Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Turning Off Apple Data Detectors in Mail

I don’t like the data detectors that Apple added to Mail in Leopard, because I never use them and they interfere with selecting text. I just figured out that you can disable them by entering defaults write com.apple.mail DisableDataDetectors YES in Terminal. Normally this type of hidden preference would be easy to look up in Google, but I only found a bunch of ideas that didn’t work, and as of this writing there are zero hits for “DisableDataDetectors”.

Update (2013-04-16): Alas, this no longer works in Mountain Lion.

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Perfect. Thanks for tracking this down. I was able to update a thread on the Apple Discussion boards this morning because of it.

Hey, now there's at least one hit.

Thank you so, so much for this. I long for the days when each new potentially irritating feature was accompanied by a simple Preferences checkbox that would turn it off.

Good to know, although i do find data detectors useful and use them frequently.

Still, nice to know they can be disabled....

Accompanying each potentially irritating feature with a preferences checkbox leads to Apache, or BIND, or at the very least to Xcode. Every feature will probably irritate at least one person; this does not absolve developers of the responsibility to make choices.

Now only if there was defualts to see size of your mailbox.
old mail.app had it. but the new one seems not have any option.


I personally believe that software should automatically provide "advanced" features and that they should not need to be enabled or disabled explicitly. With Data Detectors the timing could be a bit longer so when you try to select text you don't get the "detect" UI shown.

I really cannot stand apps that have a preference option that says "Check for updates automatically." No! Check manually by guessing when I think a new version is released and then do it while I am trying to download an HD movie to my Apple TV on Saturday night!

In 2008 software should be smart enough to manage its own little afairs without being told to tile new document windows or open a blank window on activation (or open a Project/Group type main window).

ExitToShell: The thing about checking for updates is that although most users like it, there's a vocal minority that sees it as a privacy violation or wants complete control over their Internet connection. So I don't see any way around making that a preference.

Aaron Davies

So how exactly do you discover undocumented defaults preference keys? Run "strings" on the binary?

What exactly do these "Apple Data Detectors" do and what problem does turning them off resolve? I found this post through another Apple-related blog and have no idea what you're talking about. :)

Now if only I could turn ON data detectors in my other apps!

[...] Works like a charm. Thanks, Michael. The detectors are a good idea in theory, but I just don’t use what they provide. [...]

I'm with Aaron,

How do you find out what a hidden default is? Is there a tutorial somewhere?

is there a way to turn off the annoying prompt every time i write an email without a subject?

thats my personal pet peeve.


My pet peeve is people who write email without a subject line.

Joris: There are many ways, but in this case I used the "strings" command. Another nice default is PreferPlainText.

[...] Michael Tsai has found the solution with a hidden preference. All you have to do is type in (or copy and paste in) one line to the [...]

[...] Michael Tsai has found the solution with a hidden preference. All you have to do is type in (or copy and paste in) one line to the [...]

yeah, cause a youtube link always needs a subject line. i suppose i should write subject lines for every IM i send too, because thats basically equivalent to the type of email I'm talking about.

[...] you’d want to do this I can’t fathom - the data detectors are probably the best feature in Mail - but you can turn [...]

this is totally unnecessary. You should all just learn how to select something. Your amputating the finger to trim the fingernail, good work.

[...] Michael Tsai has found the solution with a hidden preference. All you have to do is type in (or copy and paste in) one line to the [...]

Not needing the feature...fair enough, not wanting the feature, also fair, just wanting to see what you can hack, very cool, but not being able to select text suggests you need some remedial mousing skills training.

try this:


With my superior mousing skills I can select the entire section detected, a sub-selection, part of the detected section and something before or after the detected area or both. Here is a tip, when wanting to selecting text in the detected area click ANYWHERE in the detected region EXCEPT for the pull-down box.

Mouser: It's not that I can’t select the text, but that it’s more work—most specifically when there are adjacent detected regions and I want to start the selection on the boundary. Initially, Mail draws the pop-up triangle right where I want to click. I have to move the cursor to one side in order to chase the dotted highlight to the other detected region, then move the cursor back to where I wanted to start the selection. Since I never actually use the pop-up, there’s no reason to go through the frustration of trying to avoid it.

Interesting. It was not until I read this that it occurred to me that there might be folk who don't like or use the ADD - personally, I love them, and use it often, which suggests that there is a fit between my needs and the ways I use Mail.app, and the design of ADD in Mail.app.

This suggests that what is missing, really, is a preference option exposed through the Mail.app GUI to turn ADD on and off.

Thanks for tracking this down though, I'll tuck the tip away for future reference.

[...] Turning Off Apple Data Detectors in Mail [via TUAW] [...]

[...] There are some folks who are annoyed by this though. In that case, these data detectors can be turned off. [...]

[...] public links >> solution Turning Off Apple Data Detectors in Mail Saved by MrZeb on Fri 03-10-2008 Hosted Facelift solution: flirPremium AND Ask for donations? [...]

Main reason to disable it is that the related process "PatternsCompiler" hogs the CPU for 30 seconds when I open Mail or other apps.

i love you so much!

[...] Michael Tsai doesn’t like the data detectors feature in Leopard. Personally I love it. For those of you who don’t know, [...]

[...] And the crash reporter, Mail, and even the Spotlight menu can crash when displaying the text. In some apps you can prevent the crash by unchecking Edit ‣ Substitutions ‣ Data Detectors. For Mail, there’s a defaults command. [...]

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