Thunderbird:Compact Message Header:Use Cases

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In Thunderbird 3, bug 480623 moves compact header view to an extension. Please list specific use cases where compact header is helpful and/or normal message header gets in the way. A use case in this context must include a specific type of mail and/or a specific type of user, plus the circumstances of how work flow is impacted. The purpose is to collect information which will later be organized, discussed, and used toward the end goal of a) improving how compact header view is supported, and b) helping specific use cases where improving compact header is not sufficient to significantly improve the use case.

The "need for vertical space" and your passion for the need are of course assumed, and so should be omitted from the use case (see #Notes_and_Assumptions). Discussion and promoting one's position beyond the basic details is a non-goal. Generic use cases are not helpful. A short one or two sentence description limited to how the message pane is used in a specific case will be most helpful. Link to screen shot may be helpful.

Use Cases

  • Viewing photos from family & friends, which are typically taller than the preview pane. Users should be able to see at least one *full* photo without scrolling.
  • Reading newsletters, which are always longer than the preview pane is tall.
  • Reading newsgroup threads, which are typically taller than the preview pane.
  • bugmail - for a triager processing incoming bugmail most of the standard header information is not useful (To/From, etc), often much of the top of a bugmail is not very useful, and extensions like bugmail extension need a couple lines to display bug details from mail header and other sources (eg bugzilla). Reducing header space would result in less initial scrolling of each bugmail, which is often done in large batches.
  • E-cards that show web-like content (where content is more important than UI)
  • Newsgroups graphics (stationery) posts that assume a larger viewing window. As compared to OE, we offer an 8% reduction in size.
  • Chain-letter e-mails with long texts that extend beyond the view-port.
  • e-mails with (many) attachments where the additional attachments pane (on the bottom) further reduces the size of the view-port.
  • e-mail conversations where the participants use interspersed quoting (like in newsgroups).
  • e-mails with long texts (e.g., a "letter" from Mom).
  • e-mails with very large fonts (e.g., from elderly AOL users).
  • e-mails where the sender used bottom-quoting (Thunderbird's default setting - unfortunately).
  • Business e-mails, which often have vertically long signatures (to see the contact info).
  • Reading e-mails on smaller screens (e.g., the very popular netbooks) is very painful with the huge header.
  • Reading the vast majority of emails where most header information is superfluous and displaying it in an expanded method is a waste of screen real estate. (e.g. content-transfer-encoding)
  • Reading the vast majority of emails/newsgroup postings where redundant information is presented - e.g. date header, references header in threaded mode
  • Older computers, often used in developing countries, require simpler user interfaces. All that extra drawing takes a huge toll on the speed of the computer.
  • When scanning a folder/newsgroup only for 'interesting' threads, need to be able to view the content and also easily scan the thread titles, rather than having a third of my vertical screen space taken up with the headers (see [[1]])

Notes and Assumptions

  • Compact header view would be less needed if the normal header were kept to a minimum or if it scrolled with the message.
  • Scrolling is not an alternative as the action buttons would scroll out of reach → conflict of bug 325144/bug 464309 vs. bug 474523.
  • Having action buttons in the message area, as well as in the tool bar, is something people actually want (not always the case).