The Mail app in iOS 10 organizes emails “as threads” to make them easier to read. But sometimes this particular way of organizing email conversations has the opposite effect, making them harder to read. In this article, I’ll shed some light on how threads work in Mail under iOS 10 and I’ll show you a trick how to better handle them.
The perils of blogging
To illustrate some of the techniques I’m showing you below, I sneaked out my wife’s iPad at 6 am and drafted a dummy email conversation between her and me. The conversation was about having dinner tonight at one of our favorite restaurants. Guess what? She saw my fake email on her iPhone and thought I was asking her on a date tonight. Oops!
Mail threads in iOS 10
The way Mail organizes emails as threads is often very convenient, especially for emails that don’t have a lot of content. Take the below example of my fake dinner invitation I sent to my wife. By clicking on the email thread in my Inbox, I can easily follow the conversation by scrolling down.
It only gets problematic when your mail thread has dozens of long-tail emails from various participants. Viewing a particular email inside the thread could potentially mean a lot of scrolling. That gets old fast, especially on devices with relatively small screen sizes (compared to the amount of text in the emails) like the iPhone. I have made the experience that corporate America doesn’t know how to use emails. Inline replies and recipient management (i.e. not copying 50 people on an email) are not terms most folks are familiar with. Add signatures and disclaimers that take up more space than the real content of the email and you have a recipe for disaster.
A simple trick to help navigate threads
I have found myself countless times in a situation where I needed to view a particular response in an email thread with 20+ long-tailed emails. I used to click on the thread and started scrolling until I found the email I was looking for. Needless to say, that led to a lot of frustration on my part. Until I figured out a shortcut that I didn’t know about.
By clicking on the double-arrow next to the email thread, you can expand the thread and see each email. It’s a no-brainer but I’m embarrassed to say that I didn’t know about it until just recently.
How to turn off threads
If you want to turn threads off completely, you can go into Settings –> Mail and toggle “Organize by thread”. I like to keep it turned on, especially because Mail is smart enough to include emails in threads that I moved into other folders. But also that feature can be turned off via the “Complete threads” switch.
Threads in iOS Mail are easy to navigate if you know how to. Also, be ready to take your wife out to dinner for real, even if you faked the invitation for the purpose of writing a blog article!