Why was the account overview screen useful?

During the last two days I have spend a lot of time reading forum posts. I’m sad to say that I haven’t learned a lot. I now know that many of you liked the account overview screen and that you would like to have it back.
But I couldn’t find a post that tried to explain why. If you want to have the account overview screen back, you have to convince us developers that it’s a good idea. So please explain how you used the app in a bit more detail. Have you considered (and dismissed) alternative approaches? How often did you open which screen? What information and/or features does the account overview screen provide to you exactly? Do you aim to have zero unread messages in all accounts; so when the unread count is non-zero you know there’s new messages in an account? Do you remember the previous unread count of all accounts and when that number changes you know there’s new messages? Do you prefer the account overview over notifications? Do you use both notifications and the overview?

I want this thread to actually be useful. So I’ll delete all comments that boil down to “please bring account overview back” and/or don’t provide any insights. If you have already written down why the account overview screen was useful to you, please feel free to provide a link to that post.

6 Likes

What information and/or features does the account overview screen provide to you exactly?

On the account overview I could…

… see a fast overview of the number of starred and unread messages across all of my accounts.

… quickly navigate to virtual folders showing just the starred or unread messages in any of my accounts.

… initiate a refresh of the emails in all my accounts and see a clear indication of the progress of the refresh in the status bar.

I do not use an unified/integrated inbox, as doing so blurs the boundary between work and personal. I want to be very clear about which account is holding the emails I’m viewing.

The account overview was easy to use and very clear.

Sincerely,
Dan.

36 Likes

I will explain using metrics. This is intuitive to us as users and disapointing that it isn’t obvious to the developers.
Here is a comparison of the number of screen taps it takes to view 2 new e-mails in 2 accounts (4 emails total) and then return to the ‘all accounts’ view:

Old UI:

1 tap - Open App & immediately view all accounts & number of unread items
[Account 1]
1 tap - Select Account
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 1
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 2
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Go Back to Accounts view
[Account 2]
1 tap - Select Account
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 1
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 2
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Go Back to Accounts view

Total Taps: 13

New UI:

1 tap - Open App and view an inbox (not clear which inbox we are looking at - unclear what the value of this screen is)
1 tap - Select Hamburger in top left, view all accounts & number of unread items
[Account 1]
1 tap - Select Account
1 tap - Hide the Hambuger menu so you can view the e-mails in the inbox
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 1
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 2
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Select Hamburger in top left
1 tap - Select dropdown icon to go back to showing all accounts
[Account 2]
1 tap - Select Account
1 tap - Hide the Hambuger menu so you can view the e-mails in the inbox
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 1
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Select Unread E-mail 2
1 tap - Go Back
1 tap - Select Hamburger in top left
1 tap - Select dropdown icon to go back to showing all accounts

Total Taps: 18

19 Likes

Have you considered (and dismissed) alternative approaches?

What alternative approaches?

How often did you open which screen?

Account overview: multiple times each day.

What information and/or features does the account overview screen provide to you exactly?

See my previous comment.

Do you aim to have zero unread messages in all accounts; so when the unread count is non-zero you know there’s new messages in an account?

Yes! But it is a goal rarely achieved.

Do you remember the previous unread count of all accounts and when that number changes you know there’s new messages?

Not really.

Do you prefer the account overview over notifications?

Yes! I don’t really use notifications other than as an indication that there is something to check.

Do you use both notifications and the overview?

Yes, but I barely use notifications. Sometimes I have them turned off entirely. I often just “poll” the Account Overview when it is time to look at email.

There are so many notifications across so many apps! Just trying to keep the notifications from being as useless as spam is a challenge.

Sincerely,
Dan.

16 Likes

Same here, I like to distinguish the various accounts from each other over a unified inbox.
As Dan said, separating work from the private stuff is kinda important to me (work life balance and all), plus I really don’t want to look at all the spam from my spam account (newsletters / delivery notifications and stuff) all the time.

The account overview nevertheless gave me a quick indicator how many messages are queuing up where which was very useful and gave me notice if things got urgent (I shove most emails in folders via sieve, so whatever was still pulled via K9 was “urgent” enough to warrant my attention)

10 Likes

Could you please explain more about your use-case? I know that this exact sequence of actions needs more taps now but I wonder why the sequence is needed in the first place. If you want to read all the 4 new emails after each other, why don’t you use the unified inbox, which requires just 4 taps?

