Avoid killer e-mail messages

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If you use Apple’s Mail application, you’ve probably experienced the occasional crash due to some oddly-formatted HTML e-mail message (yet another reason I prefer plain text messages ). This will usually happen as you’re sitting there, paging through new mail messages. You click on the next one in the list, and then, blammo! It all just up and quits.

If you’re lucky, you can relaunch Mail and delete the troublesome message. In some cases, however, Mail will quit as soon as you launch it—because the troublesome message was the last active message when Mail quit. So Mail tries to open the bad message, then quits again. You launch Mail again, and the process repeats. Argh!

In the past, the solution to this problem required digging around in your user’s Library/Mail folder, trying to identify and remove the troublesome message. But thanks to a hidden keyboard shortcut, there’s a much simpler solution: launch Mail while holding down the Shift key. The Shift key prevents Mail from opening any mailboxes as it launches, which means it won’t get stuck on the badly-formed message.

Once the program is running, the next question is how to get rid of the troublesome message. If you click on it, Mail will (in all likelihood) just crash again when it tries to render the HTML. So before you select it in your list of messages, get rid of the preview pane in Mail. The easiest way to do this is to just double-click on the bar that divides the message list from the preview; the bar will jump down to the bottom of the window, leaving a preview-less message list pane. Now you can choose the troublesome message, and Mail won’t Crash. Delete the message, then double-click on the divider bar at the bottom of the window, and you’ll have your preview panel back.

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