Combined From/Recipient column ("Correspondents") in thread pane - What do you think?

Andrew J. Buehler wanderer at fastmail.fm
Fri Apr 10 13:59:02 UTC 2015


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On 04/10/2015 at 08:18 AM, Josiah Bruner wrote:

> Personally, I think it's fine to (auto) make it the default,
> assuming there is a pref to disable it. In essence it does the same
> thing as From and Recipient, so I don't think people will become
> that upset about it. If someone comes up with a circumstance where
> the new column does LESS than the old implementation, then we
> should address that. Otherwise, who cares?

I agree that it's fine to make it the default, and that it's probably a
nicer behavior overall.

I disagree that this means that it's fine to automatically change
existing configurations, except _perhaps_ if we know for certain that
the user has left them in their default state.

The default is just the way things get set up when creating a new
Thunderbird profile. Changing that should not affect existing
Thunderbird profiles.

When the default configuration gets changed, automatically converting an
existing Thunderbird profile to the new configuration can be OK,
depending on what the configuration change in question is; it may even
be OK in this particular case. But it is not the same as, and should not
be discussed as being, just changing the default.


In this case, if someone wants to switch to use the new column, it could
be a lot of manual work to modify all of their folders individually -
particularly if they have, and want to retain, different column
configurations for different folders.

That means that, yes, it's entirely reasonable to have a way to convert
an existing Thunderbird profile to the new configuration (replace all
From/Recipient columns with Correspondents) - as long as that conversion
happens only at the user's request. (Prompting the user on upgrade to
initiate the conversion would be fine.)

However, by the same token, it would be at least as much work to convert
_back_ after having this change made - probably more, since rather than
blindly replacing all From/Recipient columns with one single thing, the
user would have to determine folder by folder which column type to use.

If we _had_ to force this work on one set of users or the other (the
ones who want to remain unchanged, or the ones who either want to switch
or don't care), then yes, it would probably be better in this case to
make the conversion automatically - because the former group is probably
by far the larger.

But I don't believe we do have to do that. I believe that a
user-triggered conversion process, with a prompt on upgrade to initiate
that conversion, would let us avoid forcing that work on either set of
users while still remaining relatively simple and non-confusing. It
would be more work to create that process and prompt, most likely, but
IMO "doing it right" is almost inherently worth the while.


To raise a practical concern about the automatic conversion process:
what would the convertor code do in a case where someone has _both_ the
- From and the To columns visible, in the same folder? This may be an
unlikely case, but if someone did do it intentionally, none of the
possible courses of action I can think of (except leaving the columns
untouched) seems more likely to avoid disrupting the user's intent than
any other. (Especially if the columns are not adjacent.)

- -- 
  Andrew J. Buehler
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