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Apple Mail randomly becomes the frontmost application in macOS (annoying.technology)
278 points by dewey on May 30, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 175 comments

I've had this issue for the past 2–3 years. It seems to happen because of improper error handling. If you look closely at the app in the instant it opens, your affected account will have a “disconnected” symbol next to it in the sidebar. However, it goes away before an error can be shown.

My theory is: there is a momentary connection issue with these G Suite accounts, and Mail.app starts to show an error by focusing itself, but the error is resolved so quickly it doesn't actually get to show the “connection problems” modal.

I hope this can be fixed soon, it's been a daily annoyance for me for a long time now.

I confirm your observations.

Yet, to force an app to the front when glitch in connection happens is more like a feature they deliriously thought is being useful, instead of choosing other means of notifications, which is plenty. An app is not forcing itself to the front without someone is specifically writing the code for it to do.

This smells like a feature built 10+ years ago, before notifications existed in Mac OS X, that never got upgraded.

That's how apps "notified" back then.

> That's how apps "notified" back then.

Polite apps would just bounce their dock icon rather than stealing focus, however.

I wrote a SIMBL plugin at one point to neuter applications that did this too much (actually, I forked it from someone who wrote it for Spotify). Trying to grab my attention in a persistent, repetitive way for something that is minor drives me up the wall.

Also known as “Bouncing in the dock like a Jack Russell fucking Terrier” [0]

[0] https://youtu.be/ks-N4rI_1RU

Exactly. I found the bouncing animation genius, as it always reminded me of a toddler impatiently jumping up and down for attention. Doesn't mail.app do this?

> mail.app

Mail.app and most other apps since 10.8 (?) introduced badges just use those, unless it’s a more urgent thing than “you have a new message” in which case, yes, it will bounce the dock icon.

Before the native notification system, there was this Growl thing that literally every single third-party app used. Apple apps, on the other hand...

I still miss Growl having logging history. Once in a while I need to check back on something.

I vaguely remember it having history, but the native system does have something similar in that panel you get by swiping with two fingers from the right edge of the trackpad, in "notifications" tab.

In my experience, if you always hide the Mail window (cmd-h) instead of closing it (cmd-w), it won't ever pop back up. Takes a while to retrain the muscle memory though!

I haven't tested this in Catalina, but it definitely works consistently in Mojave.

This issue has been a real nuisance for at least 5 years and I could never retrain myself. One solution that worked for me was to make it full screen with its own Space.

Mind you, a program with “hidden” windows open takes up more CPU/memory than a program without any windows open, because the view-controllers for those windows are still running, just bound to an invisible, non-updating view. (Though, admittedly, it’s less of a CPU cost than minimizing the window, since that requires the view to be kept active too, to facilitate updating the live thumbnail.)

The main place this comes up is in cases where the main window is doing something clever to gather the information to display itself. For example, Activity Monitor doesn’t suddenly stop using half your CPU when you hide it.

Mail.app probably keeps a big scrollable list-control for the selected view in-memory for as long as you have the window open. So it might be a bad idea to do this if you’re one of those people who never archive anything (i.e. practice “Inbox Infinity.”)

> Though, admittedly, it’s less of a CPU cost than minimizing the window, since that requires the view to be kept active too, to facilitate updating the live thumbnail.

I thought that was a static thumbnail?

> For example, Activity Monitor doesn’t suddenly stop using half your CPU when you hide it.

It does for me, which is why I keep it hidden when I’m not actively using it.

> I thought that was a static thumbnail?

Nah, it updates (...as far as I can recall.) Try opening a chat client, minimizing the chat window, and then sending a message from another device to yourself.

I believe it’s just using the same call into the compositor that Mission Control uses to display your windows and spaces. Those are all live. (They might have a lower update rate, though.)

> It does for me, which is why I keep it hidden when I’m not actively using it.

Interesting. This might be down to Activity Monitor being written to respond to a message letting it know that its view is entirely obscured, and the Activity Monitor main-window view-controller deciding in response that there’s no point in it polling the system if all it’s going to do when re-visible is discard all the stuff it learned in the mean time and re-poll again to get the newest data for the view.

I can’t recall whether Activity Monitor has any historical/time-series views built in? If it does, then if you hide Activity Monitor with those active, it should keep using CPU, to gather the data for that view, whether it’s rendering it or not.

> Mind you, a program with “hidden” windows open takes up more CPU/memory than a program without any windows open

I can’t speak to Mail, but in general a Mac app with no visible windows may actually take zero CPU, because (if it’s written to allow for it) the OS may kill the process entirely.