@ByteHamster
I specifically chose K-9 because I do not enjoy unified mailboxes.

I use different e-mail addresses with different levels of overall priority. i.e. Account 1 has only critical e-mails from trusted sources. Account 2 has mildly useful advertisements from retailers. Account 3 has purchase receipts. Unifying them defeats the purpose of segmentation.

Here is my response to your question: Could you please explain why I would use K-9 mail to view a unified inbox when there are several hundred other e-mail clients that have been built around this core concept, with years of development experience behind them?

The answer ultimately comes down to preference. K-9 was great for me because it filled a niche that could not be achieved with another e-mail application - clearly segmented accounts, easily accessible, intuitive layout (settings were a bit complex, but I liked the granularity). The new UI pushes K9 out of its niche and into mainstream. Maybe that is what you were going for but if my Android phone comes with a Gmail app that presents e-mails in an identical way to K9, why would I bother downloading K9?

26 Likes

I like this positive approach and I realize that the developers are surprised by the reaction of users. Here’s my use case:

  1. I use only SMTP and POP3, no IMAP. So only one folder per account. This is probably not very common.

  2. I have many email accounts: personal, my own work account, accounts on customers domains, Italian PEC (kind of state stamped) and probably others. I monitor only 3 of them with K9: personal, work and PEC. The others can wait.

  3. I configure K9 to leave mail on the servers. I download it with my PC (Thurnderbird) and that deletes the messages in the POP3 mailbox. I can leave mail there for 1 month when I’m on vacation. I delete useless messages and

  4. I don’t want a unified inbox. Two reasons: a) each account has a very different purpose and messages should not mix, not even visually, b) they are separated accounts and folders in Thunderbird too.

  5. When I’ll open K9 5.6 tomorrow morning I’ll touch the reload button in the bottom bar (which by the way is easier to do one handed than with a button at the top) and see how many messages are left to read per account. I’ll open my personal account and go through the list. I’ll delete the messages that are not worth to make it to the PC and possibly reply to some of them. K9 will BCC me with the replies so I’ll get them later on the PC. Probably I’ll also check the work messages or I’ll wait a little. I’ll for sure read immediately any message in the PEC folder but I didn’t configure K9 to send any PEC. I do that only with Thunderbird on the PC.

With 5.6 all of that is very fast, with 5.8 it’s slow, so I downgraded from an APK I saved months ago (APK Extractor, no root required). After all version 5.6 has all the few features I need and many more that I don’t need.

And again, sincere thanks for all the work, even the one I don’t use and the one I didn’t appreciate :slight_smile:

Edit: I don’t have notifications enabled for email. I fetch messages manually, both on the phone and on the PC. I have Telegram, WhatsApp and Slack for push notifications, when friends and customers are in a hurry. Email is a slower medium and must not distract me.

Edit #2: I attempt to answer your questions

How often did you open which screen?

I open K9 a few times per day. I refresh the summary screen, check if there are any new messages, open the account and read them. I always do this before downloading mail on the PC.

What information and/or features does the account overview screen provide to you exactly?

The number of messages, unread and total.

Do you aim to have zero unread messages in all accounts;

No, I don’t. I check the titles first. Some titles identify messages as notifications or not important or the message is the title. I don’t read them, not any soon.

so when the unread count is non-zero you know there’s new messages in an account? Do you remember the previous unread count of all accounts and when that number changes you know there’s new messages?

Yes, I notice that the number increased.

Do you prefer the account overview over notifications? Do you use both notifications and the overview?

I don’t use notifications for the reason in the first edit: they distract and interrupt, if the senders wanted that they would IM me, not mail me.

By the way, I’m not using IMAP because I don’t want that my email providers store all my mail forever. I download it and backup it. POP3 is enough for that.

12 Likes

Hi there, just a brief addition to all that was said here already. I second all these appreciations and uses of the accounts overview screen, and I think what I miss most of all next to the obvious (overview+mail count, and yes I did remember the numbers): I could check whether there were incoming mails without having to see the inside of an inbox. I dearly, dearly miss this!

