MailCue: The Best Menu Bar Mail Client Yet?

OS X menu bar apps continue to stretch the bounds of what you’d expect from a simple tool that runs in the background. MailCue follows this trend by taking the place of the most powerful menu bar mail notifier I’ve ever come across.

Below we’ll take a look at what makes MailCue special and why it just might become your new favorite email tool.

Setting Up MailCue

When you install and fire up MailCue for the first time, you’ll be taken through a brief setup. If you use a popular email provider, this step is a no brainer. Simply click on your account type, enter your account info and you’re ready to go.


Setting Up MailCue

One of the best parts about MailCue is that it supports IMAP. I left POP behind years ago and will absolutely never consider a product that doesn’t allow me to use IMAP to sync my email across various clients.

MailCue definitely nails easy IMAP setup (which can normally be a headache). I imported my IMAP Gmail account in no time and found it to be even easier than attempting the same task in Apple Mail.

As Small As You Want it To Be

Just like other menu bar notifiers, MailCue sits quietly in your menu bar, refreshes at intervals you set, and lights up when you get a message.


The Dropdown Menu

Clicking on the MailCue icon will show you your current unread mail count and give you access to options for manually running a check of your accounts, accessing preferences, etc.

Notice that you can put your accounts to sleep as well. This combined with setting your own intervals for checking mail allows anyone concerned about memory and bandwidth usage to have complete control over how much system power is being eaten up by the application.

As Big As You Want it To Be

The thing that really sets MailCue apart from the competition is that it’s a full-fledged mail client. By command-clicking on the menu bar item you bring up the main window shown below.


The Main Window

This interface is broken up into three primary columns. The left column allows you to select an account. MailCue supports multiple accounts and can handle your complicated email situation just fine.

The second column is the list of emails in your inbox. This is a little different than the way Apple Mail displays things, I like the three column layout as it gives more vertical room to the message preview.

The third column is where the selected message is displayed. As you can see in the image above, MailCue even supports rich HTML emails without a hitch.

All of the standard email actions are supported here as well. You can compose, reply, reply all, forward, move, delete, print and mark messages as spam all right in MailCue.



One final feature that is really nice to have is Growl support. I’ve had a terrible luck getting GrowlMail to function properly in the past. When it’s not ignoring my choice to not display junk mail or duplicating notifications, it’s simply not working. Running Growl though MailCue fixes these problems and brings Growl to email in a bug free and perfectly functional manner.

My Thoughts

I have reservations about just how much you should pack into a menu bar app. I mean after all, if it’s a full-fledged application, why not run it in the dock like a normal app and just have an accompanying menu item like Tweetie? Since I already have Mail running 24/7, I have little need for much more than an icon with a number on it in my menu bar and decent Growl support.

Convictions about the definition of a menu bar app aside, I really loved using MailCue. It’s a solid app that could almost replace your email client altogether for most daily use. I like that it’s a plain old notifier if that’s all you want it to be, but has a ton of hidden power if you need it.

My complaints with MailCue are fairly minor. I don’t like that you can’t hide the main window with Command-H. Command-W works just fine to close it but I find myself instinctively reaching for the former and getting the annoying “you can’t do that” Mac notification sound.

More importantly, I think the interface could use a bit of a facelift. I really don’t like the icons for compose, reply, forward etc. For instance, having a play button symbol to reply to an email is nowhere near intuitive and is quite the confusing choice. Further, the “Reply All” and “Forward” arrows face the same way, which is much less logical than having them face in opposite directions (reply left, forward right). These should be converted to icons that make more sense visually with the actions being taken.


MailCue’s primary competition will be Notify and Google Notifier. Google Notifier is free and integrates with both GMail and Google Calendar, but is pretty bare bones as far as features and only works with Google accounts. Notify has a much more robust feature set than Google Notifier and even approaches, but doesn’t match, that of MailCue for a few bucks less (MailCue is $10, Notify is $7). However, Notify’s interface is super slick and beats MailCue in style points.


I love menu bar apps so much that I’ve run out of room to hold them. MailCue is definitely a great addition to this unique family of apps and is more powerful than any mail notifier I’ve ever seen.

Leave a comment below and let us know what you think of MailCue. Also tell us whether you’ve tried any mail notifiers not mentioned above.


MailCue is a full-blown email client that lives in your menu bar. Much more than a simple notifier, you can browse your inbox, read emails (including HTML messages), reply, forward and delete just like in Apple Mail. MailCue could use a few interface improvements and be brought down in price to match the competition, but it's an otherwise near-perfect experience.