Thanks a lot! I haven’t been bugged yet, but hope it works!! Would be a life saver when I need to watch full screen videos on VLC

This is what I've been doing to get "rid" of the error. Still on Mojave as well.

Solidly on Linux Mint now but back in the day when wrangling MacOS I used Hammerspoon to fix these sort of issues - should be doable to monitor and enforce the background status of Mail.app and then pause the monitoring when invoked by user (easiest thing would likely be to set hotkey that then also pauses monitoring), and finally resume monitoring when Mail.app goes to background (i.e. user done with active interaction).

That is an interesting name for a tool. wonder where it came from?

It was forked from a tool called Mjolnir, so that's where the "hammer" part of the HammerSpoon name could come from.

Yep, that's exactly it.

The author's assessment is incorrect btw, this happened to me frequently for years on a computer without any G suite accounts. On a High Sierra machine fwiw.

Now I'm running Mavericks and it never happens.

You are right. This has been going on for a few years, and it is related to the need for the app to display the connection error.

I find myself quitting mail when I want to be in the zone because otherwise this random behaviour is really annoying.

Exactly. Been doing the same thing for years. Eventually just switched to AirMail.

Might be a "dogfooding it" sort of thing, where if apple employees could use google mail accounts, it might have a higher chance of being caught.

I would bet you couldn't use gmail from within the apple campus.

It boggles the mind that this issue hasn't been found and fixed by now.

I’ve noticed only when watching YouTube in full screen

Hey Vlad, hope you're doing well!

Oh hey man, nice to hear from you, same to you! :)

My workaround for this issue is to put Mail app in its own dedicated Space/Desktop. Then it only comes to the front in its own Space, not in the Space I'm normally using.

I've switched back to a new MacBook, temporarily due to COVID as it was easy to purchase from Apple and it was an emergency.

I used OS X fulltime 2006-11. I'm surprised how buggy Catalina is, including Mail.app. I have had serious firmware issues too, such as needing to reset my SMC very frequently because my USB C stops charging the machine every other day. Apple is clearly, sadly, neglecting mac OS.

Surprisingly, I haven't disliked butterfly keys as much as I thought I would do. I can type extremely fast. I do prefer their scissor keys, though, which are really good and low latency [1].

[1] https://danluu.com/keyboard-latency/

if you really got a brand new one, the keyboard may not be as bad as the previous iterations (2016/2017)

Yes, it's new and it's fairly decent. I love mechanical keyboards (especially those with ALPS and TOPRE switches), but I realize low travel means I type much faster and it doesn't tire my fingers.

IMHO the scissor keys in the Magic Keyboard are really good because they strike a perfect compromise in terms of depth, comfort and speed. Also the board is really low latency. Not sure what tricks Apple has played with the firmware in those keyboards.

Have you run into the mail deleting bug yet? That's what is holding me back from upgrading.

I did. And several other bugs. Their QC has declined significantly.

good to know as a workaround, thx

I experience this as well after upgrading to Catalina. I thought it was my fault at first, caused by some sort of key combo. It only happens for me when in full screen with another app.

I use Mail with a GSuite account as well.

I am still not on Catalina yet and it started for me ca. 6-9 months ago. Perhaps with some Mojave update. (unsure as no big changes occurred and it took some time to see being a systematic trouble)

I am more and more turning off system updates (not only Mac) as those bring more trouble than good. Being a very late adopter pays off. (update to Catalina is still not in the middle term plans)

To add a datapoint that might be underrepresented for reasons of self-selections: I've updated to Catalina and haven't had any issues.

I’m still on High Sierra (10.13), latest security update three days ago (10.13.6)

Admittedly I am not a developer, and none of the software I’ve wanted to run has required a more recent version.

Pretty sure it is due too it not being able to connect to a mail server. every time it happens, i see the "couldn't connect" icon

Yes, that's it. It happened with my Gmail account too, it stopped when I removed it from Mail.

Yeah, it is horrible. I am closing Apple Mail when I am not using it because of it.

Something I still don't understand, similar to this - not sure if it's a bug or feature but I use Desktops heavily, especially while working at home without my extra monitors.

For some reason, the order of my Desktops on Mac seem to reshuffle, I can't work out what causes it or when it happens. I often have it ordered something like this:

Desktop 1 - Google Doc (Chrome)

Desktop 2 - Researching (Chrome)

Desktop 3 - Slack

Desktop 4 - Spotify

I'll do the three finger gesture moving from Desktop 1 to 2 and randomly say Spotify will have moved there. It's so annoying.

