Seven new features for our iOS 7 update

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We started working on this update shortly after Dispatch debut in June, and we’ve managed to pack in seven headline features for this update—a rather fitting number for our iOS 7 update.

Not only has Dispatch been redesigned for iOS 7, we’ve also taken advantage of new technologies to make Dispatch even more versatile an email client.

We’re so excited about the new features we want to walk you through some of them in detail.

#1 Background Fetch, Notifications and Badges

Push notifications was never on the cards for Dispatch at the outset.

With the technical limitations of iOS in place, the only way to implement push notifications involves setting up and maintaining servers of our own that store your credentials and emails.

Being a two-man team with no interest in server-side development, no interest to access your data, and no capital to maintain costly servers of our own, it was very clear that push was not something we can, or want to do.

We knew the lack of push would be a deal-breaker for some, but that’s OK. We were confident that there are users like us who would want an email client that could do what Dispatch does, even if it meant having to keep another mail app around for push notifications.

With iOS 7, Dispatch can now be woken up by iOS periodically, which gives us the opportunity to fetch mails in the background.

While background fetch probably can’t satiate the appetite of those looking for instant notifications, we think its introduction, along with notifications and badges, brings us one step closer to being a standalone, full-featured email client.

#2 Search + Advanced Search

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The addition of search was made possible with an overhaul of our underlying mail engine, migrating from MailCore to MailCore 2. This was probably the most tedious part of this update, taking close to two months worth of work.

Much like push, the absence of search in Dispatch was one of the main reasons why we kept Gmail app around.

We wanted a robust search that could narrow down the tens and thousands of mails that we’ve accumulated in our inbox, one that can make us confidently shelve Gmail app away.

The result was an advanced search system that allows you to combine multiple search terms in different fields (eg. Sender contains ‘Honcheng’, Subject contains ‘Dispatch’, Recipient contains ‘Junjie’), allowing you to narrow down the mail you’re looking for.

#3 Attach Inline Images From Your Photo Library

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Not being able to send image attachments was yet another reason why we had to launch Mail.app from time to time.

We had wanted to do this sooner, but decided to postpone this until we’ve fully migrated our mail engine.

In any case, we’re happy to strike another limitation off our list.

#4 Custom Salutations: Auto-Saluation Gets Personal

Although one of the main features in Dispatch is its support for semi-canned replies in the form of Snippets and support for TextExpander, we never wanted to make our mails any less personal.

While ‘Hi’ works well for customers and less acquainted friends, it just doesn’t cut it when it comes to replying mails from girlfriends, wives and buddies.

Also, not all names are first name followed by last, and some first names even come in multiple parts (like how ‘Hon Cheng’ is a first name). It was becoming strange to say ‘Hi’ with someone’s last name, or part of someone’s first name.

So new in Dispatch 1.2, you get to specify exactly how to address the person, and Dispatch will remember it the next time you reply to this person.

#5 A Mac companion app and the all-new x-dispatch:// URL scheme

Long story short: you can now use the links that we’ve been including with your reminders and todos to open the message in Dispatch. And we made a Mac helper app that helps you open these links with Mail.app and Sparrow on the Mac.

However, there was a trade-off we needed to make for this to happen, and that’s where the long story comes in.

Before version 1.2, Dispatch included a message:// link when creating reminders/tasks in apps like Due, OmniFocus, Things, etc.

These message:// links allow you to associate the reminders/tasks with emails from which they were created from, and could be used to open the mail in Mail.app or Sparrow on the Mac.

We had planned to support opening these message:// links in 1.2, but Apple registered the scheme for their own Mail.app in iOS 7.

While the iOS 7 Mail.app could open these message:// links that we’ve included previously, it does not open emails that are no longer in your inbox (ie. links pointing to emails that have been archived won’t work).

Thus, we decided to replace the message:// links that we’ve been including with our own x-dispatch:// format, which allows you to open these emails in Dispatch. Unlike Mail.app, Dispatch can also open messages that have been archived.

However, using our own x-dispatch:// format means that you can no longer open these links on the Mac.

To workaround this problem, we made a helper tool that redirects these x-dispatch:// links back to message:// links on your Mac.

This helper tool has no interface and neither appears in your Dock nor menu bar. You can install the helper app by dragging it to your /Applications folder, and launching it once. To remove the tool, drag it to Trash.

#6 Move + Quick Move

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A number of our users diligently file their emails in various folders, and good news for them, they can now move a mail to another mailbox (or folder, in Gmail-lingo).

To do this, we replaced the ‘Mark as Spam’ button on our action bar with a more versatile ‘Move’ button. This made sense, since ‘Mark as Spam’ is basically moving the mail to a special ‘Spam’ folder on your server.

But we also wanted to have a quick way to mark a mail as spam (or to move it to a specific folder) without having to pick it from a list of folders each time.

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So along with ‘Move’, we’re introducing ‘Quick Move’, where you can configure a special folder to appear at the top of the list of folders to choose from.

The quick part comes when you swipe the ‘Move’ button on the action bar from right to left, and it goes right to the folder that you’ve specified.

#7 Send Mail As (Alias Support)

You can now add other email addresses (aliases) and have your mails sent from these addresses instead. Pretty straightforward huh.

Taking Stock

With Dispatch 1.2, we’ve crossed out a number of limitations from our App Store description, and we’re looking to narrow the even list further (but don’t ask us for ETA, you know we can’t promise anything!).

Since this update marks where we migrate our underlying mail engine, we thought it’s a good time to give a shout-out to Matt Ronge for his work on MailCore that made Dispatch possible, and to Hoà and other contributors of MailCore 2 whose work we’ll be leveraging on from now.

Finally, thank you for buying Dispatch, and we hope you like the update. Enjoy your new iOS and iPhone!