7 Likes

I appreciate the developers time and openness to ask for feedback. I manage 9 mailboxs (6 business and 3 personal). When I open the app, I have 2 questions.
1-how many stared emails in each mailbox, And how many new emails in each box.
Accounts overview did that without any taps or clicks. For me this was the one feature that did exactly what it meant to do without any fuss.

The stared email overview was a way for us to manage the workload of multiple shared mailboxs effectively. Without it K9 becomes just another android email client with the same feature sets as everyone else.

There are use cases were productivity is a key component.

I hope that feature could be brought back. Otherwise I have to look elsewhere and thank you for all the fish.

Best of luck

10 Likes

Pretty much the same here. Plus easy access to just the starred/unread messages per account with a single tap.

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I was also was missing the overview and thus want to help you understand my way of using your otherwise excellent email reader.

I am managing 5 accounts, 3 work and 2 private. One of the private is mostly used as a spam catcher and a sign-up email address for various services that I do not want to spend much attention on. Thus I do not want to see all those emails in a common inbox as they then will drown out more important mail. I also try to keep all inboxes to zero unread mail, and use to account overview to see where there are mail that I need to attend to. (For the “spam”-account I often just do a “mark all as read” after browsing “from” and “subjects” of those mail). Thus with a quick look at the overview, as it was before, it told me immediately on which account I had new mails, and I could then directly navigate to those accounts that I want to address at that particular time.
I have turned off notifications as it is very distracting (the benefit with email, compared to various chat tools is that it is much more asynchronous, and I can attend to them when I choose and not when they arrive). But then, when I want to attend to the new email, I want to have a quick overview of the accounts and email inboxes, allowing me to decide what I now need to address and in what order.
A discrete small red dot above the K-9 icon to indicate that some new email exists, would be sufficient as an indication/notification for me.

5 Likes

Account overview was a productivity feature.

I have 30 mailboxes, with decades of ISP experience.

When I checked email, multiple times per day,
I could see at a glance which mailboxes were active, and respond appropriately to the more urgent boxes. These have zero unread.

Less urgent boxes have advertising or notification email etc. and can be left for a cleanup at a later time.

Notifications demand the same amount of attention regardless of which box they’re from

My original explanation was here K-9 5.800 List of email accounts after startup - #90 by k9mailuser

Thanks

10 Likes

The account overview was what brought me to use K-9 mail. Over the years I have looked at other android mail programs but the account overview is what keeps me using K-9.

I manage 7 mail accounts with various degrees of importance. The overview screen lets me see that state of the inboxes without having to check them individually. The less important accounts can be postponed for later checking.

I probably depend on the overview screen more than any other screen in K-9 to manage email. Having the widget open to the overview is a HUGE plus for me.

When I found the newest K-9 version forced me into a single inbox upon opening the app and then I had to go hunt for the accounts I was seriously disappointed

I HATE unified inboxes.

The size of the inboxes is a nice prompt for “cleaning up” accounts as I rarely have empty inboxes. The unread message count is a fast way to know which accounts have new messages.

I dislike push notifications so disable them as much as I can. The overview screen is my preferred way of checking for new email.

I can force a check of all the accounts from the overview screen if I want to check mail outside the separate polling intervals I have set for the accounts.

Navigating between the accounts by using the back arrow from the message index list of a particular account is quick.

I appreciate you asking for feed back on how people use the program.

devnullak

10 Likes

I use IMAP on my phone and POP3 on my desktop. The account overview lets me see new messages in 8 accounts very quickly. When I POP them later the IMAP folders are cleared and the account overview in K-9 only shows new messages which is exactly what I want.

The unified mailbox is useless because it doesn’t separate business from personal and all the mailing list c**p from my important email. The account overview worked perfectly for me (and apparently many others) and now it’s gone. I’ve reverted to 5.6.

I do try to have an empty mailbox but I do it by liberal use of “mark all as read” so that each time I open K-9 I’m only drawn to the new messages and then, like I said before, the mailbox is flushed by POPing the email on my desktop.

One thing the 5.8 update offers that I really don’t need or want is an upfront, in-your-face view of all my folders for each mailbox. I nearly never need to look at “Drafts, Spam, Archive, Sent Items, etc.”. I can dig down to find them if I need them but I sure don’t need to see them every time I use K-9.