When you go into preferences > Mission Control, is 'Automatically rearrange Spaces based on most recent use' checked? I used to hate spaces until I turned that off.

The answer is found in System Preferences > Mission Control. Uncheck the “Automatically rearrange spaces based on most recent use” box :)

Astounding to me that automatic rearranging would have been considered desirable. Hard to imagine that it’s just visual folks (like myself) who would lose flow state if the mental map of their Desktops was interrupted if they were suddenly rearranged.

> Astounding to me that automatic rearranging would have been considered desirable

Funny, i really like this because it lets me switch to another app and then return with a single swipe. The ipad has this behaviour too though the swipe is in the opposite direction.

I use full screen very heavily and rarely use spaces as separate desktops, which I find weird. You probably consider my use weird.

Not to say one approach is better than the other, just suggesting whoever set the default might have decided based on their own use. I suspect this issue was not subjected to any UX research, even at a place as big as apple.

You're likely correct: it feels like it wasn't subjected to any UX research. Knowing how Apple works, it was probably demoed in front of a few higher-ups, but nobody other than the person or team writing it used the feature long enough to notice that some people would be confused by it.

And you're correct, I never use full screen. I don't think it's weird to use it, it just doesn't suit my workflow (single large monitor, so I need a lot of stuff side-by-side).

When changing apps by using the dock, the animation only shows the desktops move over by one space. So by changing the order it will only take one swipe to get back to where you were before.

If it didn’t rearrange based on use the animation would show an arbitrary number of moves and you would have to keep track of how many times it moved over to know how many times to swipe to get back.

If you only change desktops by using Mission Control rearrange based on recent used shouldn’t even be a problem because it will never automatically rearrange if you use Mission Control.

I can see the line of thinking since it’s how command-tab works, but it’s just not a good fit for spaces/desktops. Similar to using multiple monitors, users expect to be able to rely on spatial reference. I didn’t use the feature either until I found that setting to turn off.

I don't use Spaces since I don't like how I get switched into different spaces just by clicking an app that has windows open in another space. I've tried to use it a few times since it came out a decade ago (that long, or longer?) but just couldn't get used to being thrown around all over the place.

My ideal setup would be that a user NEVER gets switched into another Space/Desktop, even if they click an icon in the dock, or Cmd-Tab. If there's a window in Safari in another space that I wanted, I would switch sequentially to that space and find it.

I do like to hear how other people work and if they like features that I don't; helps me gauge how far along on the curmudgeon timeline I am!

Just turn off “Preferences->Mission Control->When switching to an application, switch to…”, that would be the setup you are asking for.

As for myself, I don’t use Spaces at all.

I have a keyboard shortcut for every application I use daily. CMD+CTRL plus a letter, M for Mail, T for terminal, B for browser… And so on.

Some keys are “overloaded” via Keyboard Maestro, like editor “E”: If MacVim is open, use it, otherwise open TextMate (Not using both much these days since switching to VSCode, which inherited “V” after I ditched Voodoopad :))

To make this work ergonomically, I have to be able to press CMD+CTRL with either the left or the right hand. So the first thing I do with new Macs, is remapping the right Option/Alt Key to Ctrl via Karabiner.

Using this system for the past 15 years, my worst fear is that one day Apple will close down its system so much, that this simple remap will no longer work - they are already on the hunt for kernel extensions…

Wow, thanks so much!

Always thought it was bug, turned that straight off.

I have no idea why this is a default feature on OS X. It's one of the very rare moments where I think they've got a design decision totally wrong.

has anyone found a good, free solution for naming spaces (instead of “Desktop n”)? i used to be able to name them with a free utility, but SIP killed it.

God I wish, this should be something the OS does ffs.

My kludgearound: different desktop pictures, related to the project each desktop is for.

I don't have any issues with Apple Mail but I do have issues with zoom, randomly switching from full screen sharing to the desktop and back again, it's incredibly annoying. It doesn't happen when I share my screen, only when others do. It seems to have gotten better recently but still happens in occasion. Anyone else seeing this? Maybe it's related?

It’s a setting you can turn off

Yes. This is a very annoying default, but luckily you can disable it.

Alright people, stop teasing and tell me what to look for please! :o)

Settings > Share Screen > Maximize Zoom window when a participant shares screen ?

I have another zoom problem on Mojave. Even though I marked the zoom windows to use Desktop 2, they keep opening on Desktop 1 :-/ any tips on how to fix this?

