Sparrow: A Gorgeous Gmail Client for Mac

Mail.app is fabulous, fast, and dependable for every-day email communication needs. But now that many of us use Gmail for personal and professional use instead of an IMAP or POP account, Mail isn’t necessarily the perfect solution any more. A lot of Gmail’s productivity-enhancing features aren’t available on the desktop.

This isn’t just the case with Mail, but a lot of email clients lag behind when embracing Gmail. How awesome would it be to have a native Gmail client that goes above and beyond the competition? Read on to find out how close the newest Mac Gmail client, Sparrow, comes to fulfilling your dreams of email nirvana.

Getting Started

Head over to the Sparrow homepage to get hold of the latest version of the app. Since it is in Beta, Sparrow is a free download.

After downloading the app and performing a smooth one click installation, you’re asked to enter the login credentials of your Google email accounts. While it is being widely promoted as a native email app for Gmail, Sparrow also supports Google Apps accounts.

Adding a Gmail Account

Adding a Gmail Account

After entering your username and password information under a name of your choice, select whether you want to make Sparrow your default mail app.

Sparrow – as of this moment – does not support any other email services, so exercise caution if you are planning to choose it to be the default mail app.

Design and Interface

Inbox View

Inbox View

Sparrow pulled my emails fairly fast from the server – in my case, it took just under a minute or so. At first glance, Mac users will notice that how closely Sparrow’s user interface resembles that of Tweetie for Mac.

Just like Tweetie, we have a two pane layout with a smaller left pane hosting an array of icons and the right pane displaying the emails. A row of icons and a search box sit at the top of the app.

The icons in the left column are for folder management, while those at the top are for individual email management.

Accessing Emails

Email View

Email View

Double clicking on an email opens a new window displaying the message in its original format. Threaded conversations are supported and can be viewed from the same window too.

It is pleasant to browse and follow up with email conversation from this window, thanks to a great layout and neatly placed Reply and Forward buttons. There’s also an “Info” button if you need to access the email header information.

Slide Out Pane

Slide Out Pane

You do not have to double click on an email every time to read it. Use the slide out preview icon at the bottom right corner to read and reply the email.

Compose Window

Compose Window

The compose window is a simple affair, offering all the usual features and auto-completion for the To, Cc and Bcc fields.

While reading an email, you can tag it as important by marking it with a Star just like in Gmail. All Starred emails can be accessed from a dedicated icon on the left pane.

Talking about the left pane, icons for viewing sent emails, trash, drafts and all emails (including the Starred items) are neatly stacked one above the other.

Multiple Inboxes

Adding Another Gmail Account

Adding Another Gmail Account

Multiple Gmail accounts can be added from the Preferences pane. The steps involved for associating a new account are the same, except that here you can also edit the signature that gets appended to every sent mail.

Multiple Account View

Multiple Account View

After adding the account, all the emails from the new inbox aren’t merged with the existing one. On the contrary, your profile picture is displayed as a thumbnail in the left pane and selecting a profile image displays the emails belonging to that account.

Team Sparrow should be credited for seamless switching of multiple Gmail accounts in just a single click.

There aren’t any important Preferences to be set, except for options to enable/disable Growl notifications, and set the new email notification sound.

Final Thoughts

Sparrow gives every other native mail app a run for its money with a minimalistic and gorgeous design. However, it falls short in two key areas. First, the absence of support for any other mail service – including the good old POP & IMAP protocols. The Sparrow team promise that IMAP support is on its way, so let us wait and see how fast it arrives.

Second is the conspicuous absence of support for Gmail filters. Also there is no way to access existing folders or the ability to at least move the emails from the inbox into other folders. Given the fact that Sparrow is a dedicated Gmail app, this is frustrating, and something I hope to see added soon.

Considering the fact that Sparrow is a free download, I would definitely recommend downloading it and taking it for a spin. But don’t pull the plug on Mail.app just yet!


Summary

Sparrow is a minimalist mail application for Mac. It was designed to keep things simple and efficient. No fancy stuff here... just your mail and nothing else.

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