One of my most significant gripes with .Mac has been in relation to a seemingly minor feature, but one that is (in my experience) fairly unique to Apple's struggling web service: email aliases. When I discovered .Mac a few years ago, I immediately fell in love with the ability to create alternative email addresses that still funnel into one inbox; one address for email lists I'm subscribed to, another for shopping online, etc. These .Mac aliases make it incredibly easy to filter email (for example: a rule that says "move all messages sent to [this address] to [that folder]"), and they also act as a safety net because if one gets caught by a spam bot, it can easily be deleted and replaced with a new one with barely a few clicks in the .Mac mail preferences pane. I also prefer the way .Mac aliases work to Gmail's, because they can be truly unique names: email@example.com can be an alias for firstname.lastname@example.org, while Gmail is limited by a email@example.com format, allowing any person or bot familiar with Gmail to easily scrape out one's true address.
However, my gripe with this wonderful alias feature is that, at least early on, you couldn't apply actual names to any of these aliases; they would simply appear in people's inboxes as being from AliasName@mac.com. Once .Mac introduced the ability to name these aliases some time ago, they were still handicapped by the fact that the names you apply to aliases wouldn't sync down to Apple Mail, and sending email from those aliases would not take on the names you applied. Again, an admittedly minor gripe over an obscure feature, but there are a number of reasons this name + alias thing can be incredibly useful, not the least of which is a professional appearance when corresponding with clients and businesses, as well as simply allowing people to know who you are when you reply to email lists and the like.
But the time for griping about minor details that make a big difference in .Mac aliases has been officially retired, for sometime since that big .Mac webmail upgrade last October that we reviewed, Apple Mail has been endowed with the magical goodness necessary to synchronize the names you apply to your aliases. Like I said, I haven't touched my .Mac email in a while for various reasons (this alias issue being one) so I didn't catch it earlier, but after tinkering with it this morning I noticed that Mail was suddenly displaying a few of the names I had given to my aliases (pulldown menu pictured above on right). This should be fantastic news to any .Mac members (or potential members) interested in leveraging the incredibly handy powers of this alias feature. It might take a synchronization or two for Apple Mail to pull down any of the names you apply in the .Mac mail preference pane, but you too can enjoy the wonders of flexible, secure and (if need be) anonymous emailing both online and - finally - with the integrated goodness of Apple's desktop email client.