Several apps have this. I suspect they don't correctly support the windows restoration API.

You can fix this by removing the “Google” account and connecting to Gmail as a regular IMAP account.

Since I did that, I haven’t had any issues with this.

Oh, I was wondering why I don't have that issue. I've set up Apple Mail long before they had specific support for "google" accounts so of course the gmail account is imap...

Btw 7 years of importing application configuration across OS installs without a hitch.

I have the same issue, in fact I'm so used to it that I even do not notice it anymore, except when watching fullscreen video, then I'm like: "It's just the way how things are here...[quits Mail]".

As someone already mentioned - I'm also pretty sure it's related to some disconnect/reconnect thing.

Please make sure to log this at http://bugreporter.apple.com

Your bug will at least then be triaged and acknowledged.

Apple bug tracker is so frustrating.

They take forever to answer, and ask for things that you have already provided in your original issue. When you try to reproduce the bug on multiple versions, they close your bug if you reproduced it on beta versions, because beta versions are unsupported, even though the bug affects release versions. Sometimes this happens even if they asked you to try the beta version!

The bugs are almost always closed as duplicate of another bug, which, of course, you can't see because the bug tracker is private.

The bugs are never fixed, at least no bug that I have ever reported has been fixed. Years or months later after submitting a bug that happens not to be closed as duplicate of another bug, they get closed because a new version of macOS is released, and you are encouraged to resubmit your report if it still affects the new version, which inevitably it does...

Even if the bug is in some open source component, and you provide a patch, it is ignored and eventually closed as explained above.

It's a total waste of time and a pain in the ass to submit bugs to Apple.

You can’t see other people’s bug reports because they often contain screenshots or telemetry data which is confidential.

And I believe the way Apple works is to look through Radar for important/widespread bugs, mark them for fixing in the next release, fix them and then ask you to retest. They aren’t just going through and fixing Radar’s one by one. Hence you get that frustrating experience where it looks like the bug is being ignored.

I wish that was how it worked, but my experience has been more like the parent poster's: long-standing easily reproducible bugs never fixed despite multiple reports and multiple major releases. I've never once been informed by Apple of a bug I submitted being fixed, or "asked to retest". Not being able to see the duplicate bug when your case is closed and marked as such feels like a slap in the face. I understand that some material could be confidential, but I would bet over 99% aren't. If someone has spent enough time to determine that my report X is a duplicate of Y, they could also determine if Y is confidential and if so, just flag it in the system to show up as redacted.

> You can’t see other people’s bug reports because they often contain screenshots or telemetry data which is confidential.

You know what would be great? If I could mark my bug as “please let everyone be able to find this”. But Apple refusing to add this feature shoes that they still do not fundamentally understand and/or care about how external feedback works.

> Your bug will at least then be triaged and acknowledged.

Lol sure it will.

Bugreporter is just a front end for Radar.

And I can assure that when I was working at Apple bugs were triaged and acknowledged by a PM. Doesn’t mean they get fixed though.

Radar’s asinine search functionality also obscures the seriousness of bugs by failing to reveal dupes.

It doesn’t (or at least didn’t) default to searching for all words used in the title; it only searches for the EXACT string you enter. It was a pain in the ass to even find bugs YOU wrote.

I couldn’t believe how goddamned dumb this is, or the Radar team’s response: Oh, you simply use Oracle syntax and wildcards in the title search! No explanation of how we were supposed to know this, or WHY.

> Oh, you simply use Oracle syntax and wildcards in the title search!


"Doesn’t mean they get fixed though." Ok then! I am driven to report it now!

Actually, this is a trouble bugs lots and lots of people for long long time. I browsed countless articles or threads about this with tons of workarounds. Where more than a few are Apple discussions. If it is not reported yet - from outside or inside - then it does not exist. But it does.

> Bugreporter is just a front end for Radar.

It’s “Feedback Assistant” now and at least one level removed from Radar now. Can’t give third party developers a direct line to engineers!

> And I can assure that when I was working at Apple bugs were triaged and acknowledged by a PM.

They used to, maybe? Not anymore. I think I got two responses in June 2019 and then nobody has looked at my bugs since.

> I can assure that when I was working at Apple bugs were triaged and acknowledged

As a counterexample, as late as 2018 Apple was publicly denying (so not acknowledging and ignoring attempts at triage) bendgate, but leaked documents show they knew about it in 2014.


> Doesn’t mean they get fixed though.

We're not talking about fixing - we're talking about triage and acknowledgement.

