FaceTab & MailTab: Web Apps in Your OS X Menu Bar

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

MailTab

MailTab

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.

Features

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.

Worth It?

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

FaceTab

FaceTab

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.

Features

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.

Issues

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.

Worth it?

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.

Conclusion

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.


  • http://thewetherreport.us Wes

    What is the difference between MailTab and MailTab Pro? Is it worth the $1.99?

  • jeezus

    None of these apps are worth any money. Use your browser when on computer. Use phone OS “apps” when mobile. Don’t need 24/7 monitoring on more than 1 device, kind of pointless… Bandwidth is getting expensive. Need to watch how much bandwidth these apps are using to stay sync’d, then it’s really not worth spending any money on.

  • Rishi

    Thanks for the review guys.

    We’ve got a major update coming out for FaceTab, with hot key support, resizable window, touch gestures, and growl notifications. What you see above is version 1, we’ve made a lot of upgrades since then!

    MailTab Pro has the added benefit of Gmail Chat.

  • jeezus

    @Rishi,

    Most browsers have the added benefits of paying for your app… Try selling insurance

  • Marco

    I use facebook desktop notifier…doesn’t have all the uneeded options of facetab.
    and it works great:
    http://www.facebook.com/notifier

  • rye

    the only thing not good about this is, where is the chat box? this app doesnt have this spec.. so facebox pro is better.. than this.. you can dload this in mac app for free – since it is given free for a limited period of time.. so hurry up guys..

  • Gab

    Wow, not to sound lousy, but some of the comments just sound wrong. Obviously, those apps aren’t intended for everyone, nor are they perfect by any mean.

    Wer are actually talking about free apps with added features when you pay the cost of a coffee (or maybe, with coffee price on the rise, even less) for it.

    I’m currently using FaceTab (free edition) and find it kind of limiting. Then again, I use it sporadically when I want to see the notifications I received. This way, I only look up precise informations on my profile, rather than starting to browse through the entire site and losing time.

    @Jeezus: It’s not extortion, and you’re not forced to buy it. Browser ads are what’s paying your «free» site. I find it very wrong for people to believe they suddenly deserve something from a developer.

    Mailtab, on the other side, doesn’t appeal to me as much as most e-mails I read require actions based on them, be they reply or filing of files attached, which means an extra step after using the menu bar app.

  • firas persian

    ok

  • Tom

    What I would like is an detailed explanation from the developer about the Unorthodox way this app connects to Gmail servers – and keeps the connection alive. There has been many complains about being blocked by Google (Temporary suspension of your account) when using MailTab. As far as Google concerns, the reason of temporarily suspending access to a Gmail account when using MailTab it is exactly for Security Reasons. It seems that the MailTab app keeps the connection alive to Gmail servers (which is understandable) but the way it does it is probably “flagged” by Google as an “not trustable” way for keeping a connection alive to Gmail servers. Besides, I have noticed, when logging off using MailTab, and then logging back, it seems this app doesn’t do the previous logoff successfully – because the security message “Sign out all other sessions” often shows up when login in again, even though I click on Logoff from within MailTab – and No, I am not using POP or IMAP, neither someone else is using my account. The other thing I don’t like about this app is that there is no way to attach files, so it is pointless to those who often work with attachments. I think there is no reason for this app to Exist, because you can use a secure browser such as Firefox or Safari or Chrome – and simply minimize it when you are not using it – and yes there is plenty of free add-ons for any of these browser which will notify you, both visually and audibly when you get new mail – and most importantly these browser provides a secure and standard way to connect to Gmail servers and keep the connection alive. There is even add-ons that will allow you to use the iPhone and iPad interface for free and do he job superbly – without security breaches or your account being temporarily suspended as when using MailTab. I give Mail a minus Zero for trying to reinvent the wheel unsuccessfully and for compromising the security of Gmail accounts.

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