I’m just looking for an email client that supports my work flow and have no interest in changing my methods to accommodate someone else’s idea of how I should use email.

Call me an old coot, a grump, a curmudgeon but I’m not impressed by UI’s that are “fresh, modern, etc.” just for the sake of being those things. I just don’t care if it looks old, just as long as it works.

After reading all the comments I’m still not seeing anyone singing the praises of the new UI and that is significant. All I see is a long recitation of cogent arguments in favor of the “account overview”.

A good UI is one no one talks about because it just doesn’t attract attention by getting in the way of doing your job, whatever that may be.

11 Likes

A long time user here and as others have said, I certainly appreciate the hard work put into the app. While initially pleased to see that the development of K-9 continues, I’ve downgraded to 5.600 due to the removal of the account overview screen. It’s good that you’re seeking feedback so I’ll try and articulate why.

I rarely need to view folders other than the inbox. I receive far more emails than I write (which I suspect is true for most people) so the inbox is the hub of my interaction with any email client and where I spend most of my time. This is doubly true for a mobile client as I tend to do more writing and account admin on a desktop. K-9’s account overview screen provides quick access to the inbox of each account. This is a bit like Thunderbird’s “Unified” folder view where folders are grouped by name: the inboxes from all accounts are close together so I can move between them easily. In K-9 the small folder icon still gives quick access to the other folders on the rare occasion I do need to access them, and I can get to that list immediately from the account overview screen. The ethos of the account overview seems to be “primarily inbox, but just one tap away from other folders”, and making the inbox special by giving it priority in this way exactly matches the way I interact with folders.

The new UI is more like Thunderbird’s “All” folder view where folders are grouped by account. Except in Thunderbird you can instantly see all the folders without clicking in a menu and selecting each account separately. If you have several accounts it’s cumbersome to use because the inboxes are all separated from each other. In K-9’s new UI this means inboxes are no longer given special priority and instead sit alongside all other folders, even though I mostly want to view just the inbox. In the new UI it’s slightly easier to view another folder in the currently visible account (2 taps vs. 3 or 4), but I rarely do this. In contrast it’s more difficult to perform an action I do more often which is switch to the inbox of a different account, this now requires 4 taps (menu, account dropdown, choose the account, choose the folder) instead of just 2 (back then tap on the account). In summary the new UI no longer gives special priority to the inbox which is what really makes the account overview screen useful, and therefore it no longer matches how I primarily use an email client.

Also, for a right handed user, it’s not only more taps, but also less comfortable: it’s more difficult to get my right thumb up to the top left hand corner of the screen to press then menu button to choose another account than it was to press the back button at the bottom and press on an account on the overview screen that was both lower down and spanned almost all the way to the right edge. This is also true for the new placement of the toolbar at the top when viewing an email.

The alternative approach you mention seems to be the unified inbox, but I do not find it a useful alternative to having easy access to individual inboxes. I have separate email accounts for a reason: to keep different email streams separate. Combining them again largely defeats the point of keeping them separate to begin with. I try to keep work and personal life separate by not viewing business accounts out of hours, but it’s hard if all emails appear side by side. Other accounts are specifically for things like mailing lists or security camera alerts which can sometimes receive dozens or hundreds of emails a day and I usually want to attend to them at different times, so I don’t want them mixed in with general emails. I know I can remove these folders from the unified inbox, but at that point it’s no longer an alternative approach because I’d need to view the individual inbox anyway which is harder in the new UI.

It was only when I downgraded to 5.600 that I even noticed there was also a unified inbox in the old version, I just never used it because I did not find it useful. I can understand that for some users it is useful, but it should not be deemed an alternative to easy access to individual inboxes.

A more general comment about how I use and feel about K-9: I see the account overview screen as the “main” page, it’s the view I see every time I start the app and it’s the foundation or core from which I navigate to all other parts of the app. There’s an important psychological comfort in having this base, it’s like a home you can always go back to, and there’s additional comfort in it showing an overview, which provides a sense of control. In the new UI this core has been ripped out and the replacement does not offer the same psychological comfort: you’re dumped directly into an inbox and there’s nowhere that I can see all accounts at once. Even if you argue that the account overview is redundant or unnecessary (and I don’t think that’s true), I’m a human, and the comfort and sense of control that a feature provides is just as important as its outright utility.