Can't say for Mail, but in my experience watchOS and SwiftUI reports are frequently acknowledged.

Apple definitely has a history of not acknowledging for a long time major problems that many people can clearly demonstrate. Bend gate, antenna gate, stage light gate, that thing with the coating on the screens...

Flexgate is still a real, profound, and disgraceful defect.

This is the one where your MacBook Pro’s screen stops working because Apple ran a ribbon cable through a hinge or some such stupid shit. Been happening since 2016 and still rendering $4000 laptops useless after 18 months of light use.

Bend date, antenna gate were fixed in the next revision of their hardware. Screen coating was fixed I believe even quicker.

There is a limit to how quickly Apple can fix hardware given they have to work with third parties on retooling and retraining.

The screen coating is still an issue. It crops up again every few years. I’ve gotten a few macs replaced for free because of it even when I didn’t mind.

> Bend date, antenna gate were fixed in the next revision of their hardware.

I know they were. But do you not remember there was quite a period of time where Apple didn't acknowledge the problems and ignored users trying to triage them?

> There is a limit to how quickly Apple can fix

What has this got to do with it? We're talking about triage and acknowledgement, not fix.

I usually file bug reports but this issue was already well documented in their support forum even by official Apple staff so I'd assume they would at least file the issues if they see something show up there?

Also checked on https://openradar.appspot.com if there's anything but there wasn't.

This has been annoying me for months. It’s particularly irritating when you’re screen sharing. I just make sure Mail is quit when I’m not using it, which isn’t ideal.

How is it that there is still no known root cause for this issue? I suspect there is a way to check what the reason an app came to the foreground is, no?

The reason is that Mail thinks the mail server is unreachable, so it brings the window to front, but then magically it changes idea and the mail server is reachable again ️.

In general I find macOS handles alerting the user very poorly.

I don't know why but it infuriates me when icons bounce on the dock for attention. The animation is too insistent for whatever trivial thing the app wants to let me know.

Or an app will open some Important Dialog Box that I need to deal with, except it's hidden behind some other windows somewhere and the rest of the app refuses to respond to my clicks until I find the dialog box. It doesn't bother foregrounding the dialog box for me.

> I don't know why but it infuriates me when icons bounce on the dock for attention. The animation is too insistent for whatever trivial thing the app wants to let me know.

The animation is fine, it’s just that bad app developers abuse it for the most trivial things. I’m looking at you, Music.app and Microsoft AutoUpdate.app. (“You’re playing music elsewhere” for the former, which I am not but thanks for suggesting I’m trying to be a pirate; “I finished one part of a multi-part update and automatically continued” for the latter.)

I’m still on High Sierra (10.13) and this happened to me only three hours ago installing QCAD.

I switched out to another program for a moment during installation and when I switched back a QCAD installation dialogue box was hidden by the main QCAD installation window.

I was able to drag the obscuring window out of the way, but still seems daft not to focus on the interaction blocking window.

Yeah, that's not good. Sometimes you can find it through some combination of ensuring that app is frontmost by clicking its icon in the dock, choosing "hide others" from its menu, and triggering "show application windows" in Mission Control (often ctrl-down-arrow, or a three-finger down-swipe trackpad gesture).

Due to the explosion in videoconferencing I've spent some time recently helping family set things up via remote desktop (I highly recommend Chrome Remote Desktop by the way, pretty easy to set up). This kind of thing is absolutely inscrutable to non-tech savvy people. All they see is that the computer suddenly stops doing anything but playing an annoying "donk" sound whenever they click and they have no idea that any of those features exist.

Really, Windows with its `window == app == taskbar item` approach is far easier to understand.

Could be worse! Outlook on Windows just locks up entirely while it tries to connect. I don’t know why they’re still doing network IO in the UI thread - over 10 years after they admitted it was a major problem.

I hint that the root cause is a stupid design decision. Forcing the app into the front, for whatever reason. Without the means to turn the behaviour off.

I’ve had this issue for a long time now across a couple of versions of MacOS and three Macs. It appears to be related to Google Calendar. My current workaround is to hide a Mail window with CMD-h. I’ve given up trying to report it or find a fix.

Can confirm, same here. As long as you hide the window (cmd-h) instead of closing it (cmd-w), the problem doesn't ever come up. I've been using this work-around for over a year now.

I second this. For me it seems to happen at very specific times, like 12AM so it leads me to believe it had to do with calendar events. And it always does it a few times in succession.

