Windows Mail-style User Bubbles

is there a way to get something like the Windows Mail User Bubles - whatever they are called… those nice multicolor 2 letter bubbles on each message identifying the sender

Yes, what you are referring to are called monograms.

In Menu > Tools > Settings > Contacts, unselect Download avatars from external sources , and check Show monograms…

thanks, it appears I have this checked already.

I do have them appearing in my side bar on the right, but what I was wondering if I could have them in the list of messages ?

Ah yes, like in AirMail also. No, there is no option for that.