iOS 8, Email, and Extensions


iOS 8, Email, and Extensions – MacStories

Text and screenshot by Federico Viticci

One of my biggest frustrations with iOS 8 so far is the lack of extension support in Apple’s Mail app. As I wrote in iOS 8 Changed How I Work on My iPhone and iPad:

> I’m disappointed to see a lack of extension support in Apple’s own apps, and particurlarly in Mail. It just makes sense, in my opinion, to be able to turn messages into tasks or archived documents, but Apple hasn’t integrated extensions with Mail yet.

My feelings haven’t changed since September and, in fact, Mail’s non-existent sharing capabilities have been exacerbated by my move towards a more iPad-centric workflow after upgrading to an iPad Air 2. I’ve been working from my iPad Air 2 on a daily basis for the past two weeks, and the friction in Apple’s Mail app has led me to use other email clients simply because they came up with their own implementation of action and share extensions for email messages.

Apple Mail

For iOS 8 (and iOS 8.1, and, as far as I can tell, the upcoming iOS 8.1.1), Apple has decided to avoid enabling support for action and share extensions for message content in Mail. This means that you can’t feed message text or any other parameter from an email message (sender information, flagged status, date, etc.) to an extension because there isn’t an extension point (share sheet) to begin with. Mail messages in iOS 8 are completely isolated from extensions.

Since writing about this in September and covering the topic on Connected, I received various responses from readers and listeners who claim that share sheets haven’t been implemented in Mail for security concerns in enterprise scenarios. Large companies, the argument goes, don’t want iPhones and iPads deployed to employees to be potentially capable of sharing private information directly from Mail.

While there may be a security aspect to Apple’s decision, I tend to believe that the explanation is much simpler – time constraints. Given the limitations and problems of Apple’s initial extension framework, I find it more likely that the company couldn’t build a proper integration of Mail messages and extensions in time for the public release of iOS 8, as such integration (if done well) would imply a broader set of parameters and conditions than, say, sharing an individual file from Photos or a URL from Safari. It may as well be that Apple wants to launch a brand new set of extensions specifically designed for Mail eventually (think widgets and custom keyboards), and we don’t know that yet. But, in my mind, the security argument seems weak.

Read the whole article on MacStories.net, including alternative e-mail clients as Dispatch and CloudMagic.

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