discussions where each party has continued to quote the previous message, resulting in text like:

>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Just checking in on the status of your presentation for the meeting.
>>>>>>>>>>>>> What presentation?!
>>>>>>>>>>>> The one I assigned you last week.
>>>>>>>>>>> I don’t recall that conversation.
>>>>>>>>>> We were talking by the water cooler and you had that great idea
>>>>>>>>>> and I told you to run with it and present it this week.
>>>>>>>>> I didn’t realize that was for a presentation. I thought you just wanted
>>>>>>>>> me to be ready to talk about it in case the subject came up.
[and so on, all the way down to one level of quoting]

Finally, QuoteFix removes e-mail signatures when replying to or forwarding messages, so that only the body of the message is quoted. However, for this feature to work, the sender must have used the “official” standard for e-mail signatures: the signature text must be separated from the body of the message by two dashes and a space, followed by a return. For example:

[message body text]

Dan Frakes, Senior Editor, Macworld

QuoteFix does fudge a little here: It will also filter a signature missing the blank line after –. The developer says an upcoming feature will let you define your own signature patterns, so you’ll be able to customize what QuoteFix considers a signature to be.

QuoteFix isn’t for every Mail user.

If you’ve got no beef with top-posting–or if you use both methods, choosing one over the other depending on the context and content of the original message, and you end up using top-posting more often–you can ignore QuoteFix and keep doing what you’re doing. But if, like me, you favuor bottom-posting or interleaved posting, QuoteFix is a welcome…quoting fix.

Installing QuoteFix (and an obligatory note about Mail plug-ins in general)

If you haven’t previously installed a Mail plug-in–some of my favorites include Mail Act-On, MiniMail, MailFollowup, MailRecent MsgFiler, and Mail Attachments Iconizer–you need to enable the feature. (Plug-ins–also called bundles–are unsupported, so Apple doesn’t enable them by default.) The simplest way to do so is to quit Mail, launch Terminal (in /Applications/Utilities), and then run the following two commands:

defaults write com.apple.mail EnableBundles -bool true
defaults write com.apple.mail BundleCompatibilityVersion 3

You then install QuoteFix by downloading it and dragging it to ~/Library/Mail/Bundles (That’s inside the Library folder in your own Home folder. If the Bundles folder doesn’t exist inside the Mail folder, create it.) The next time you launch Mail, QuoteFix’s features will be available.

Keep in mind that because Apple doesn’t officially support Mail plug-ins, there’s a good chance that the next time the company releases an update to Mail, your plug-ins will likely stop working. You’ll have to wait until each plug-in developer releases a new version compatible with the updated version of Mail.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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