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Back in the Leopard version of Mail, Apple introduced data detection capabilities, which allowed Mail to recognize data in email messages like addresses, phone numbers, dates and then offer easy access to common tasks you might want to perform with that data. For example, as I roll my mouse over the address at the bottom in this email, I see an outline appear around it. Clicking the Arrow button gives me several options like Creating a New Contact from this address information, Adding it to an Existing Contact, Showing a Map of the address, Displaying the address in Large Type, so I can see it from across the room and Copy.
So, for example, if I choose Show Map, Google Maps would open in my browser, and I would see a map of the address. And there it is. Similarly, when I roll over this phone number, I get an option to Create a New Contact, Add to Existing Contact, Show it in Large Type or Copy it. And rolling over dates, those are also detected and you can choose to Create New iCal Event or Show This Date in iCal. Again, all of this stuff is available in the previous version of Mail. In this latest version, Apple has added flight detection capabilities to the list of detectable data.
If you travel a lot, this could be a useful feature to have, but it does have some limitations. Notice when I rollover this flight number, a highlight appears around it, and I can choose to Show Flight Information. That pops-up in my Flight Tracker widget, among all the other widgets here, and here I can see the status of the flight. I could see using this as I am sitting in an airport waiting for a connection. All I have to do is open my email with my flight info and I can track the flight from right here. And you can see that Mail is able to recognize all the flight information in this paragraph, but -- and this is a major 'but,' at the moment, Mail only recognizes Flight info that uses the airline's two letter codes, like CO for Continental and DL for Delta.
Notice I have the same information in the paragraph above, but with the airlines' names written out. Rolling my mouse over Continental 67 doesn't give me a highlight, neither does it for Delta 1540 or Delta 6208. Mail just does not recognize them as flight numbers. To me, this severely limits the usefulness of this capability because not everyone uses or even knows the two letter codes for airlines. I am hoping we'll see an update for this feature down the road, but it's a good start and certainly useful if your flight information does use the two letter codes.
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