One of the most common complaints with Apple’s Mail.app is search speed. Several trusted friends and mac-gurus have told me how the search function in mail slows them down. My mail database contains about 25,000 items and I’ve never had much of a problem with Mail’s search. While 25,000 seems like a lot of messages, I know some people have multiples of that number and I suspect that is where Mail.app starts falling down.
Central Atomics “RocketBox” attempts to pick up the slack with mail search.
This $15 mail plugin seeks to take over where the built in search leaves off. The first time you install RocketBox, it will spend some time chugging through your existing e-mail database. It took about 20 minutes on my machine. Once installed, you can easily turn RocketBox off and revert to the built-in search if you choose.
According to the developer, this plug-in searches your mail up to 200 times faster than Mail.app. While I suspect RocketBox’s speed improvements would be more noticeable with a larger library, for me there was no significant difference in speed.
However, RocketBox isn’t just about the search speed. RocketBox has an autofill feature that fills in a name. However, it only works with first names. If I start typing “Miles”, the RocketBox search will prompt me to auto fill “Miles Davis.” However, if I typed “Davis”, RocketBox won’t help.
Also, RocketBox does not do partial search. This is a feature built into the Mail.app search. For instance, if I type “DAV”, Mail.app will already start grinding through my database. RocketBox doesn’t start until you complete the search. It supports several different search syntaxes and boolean operators. You can combine and qualify search filters to combine names, dates, accounts, and even flags.
One of the biggest differences with the baked-in search are the results. Rather than provide a list of messages, RocketBox opens its own window and shows the content of the e-mails it finds matching your search with the specific search terms highlighted. This list can then be sorted by date or relevance. This is a nice improvement. However, RocketBox often showed the same message multiple times, which became tedious.
RocketBox is a great idea. If you are a Mail.app user and experiencing unacceptable search speeds, it may be what you are looking for. There are quite a few features in the built-in search that simply are not available in RocketBox, create smart folders from a search for instance but I suspect this first release is just a toe hold and the feature list will quickly grow. You can download a free trial.