One of my favorite things about Mac OS X is the menu bar. More specifically, the fantastic apps that are developed to work with it. You can find a menu bar app for pretty much anything – from the weather to your Twitter feed! They make it super fast and easy to keep up with information without opening a full-blown app and leaving what you are doing.
Today we are reviewing FaceTab and MailTab, two apps from developer FIPLAB that pretty much let you run Facebook and Gmail from your menu bar without losing any of the features that you get on their web interfaces. Want to hear more about them?
MailTab is completely free and you can get it from the Mac App Store. Think of it as “Gmail on your menu bar”, because it’s exactly what it is. Its interface is very, very reminiscent of Gmail’s web interface, but adapted to fit in the little drop down window of the menu bar. I liked it a lot because it looks familiar and it has pretty much every feature you would want to use.
Right now I use Notify Pro as a menu bar mail app, but I sometimes find it to be lackluster in features and a bit confusing to use, even though it’s supposed to be simple. That problem doesn’t seem to exist in MailTab as it’s completely based on Gmail’s familiar interface.
Even though MailTab is filled with features, it manages to keep a clean and simple interface by hiding most of its features in sub-menus. For example, once you check off an email, a small bar will pop up, allowing you to mark it as read, delete it or archive it.
Every feature that you have in the web version of Gmail seems to be available here, other than the Chat and the ads. You have access to your labels, your spam inbox and all of your emails – even the ones with images. If anything, it’s a little annoying having to scroll through a big image you got in an email.
In fact, MailTab uses the Mobile version of Gmail and not their own interface, so what you get is pretty much the same thing as if you accessed Gmail from your iPhone.
As I mentioned, I am a Notify Pro user, which gives you pretty much the same range of features with a slightly more professional interface and a smaller, cleaner look. The thing is, I had to pay to unlock all of Notify’s features, while MailTab is completely free and does pretty much the same.
I would say, if you already use a menu mail app and are happy with it, you have no reason to switch to something like MailTab. Otherwise, give MailTab a try. It’s free and it’s good.
FaceTab is made by the same developer as MailTab, and because of that both apps feel very similar. It’s also free, and it can also be downloaded from the Mac App Store. And just like MailTab, it runs in your menu bar and you interact with it through a drop down window.
This window is divided into a few tabs that include your start window, your profile, messages and friends. Each tab has its own set of subtabs, so it can get a bit confusing.
You can also access your notifications through a button on the right upper corner and there’s a search button on the other side. While the interface seems to be similar to Facebook’s web interface, there’s something “off” with it. It just feels very closed and very much like a mobile version of Facebook would feel like.
The most annoying thing I found was that it deletes everything you write after you close the drop down window. For example, I was writing a response for a friend and I had to copy a link from my browser. So I switched over to my browser to copy the link, but when I opened FaceTab again, the part of the comment I’d written was gone.
It’s a small detail, but this app seems to be filled with these minor niggles. Some of them include no support for Chat, only giving you the “Most Relevant” feed and not the “Most Recent” feed, an obscure comments button, and the window feeling too large for a menu bar app.
I don’t really see myself using this app, as I do not want to interact with Facebook so much as to have it on my menu bar running all the time. Even if I did, this app probably wouldn’t be my first choice. It’s just not that good if you want it to navigate through your feed and comment on a bunch of things.
I guess it would work better if you just want it to check your notifications once in a while and occasionally comment on your feed and post new statuses, but don’t expect it to replace your web-based Facebook.
There is a commercial version available for $1.99 that adds a few extra features (such as chat). This would definitely be worth checking out if you like the idea of FaceTab, but would like more functionality.
Both of these apps do a good job at bringing the experience of your web apps to your menu bar. MailTab is a great app for keeping up with your Gmail inbox from your menu bar, as it has pretty much all of the features that the web version of Gmail has, and it still stays simple.
FaceTab, on the other hand, isn’t very successful at mimicking what MailTab achieves. It’s a good app, and everything about it might seem fine at first glance, but once you spend a few moments with it you’ll realize that quite a few features don’t work exactly as you’d expect.
Like I said, it’s a great app for quickly checking in with your notifications, but if you want it to replace your web version of Facebook, this app just won’t cut it.
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