MachV/Mozilla: Mail and News

UI Specification


Last Modification:

Author: Jennifer Glick 
Creation Date: 3 July 2001

Status: Mostly Complete


Menu Access
Thread Pane
Create a Filter using Labels as Action

Feature Team


 Scott Putterman, Scott MacGregor 


 Kevin Murray


 Esther Goes, Laurel Carlson


 Robin Foster Clark 


 Jennifer Glick





  1. What to do when a message header with a Label is selected. Leave the message header the Label color and use the default background highlight color (text may not be readable in some cases) or change the text color white (current behavior) and use the Label color as the background highlight color (preferred, if doable).


  1. Ability to show Label column in Mail Search dialog and change a label in the Search dialog. 
  2. Ability to search based on a Label. 
  3. Filter criteria based on a Label.
  4. Filter result as a Label.



As people continue to get more and more email messages on a daily basis, they are continually looking for ways to organize and prioritize it all. Flagging messages is a useful method but looses its effectiveness as more and more messages pile up.  The Labels feature provides users with a method to use 5 colored and named categories to help them group, organize and prioritize their messages. Users can change the name and or color of each Label. An optional Label column is available for sorting by Label.

Users would also be able to setup filters in which the resulting action is to mark a message with a particular Label.  For example, users could create a filter to mark all new messages from a particular person with the "red/hottest" Label.


Design Details

1. Menu Access

Using the "Message --> Label" menu, users can assign a label value to message headers in the Thread Pane. A message can have only one label at a time (mutually exclusive options). Selecting another label for a message which already has a label will change the message header to the new label.  Selecting the "None" option will remove the label from the selected message(s).



2. Thread Pane

A message with a label is displayed in the Thread Pane with its header the color of the selected label.  There is an optional "Label" column which can be displayed and used to sort messages according to Label. The Label Column displays the text name of each Label. The Label Column is Not displayed by default.

Clicking on the Label column heading should toggle between sorting the messages with labels at the top of the Thread Pane and sorting messages with Labels at the bottom of the thread pane. Sorted at the top: Hottest, Hot, Warm, Cold, Coldest, No Label. Sorted at the Bottom: No Label, Coldest, Cold, Warm, Hot, Hottest. 

Clicking on the message header in the label column should cycle between the available labels and no label. For example, the message header has no label, clicking on the message header in the label column changes the message header label to "hotest". Clicking again changes it to "hot", then "warm", then "cold", then "coldest", then off again.

If a message header which has a Label is selected, the text color changes to white and the background highlight color is the color of the Label. Otherwise, if a message is selected and the user adds/removes a Label, there is no feedback that there request was honored until they deselect the message. (If we leave the text color the label color and use the default highlight color, the text may not always be readable).

Example 1


Example 2


Example 3 - Work OK with some color combos.


Example 4


3. Preferences

Default names and color values for each of the Labels are shown below. Using the preference settings, users can customize the names of the Labels as well as the colors that are associated which each Label.

All Available Color Hex Values (chart is not part of the UI and is for reference only):

Note: a Label name is limited to 32 characters.

The "Restore Default Colors" button will return the colors to the original defaults.


4. Create Filters using Labels as Action

Users can also use the filters feature to have certain message headers automatically marked with labels. The labels menu would update appropriately if the user changed any of the Label names or colors.



  1. Priority column would need to give up color, and use some other indicator instead of colored text to indicate priority.  Priority will use non-colored text. Maybe use icons for priority column if 5 distinct icons could be created.
  2. Need icon for "Label" column. Use the text "Label" instead of an icon. The other columns that use icons as headers are narrow columns, such as Read/Unread and Flag.
  3. Do we want to allow users to change the names of labels? Yes.
  4. Do we want to allow users to modify the colors of each label? Yes. Need to look into potential issues regarding the header color and the selection highlight color combinations.
  5. Limited the number of labels to 5 or do we allow users to create more labels? Limit the number to 5 for now. A potential future feature would be to allow creation of additional features.
  6. Limit label category names to 32 characters.
  7. Do we want a preference to allow users to display color for the Label column only and not the whole row? Not for now, use color for the whole role.
  8. Add "Label" menu item to the "Message" menu or the "Message-->Mark" menu?  "Message" menu, too deep a level otherwise.
  9. Clicking on the label name (not the column) in each row, should cause a sort action or a cycle action? A cycle action. Cycle the message header through the available headers and "Off" state.
  10. Show the Label column by default? No.
  11. Show "Label" in the context menu for the Thead Pane area?  Probably.
  12. Default Label names? Hotest, Hot, Warm, Cold and Coldest, but users can change these using prefs.
  13. Default Label names. Change to: Important, Work, Personal, To Do, and Later. Above items make sense when seen together as a whole spectrum, but make less sense when seen individually.
  14. Allow users to use unlimited color values. We've done some research into the feasibility of doing this and it looks like it's going to hard to provide an unlimited choice. If we were to do this, it looks like we'd have to force the user to restart as well, like we do with themes, which is a bad experience for this feature. Proposed that we limit the number of colors to 10-15 and put them in a picker or a list. 10/11/01.
  15. Should the label column be available in the search messages dialog? If it is, will we need functionality for switching labels in search dialog?  For now, we will hide Label column in search. Potential future feature. Also nice to have, to be able to search based on a Label as well. 10/31/01.