Reading pane available

Today we rolled out support for a longstanding feature request we’ve had here at FastMail: a reading pane in our web interface. Displaying the mailbox listing next to the selected conversation means you can go through your email without switching between two different screens, and you can see at a glance what other messages are in your mailbox whilst reading an email. This works particularly well in today’s age of widescreen computers and tablets, making good use of all that horizontal screen space.

You’ll find the option to choose a layout that shows the reading pane in the Settings, as part of the “Theme” group of settings. You’ll also find here an option to hide the sidebar, which is useful on smaller devices where you want to use the space for the reading pane instead. Note, when logging in on an iPad we automatically enable the reading pane and hide the sidebar to make optimal use of the space available.

The reading pane is not available in the classic interface.

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Dropbox integration now available

“Cloud” storage is a big deal these days, and there’s all sorts of great ways to make your files available everywhere. FastMail has had an online file storage facility for years, but there’s other popular services out there too. So recently we started thinking about how we could let you use other file services from inside FastMail.

Dropbox is one of the most popular of these services, and we think they do a great job of making it easy to access your files everywhere, no matter what kind of device you use. That philosophy fits well with what we’re trying to do with FastMail, so it seemed like a natural fit to make the two services work together.

So today we’ve released our Dropbox integration. Now when you attempt to attach a file, you’ll be offered a new option: “Attach From Dropbox”. The first time you use this you’ll be asked to sign in to Dropbox and authorise FastMail, but after that you’ll be able to browse and attach files from Dropbox just as easily as you can from your FastMail file storage. Similarly, you can save attachments from your messages directly to Dropbox.

We think this is pretty great. Now you can do things like save a document to the Dropbox folder on your computer at home, then attach it to an email you write from a friend’s computer. you could save some photos you received in a message to your Dropbox, and then use the Dropbox app on your phone to access and share them, and have them ready for you when you get home without having to do anything else.

Note that at no time does this give Dropbox access to your mail or any data stored by FastMail. All access to your Dropbox is done using a random authentication token that can not be linked back to your FastMail account.

We’re pretty excited about this feature, and hope you like it!

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Fast, full message searching across all folders

We’ve just rolled out a significant improvement to our search infrastructure.

Until now, searching for email in FastMail has been slow and idiosyncratic. Searching for words entered into the search box would only search the To/Cc/From/Subject headers of messages in the current folder. It wouldn’t search the message body content or across multiple folders. While there were options that made both of these possible, they were incredibly slow, making finding the messages you wanted frustrating.

Now though, when you enter words in the search box, we search the To/Cc/From/Subject headers as well as the entire message body content, and we do it across all messages in all folders. Additionally, when searching for a word, we’ll show a snippet of the message content with the search term(s) highlighted in the preview area. We’ll also search for multiple different forms of the word e.g. searching for “condition” will find condition, conditions, conditional, conditionally, etc.

Most importantly, by making sure all this data is indexed, the searches are very fast, even with a million messages across dozens of folders. In most cases, it should only take a few seconds to search all your email and we have plans in progress that should speed this up even more over the coming months.

We’ve also built an easy to access advanced search builder. When you click in the search box, an auto-complete popup will appear as you type. The final item in the pop-up is an “Advanced search” option. Clicking on this will show an overlay that lets you construct an advanced search without having to leave the screen.

If you find yourself repeating the same search frequently, you can save it by clicking the “Save” button next to the search in the sidebar. The search will appear with your list of folders. Keyboard power users can quickly select the search using the “g” shortcut folder finder, just like a normal folder.

Note: The new search currently only works with the new (AJAX) interface. If you’re using the “classic” interface or the mobile interface, you’ll get the old search system for now. We hope to fix this in the future. Also if you want the old search behaviour (including sub-string matching), use the substr:(sometext) operator as described on the help page.

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