Another Mail issue I have: if one mail message is highlighted and then I click another and type command-R to reply, the email reply will be to the message that is no longer selected. Sometimes I’ll get a notification of a new email, go to click and send a quick reply (“ok great”), and I’ll have sent the email before I realize that it’s going to the wrong recipient.

It seems crazy to me that the order of operations can be messed up like this. First I clicked, then I command-R’d. Why would Mail handle these commands out of order?

I switched to Airmail for only this reason lol

Watch out.

Last time I tried it, it was vulnerable to a bunch of issues similar to XSS.

I suggest you test it with https://www.emailprivacytester.com/ and see if it still finds anything.

oh wow, thanks for the heads up!!

When I tried Airmail, they sent an email that had something like "oh, we see that you use @<domain>.com. Do you think you could reach to your colleagues and talk to them about using Airmail". I deleted the app immediately.

I was a long time Gmail user, on the verge of leaving Gmail due to a long list of reasons. This bug was the final straw for me (I know it’s not Gmail’s fault). Got rid of Gmail completely. Haven’t seen this bug since.

I’m not sure why but Google services seem to cause a lot of issues on the Mac. I don’t use Google-based calendars anymore, but when I did, the accountsd process would often sit chewing absurd amounts of CPU for no discernible reason.

Same goes for this Mail issue, it only seems to happen with Gmail/G Suite accounts.

But yes, I am also looking to move away from Gmail; not because of this bug but because I don’t like the idea of all my important online accounts being tied to a company that has essentially zero customer service or support.

Gmail's IMAP interface does have issues, along with their repurposing IMAP folders as "labels", this causes many traditional email clients problems, including Thunderbird. My Gmail account causes Thunderbird to slow to a crawl most times. I am sure there is some Thunderbird liability as well, but I did not have this problem with other, large IMAP accounts that were not Gmail before.

Interestingly, I have the opposite problem: when I boot up my computer Mail shows now windows until I click on it, even though every other app restores its windows. Very strange.

I get something like this all the time, except it pops up behind whatever I'm doing and doesn't steal focus. I also almost never do stuff in full screen mode, maybe that's the trigger for it stealing focus?

Definitely seems to be related to "I had an email connectivity error and I must let you know NOWNOWNOW." Knowing that it's associated with gmail accounts feels like one more reason for me to get off my ass and disentangle my email from gmail...

If you have Microsoft Exchange accounts then you get a different bug. If you have no network connection or change network connections Apple Mail will thrash accountsd for long periods of time consuming as much of the CPU as it can. Neither Apple Mail nor accountsd appear to have any throttling of network connection attempts. Quitting Apple Mail until you have a network connection is the only option.

I have this and it keeps happening while I'm playing Counter-Strike. Incredibly annoying for it to split screen and steal focus from the game.

My Apple Mail bug is with changing passwords on Exchange accounts. I change the password, Apple Mail prompts for the new password, then uses the old one to connect.

I have to quit Apple Mail and use the accounts pane of preference panels and cancel when it prompts for the new password as it has the same bug. Then I can click details and change the password. That works.

Reported many years ago in Sierra.

I get something like this with Music.app -- it seems to randomly open. I suspect it's some kind of keystroke (i.e. hitting the play button) but I haven't figured out exactly why it's happening or how to stop it.

I'm pretty sure this didn't used to happen until I upgraded to Catalina.

I really wish I had better luck with Linux...

If no media is currently playing or paused and you press the Play button by mistake, the Music app opens. It's extremely annoying.

You can get rid of this with

launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchAgents/com.apple.rcd.plist


Unfortunately, when I tried it, it made the media keys stop working entirely, not just stopping Music from opening.

I get this semi-randomly when I'm using my bluetooth headphones/mic with Meet/Discord and then quit/close it and it becomes available to the OS or something. Music.app just pops up and as far as I can tell, there's no way to turn it off.

I run into an issue that started the past few upgrades: Mail will just stop downloading new Mail. No rhyme or reason, it just stops. I can have a second computer next to it and watch mail come in, but on that Mail, it won't do anything. I have to quit (sometimes force-quit) to get it to start again.

It’s bizarre to me that nowadays an application can become frontmost application at all. When I switched to OSX back in the days, it was an advertised feature that this can’t happen the same way it does on Windows. If something wants attention, its icon bounced in the dock. Nothing more.

Ugh! It’s most annoying when you’re in a full screen app and presenting. Suddenly, Mail.app decides to take half the screen and spurts all my inbox for everyone to see. You can’t watch full time videos either due to this annoyance.

Outlook 365 does this as well.

