Mail Drop and Markup move Mail ahead of competitors

With the Yosemite public beta now available, CNET takes a deeper dive each week with individual new features from the OS, this week continuing with Apple's Mail.

The Markup and Mail Drop features in Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite put Mail ahead of the competition, but there is nothing particularly miraculous about them. These features are neither new nor groundbreaking, but Apple has repackaged these processes to make them easier and more convenient.

Mac OS X 10.10 Yosemite is coming this fall, but with the release of the public beta last week, I've been able to get a closer look at many of the new features, starting with Spotlight and now with Apple's Mail app.

Mail Drop for big attachments

Anyone who has attached a large file to an email knows their are limits on the size of the files you can send and you'll often get an error for sending an attachment more than a couple gigs in size.

Whether you use Gmail, Outlook, or some other e-mail client, you probably get around this by uploading the file (or folder of files) to Dropbox, Google Drive, or a similar cloud service and then send a link to the file to your intended recipient. This is the most common method on any platform including the way you would do it on a Mac currently. It works fine, but it does take a few steps.

What Apple has done in Yosemite with Mail Drop is make sending files of a few gigs or more much easier without ever leaving the Mail app.

Mail Drop lets you attach a file normally, but when it's sent it's uploaded to iCloud instead of going through your service provider. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

In Yosemite, you'll be able to attach a file that's up to 5GB in size just as you normally would attach a file. Mail in Yosemite will automatically recognize you are sending a big file and upload it to iCloud.

When your recipient receives the email, one of two things will happen. If they also use Apple's Mail, they'll receive the attachment the same as they do currently -- it will show up in the email. But behind the scenes the file bypasses your service provider (and any limits it might have) using iCloud to upload the file at your end and again to download it at your recipients end.

If your recipient doesn't use Mail, the large attachment will show up as a link and they'll be able to download the file from iCloud directly. Incidentally, these large attachments don't count towards your storage limits on iCloud.

The funny thing about Mail Drop is it probably wouldn't be very hard to have the same features from the other big players.

In Google's case, your large files could be uploaded to Google Drive automatically out of Gmail and -- with the scribble features already in the Gmail app for smartphones -- it doesn't seem like too much of a stretch to have Markup style tools available in the same way as in Yosemite.

Microsoft, similarly, could use OneDrive out of Outlook, then add basic markup tools for annotating images.

There's nothing new here with any of these steps, but in Yosemite Apple has taken a common process and repackaged it to make it more convenient.

Use Mail Markup to get the message across

Sometimes when you send an image through Mail you might want to call out parts of the image to your recipient. At work you might want to send corrections to a newsletter, for example, and you want to point out the areas that need to be changed. If it's an image you're sending to a friend, you could be pointing out something funny in a vacation photo.

Use arrows, shapes, and text to point out parts of your image or document. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Usually I would open the image in Apple's Preview app on my Mac or a third-party app like Snagit or Skitch, then use the included arrows, speech bubbles, and other annotation tools to point out the important parts. Next, I would save it somewhere easy to find, then go back to my email client to attach the image and send the email.

Yosemite adds these markup features we already had in other apps to Mail so you can eliminate those steps.

In Yosemite you start by attaching the image, then open a dropdown menu to find lines, arrows, and shapes you can apply directly to the image. When you're finished you can just send the email -- there's no digging through folders to find the image, or opening of other apps to do the work.

Another great feature is the ability to sign your signature on a document using your Macbook trackpad. It eliminates the awkward process of taking a photo of your signature and adding it to a document.

Again, these are not new or magical features -- we could already do these things before with a little work. It's just that Apple has repackaged features we already had in a way that eliminates what was once a multi-step process.

The Markup tools let you use your Mac Trackpad to sign your signature to documents. Screenshot by Jason Parker/CNET

Coming to an email client near you?

With these features added to Mail in Mac OS X Yosemite, Apple has once again repackaged things we already had into something that makes working with Mail easier. While the features are not groundbreaking, all it took was for Apple to introduce a way of doing the same things, creating features that will likely become a standard in other e-mail clients.

It would be pretty easy for the other big players to add the same features and I'm guessing they probably will. After all, the companies associated cloud services are already in place and Markup features make sense as a part of your email and can't be that hard to emulate.

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