I’m sad to say that I haven’t learned a lot.

I’d also like to make a blunt response to this comment. The fact that hundreds of people have taken the time to comment in favour of the account overview screen with very few in support of its removal means you should have learned that it’s a feature that users like, want, use, find useful and are passionate about, even if they’re not good at explaining WHY they find it useful. Most of us are not UI experts (me included) and would struggle to explain how we use an app, but it doesn’t mean we don’t know what we like. Ultimately many users will have chosen K-9 after trying different apps and deciding we like how K-9 works, even if we didn’t quite know why. Hopefully I’ve persuaded you that there are good reasons why the account overview is preferable and worth keeping, but even if not, don’t dismiss a feature as useless just because users can’t describe objective reasons for keeping it.

Finally I think it would be useful for you to provide some answers to users about the reasons for the removal of the account overview. What do you think was wrong with the account overview? Why did you decide to remove it? Why not keep it as an alternative view? What do you think is improved with the new UI and how are those improvements better for the user? What do you think are suitable “alternative approaches” to the account overview?

15 Likes

Just registered for finding a solution to bring the account overview screen back. Found no solution but this thread. So, here we go.

I have 8 e-mail accounts, several private stuff, several work stuff, notification stuff from bots, administration stuff, …

Every single account has its own priority. The overview screen just gave me the possibility to see what’s going on with one tap and to react with one tap. New mail for an important account? Instant tap on the account. 42 new mails for the bot account? Just ignoring it…

Now everything is put into this popup menu, and constantly clicking around there is just a pain. Just used it for 10 minutes and I know it for sure right now that I will never be a friend of it.

Please please please put links to the configuration screens in the menu but not the accounts themselves. The menu brings a great loss of usability and intuition. Folders everywhere, formerly the accouns where represented as folders too, but now they went into the popup menu. This looks modern but its usability is a great leap backwards. One has to click more to get less while losing the complete overview.

Yes, on can tap on the small triangle inside the big block on top of the menu to get the list of accouns. But to get there I have to do two more taps. This is awful.

7 Likes

Hello.

Just subscribed, only to post a “me too” here.
I was suprised to see a new UI yesterday and immediately started hating it. Nice look, but a pain to use for several reasons.

I have 5 mailboxes and I want to keep the messages totally separated, so I immediately deactivated the unified inbox (this is also typical of my customers, as I work in IT).
The overview screen was very helpful: I could see how many unread messages were there in each mailbox, download everything, and see which numbers increased.
Also, I’m not able to find a command to synchronize all mailboxes at once, as there was before: as this can require several minutes, the previous button allowed me to start the job and leave it to complete. Now, instead, unless I’m missing something, I have to sync the first, wait minutes, sync the second, wait minutes, etc…

Sorry, but for me the new UI is a no-go, really.
It’s sad to see the developers worked on something no one seemed to need when there could have been some real improvements to what was already a good client.
Either the new UI is fixed, or we get the old one back, or I’ll have to migrate to some different client.

P.S.
Now I’m waiting for all the customers I suggested K9 to (or installed it myself on their phones) to call me because they are confused by the change and cannot complete their tasks :frowning:

3 Likes

I have to agree with what has already been said.

The main reason I use K9 (and have done for years) is because I want to be able to do the following, simple thing that no other mobile email client seems to provide (even paid for ones):

  1. I need to have more than one email account but keep them completely separate (personal and work) so no unified inbox
  2. My work email account has many IMAP folders and I need to check them all at the same time
  3. I don’t want emails pushed to my phone - it would be constantly going off and besides if I check my work emails after office hours that has to be my choice
  4. I do however want to be able to open an email client and tap an icon to instantly check all folders in all accounts. This is the feature that was previously unique to k9 but has now gone

I do like the new look but please bring back an option to check all folders of all accounts from a single tap and to see at a glance how many unread and starred messages there are in each account.

Besides, I now have to nominate a preferred account which is the one that the app opens into. I don’t have a preference, my accounts are just for different things and both are important to me.

Thanks for all the hard work and listening to the users!

6 Likes

Reason:
In the old version a can use the back button from every level back to the top, very fast without wiping or clicking on any other place of the screen
the old was very much better - sorry, i liked the old, but not the new.

4 Likes