Reading the people that put up with it why? What's wrong with thunderbird?

Mac Mail is a great app IMO. It's full featured and performant, I'm very happy with it. This is pretty much the only issue, and it's only with Gmail.

I put up with it because I’ve used Mail for many years without issue until now. Fortunately for me it happens infrequently enough that it’s mildly irritating to me so far. Much less irritating than when I open my MacBook and receive dozens of iMessages at once along with their dings.

Or MailMate¹.


¹ — https://freron.com/

Mac Mail supports the Exchange proprietary HTTP API, while all the other clients only support IMAP. HTTP is much more efficient and seems more resilient against temporary network issues (due to the lack of a persistent connection).

Thunderbird sucks because, last time I checked, it had no way to copy or propagate filters between machines. Deal-breaker right there.

I’d be happy to hear that was fixed.

Meanwhile, SpamSieve makes Mail tolerable.

It happens A LOT with non-GSuite Gmail accounts (personal GMail accounts) too!

There's no reason why it shouldn't affect all google mail accounts equally. If the cause is frontend disconnections, it will happen to any account tier.

I've encountered other features such as long

- long press on send (i.e. you're thinking about it) will send all your drafts

- deleting an email might select the one above or below after, so you can't rapid fire delete a sequence

This has been happening to me since 10.12 and I have no google account connected to my machine for anything (mail, calendar, nothing). It’s infuriating, and assumed it was some perverse design decision.

If anybody is interested, I've been writing a Gmail-focused email client for macOS called Mimestream. It combines native macOS UI with Gmail-specific features such as categorized inboxes, colored labels, and aliases (made possible by the use of the Gmail API instead of IMAP).

I just opened up a public beta, and you can request immediate access on the website at https://mimestream.com. It's free during the beta period - I only ask for feedback: feedback@mimestream.com.

Unlike some other 3rd party email clients, it makes direct connections from your Mac to Gmail and stores data/credentials on your Mac. There's no intermediary servers.

I keep it minimized to avoid the issue and to get notifications.

It still pops up when it's minimised. I blame this bug for my inboxes going to crap over the past year, because the only fix for me is keeping Mail closed and opening it only when I really need to.

I stopped using Mac Mail quite recently, because of a bug that meant not all my IMAP folders were displayed.

Remember Mozilla Thunderbird? It's great. Also has an RSS reader built in.

This is happening to me on Catalina with Safari. Having on dual monitor another app and Safari, clicking in another app and Safari takes focus back.

I have the problem that Mail.app gets the frontmost CPU-bound application. It for no obvious reasons too.

All in all, a bit buggy application it seems.

Added to this, have anybody been able to get Mail app to connect via authenticated proxy?..

I can only use Outlook to work at work which is frustrating

Apple mail also loads remote images when you forward an email, indepdent of the "load remote images" setting.

(haven't tried latest OS)

For years I’ve seen a concostent bug where I can’t go to the Mail window until I force quit and reopen mail a bunch. Frustrating.

I have a similar issue with Safari. I have not opened it for months, but every so often it is the frontmost app after waking.

Funnily enough most of the times Mail came up was due to me accidentally pressing cmd + i in a browser.

I hate that! I’ve been looking for ways to turn it off or rebind it to another keyboard shortcut but it never sticks…

Just learnt to minimise(Ctrl+M) the window instead of closing it with x or Ctrl+W

hits me too and it‘s really annoying... I even got used to quit Mail.app but yeah... it‘s bad. My feeling though is that google is more and more saying goodbye to standards... just a feeling

Hard to believe it still hasn’t been fixed.

Same. I’ve had this issue for a while now.

I’ve had it since I got catalina

I thought I was going insane

Apple Mail is riddled with bugs it’s unusable. Do yourself a favor and switch. Anything else is better than it, Thunderbird is a pretty good alternative imo.

It feels like apple doesn’t put any care into regression bugs in their applications. It’s the same on the iPhone, Mail is so bad that I uninstalled it in favor of outlook (the irony...) —Mail was sucking so much battery that my phone wouldn’t last 8h. With outlook it lasts all day (12+h)

> Apple Mail is riddled with bugs it’s unusable.

Weird, I've been using it for a decade and I have zero issues. Maybe 'unusable' is a pretty subjective assessment?

I have been using Mail for many years. Like OP, I have Gmail on own domain (in my case it’s the old personal G Suite offering). Additionally, I have a regular Gmail account and iCloud’s built-in email. Like OP, I did a clean install when Catalina came out (got a new laptop around that time).

