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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Growl

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.

Alternatives

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.

Conclusion

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.


Summary

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.

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  • http://blog.jesusyepes.com Jesus

    Im sorry, i guess i missed something, but i don’t see the point of these app.
    You can see the number of unread mails, you can view email, you can send email…. you can do that with mail.app, without paying nothing more.

    • http://www.theronburger.com/ Theron Burger

      I think this app will excel for folks that mainly use web based mail, and just want to send the odd mail mail from the desktop, without loading their browser.

      That said, this probably wont pry me away from Apple’s Mail & GNotify

  • John

    Why don’t you just use Herald? It is a super Mail.app notification plugin which allows you to perform actions on mail without having to switch back to Mail.app itself (unless you want to). It’s also free.

    http://erikhinterbichler.com/software/herald/

    Especially as you have Mail.app running anyway, why effectively have a second mail client running in the background? Makes no sense.

    • http://www.coroflot.com/joshuajohnson Joshua Johnson

      Cool app! Thanks for pointing it out.

      • John

        Always a pleasure. Maybe deserving of a concise review in itself?

      • Jack

        Yee..

    • Jay

      Thanks a bunch, this is great!

      • Jack

        Nice!

  • http://158kilopixels.com Kaishin

    I don’t think I am ready to leave Notify behind, it fits perfectly in my workflow.

  • http://twistereli.com Eli

    I think this might be the app that will make me change from the default Mail app.

  • bendobos

    I have been using Mailplane for Gmail for some time now, because with that I basically have push-mail, because it is logged on the standard gmail-interface all the time.

    However, I’ve been wanting to use Mail.app because it looks like a nice client (I’m new to Mac), however I haven’t found a way to show my mail as soon as I get it. Is there a way to do just that?

    • John

      If you’re a real Gmail fan, Mailplane is the way to go.

      However, Gmail does work nicely with Mail.app you just have to pay attention to how you set it up, especially if you use lots of labels and are down with the whole Google “never delete but only archive” mindset. There are great instructions out there on how to tweak the settings.

      Mail.app support IMAP IDLE, which means your mail arrives as soon as it hits your server, if your mail service supports IDLE. For me it works very well.

  • http://www.iynque.com iynque

    I use Adium for e-mail notifications since I only use GMail (all other accounts forward to my GMail address). If you enable a Google Talk account in Adium and check the preference to “Display new mail notifications,” then Google will send you an instant notice every time you get mail (and it’s totally customizable through Adium!). It’s a lot nicer than any app that asks the server if there’s mail every so often. Instead the server tells you instantly!

    If you use Adium, it can check your mail on GMail, Yahoo!, Hotmail (or whatever Microsoft is doing to e-mail now), AOL, and even your Facebook inbox!

    Anyway, since I have Adium open all the time anyway (mostly for Twitter and IRC chat), I ditched Google Notifier.

    • http://www.theronburger.com/ Theron Burger

      Definitely going to give this a try :)
      Been looking for a reason to try Adium for a while!

  • yugushen

    If you’re a Gmail user and basically use web interface rather than Mail.app or other clients, you probably wanna check out Gmail Notifr – http://ashchan.com/projects/gmail-notifr.

  • http://www.bluecreststudios.com Matthew R. Miller

    First let me say that I really appreciate the review of your software. We are planning on addressing the keyboard shortcuts, including Command-H in the next minor release over the next week. As for the icons, you are correct, we are actually in the process of looking for another icon library. The one we purchased a while ago feel short of our expectations. If you know of any, or any excellent graphic designers, please let us know.

    Again, we greatly appreciate the review.

  • http://www.bluecreststudios.com Matthew R. Miller

    I wanted to let you know that this evening we released MailCue 1.0.12, which addresses a lot of your concerns about MailCue.

    * Keyboard shortcuts, including Command+H to hide MailCue
    * Flashier, and less intrusive popup windows for message actions
    * Reply To All Bug Fix
    * New, prettier icons
    * Fix to registration process
    * Message sort bug fix
    * Message ‘from’ bug fix
    * Default actions for dialog buttons

    Again, we thank you for your review.

  • http://www.arrannorth.co.uk Arran North

    Hi guys!

    Stumbled across your site the other day – long time mac user – love the site and content!

    I am downloading MailCue now – seems pretty nifty…

    Keep Up the good work!

    Arran

    ps if I can ever offer you guys any services, drop me an email! ;)

    • Lacko

      Is that your girlfriend? She’s really pretty…

  • http://www.thog.no Jesper

    I think I’ll stick with Sparrow (http://sparrowmailapp.com/)

  • http://moonprismpower.org Krista

    Hey don’t forget about Sparrow. :) It’s a menubar client, too. Made me switch from all of my other clients because it’s so pretty and compact!

  • Karl

    The only problem is: I can’t see it with my 13″ screen.
    the menubar think is crap, apple has to think about it.

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