As far as I’m concerned, Mail is one of those things that consistently just works. The only issue I used to have was quirky undo/redo of archivals/deletions, which I believe had to do with Gmail’s IMAP servers and/or the way Mail talks to them, but I am not noticing that lately.

If I were OP, I’d consider again whether third-party software that they and their coworkers have in common is wreaking havoc here. If there’s no such software or the issue manifests itself on a clean system without any third-party apps at all, then this Heisenbug should probably on Apple’s Radar…

The best thing about Apple Mail is their integration with contacts and everything "i" Phone, Pad, etc.

It is the whole ecosystem lock down deal again. Nothing has progressed in tech in this aspect, each company is still for themselves instead of consumers.

What lock down are you talking about? Any email client can integrate with your calendar and contacts - those are public APIs.

If people keep alligators at home, and some are eaten by them, the assessment of them being unsuitable for pets is not subjective.

It depends on the percentage. Dogs are considered suitable pets, despite some owners being mauled.

Certain breeds of dogs are not, these probably account for the majority of mailings. https://www.askadamskutner.com/dog-bites/bite-statistics-acc...

I have 16 GSuite accounts setup and have never had this issue in Mail. Even if my account login fails or the server is unreachable, the app does not automatically come to the foreground. I don't use full screen or spaces though (I prefer Moom) so maybe that's why I have never seen the issue.

Same. The only issue I have noticed is that Mail sometimes freaks out when I lose internet connection. It’s pretty rare for that to happen and it doesn’t freak out every time, either. I have not experienced any of the bugs other people are having.

I have six different email accounts with a ton of folders.

What configuration are you running? This bug happens to me several times a day, though I am trying to close Apple Mail when I am not using it, but that's easy to forget and also annoying.

No, it has a lot of memory corruption issues. Try adding another account (or don't if you need the app to keep functioning.)

I don't know if apple just decided to give up on it or what but it's got a lot of bugs that have been left for years.

There is a critical bug in 10.15 that deletes random mails and it still hasn’t been fixed! https://mjtsai.com/blog/2019/10/11/mail-data-loss-in-macos-1...

Same here. I like using Apple programs on OSX because they're pretty well integrated, but Apple Mail is the exception.

Random crashes, sudden 100% CPU or memory usage... It sometimes just stops receiving mails altogether.

Try rebuilding your mail index. You can use OnyX for that.

I’ve been using Apple Mail on both desktop and iPhone for many years. It’s not perfect, but I’ve found it far superior to the alternatives, including Thunderbird and Outlook.

Some bugs like this are terrible as I’ve hit the screen split bug several times. But Apple Mail has features like all messages in a single window including replies that don’t exist elsewhere. It’s also fast and smooth mostly with conversations being just right. Thunderbird is mostly OK but is a clunker for these particular areas, imo.

Too bad there's not really a plethora of good email applications on macOS. I use Spark, but really only because it's the least bad option I've tried.

Where I work we don’t allow Apple Mail to run on corporate computers.

IT rolled out mandatory endpoint protection once, and they started getting reports of malware living in the Mail storage folder. Apparently when employees synced their corporate Gmail to Apple Mail, Apple Mail was pulling down the malicious/suspicious attachments from the Google spam folder. So I figure that’s a good reason why physical mail clients need to die. There’s no real need for them anymore.

Malware doesn’t harm your computer just by sitting around on the disk.

Until someone finds a buffer overflow in Apple Mail MIME handling or some such.

It is not a bug, it is a feature. Someone out there had to write the code that pushes the mail app to the front. It does not happen spontaneously, someone made it happen. And made it an exclusive behavior without user control. It must have been a conscious feature. A mindless and stupid one, but still a feature. No bug to fix here.

(after suffering and spending toooo much time of experimenting I decided to get rid of the Google account approach of the Mac but use it as an IMAP account, turning off 'safe' access in my Google account)

> Someone out there had to write the code that pushes the mail app to the front.

Sometimes the code you write doesn't do what you had in mind. Or worse: gets triggered by side effects of something unrelated.

I don't think it's intentional in this case but even if it would be intentional after seeing this many bug reports everywhere you'd have to reconsider and make connection errors less intrusive.

You do not push the whole app to the front by mistake, especially at some glitch of connection as it is happening here! It is not a typo or whatever kind of mistake just happens on its own but had to be a conscious action!! I write code, I make mistake, but this is beyond that! It is also neglected for years now while being very widespread, no way of being unnoticed and left there if it wasn't a conscious choice to do so!

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