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.

7
  • Ed

    I’ve been using Mailplane for a long time as my desktop Gmail client, but have been keeping a close eye on this to see how it develops.

    The UI is great but there is still some way to go before it matches the full functionality of Mailplane. On the other hand the Mailplane UI is not signficantly different to using Gmail via Fluid: Sparrow is already streets ahead in this regard. If Sparrow can eventually match Mailplane’s feature set, it will be a very serious contender in the field.

  • http://@domleca Dom leca

    Thanks Justin for the review and the nice feedback on Sparrow.
    If you go to the archive/label section, you can browse your label/folders.

    Regards,

  • http://www.factor1studios.com matt adams

    I had a ton of issues with sparrow not sending emails. It would save the message as a draft, but never send. I heard from 2 other friends the same issues. I hope they improve this a bit better. I liked it for my personal emails.

  • Daniel Hertlein

    I’ve been using it for over a month now and while really love the interface and would love to be able to use it as my everyday email client, the truth is even Mail isn’t full featured enough for me without MailTags & Mail Act On.
    With a couple of fixes, I can still see this working as a more robust way to to quickly view messages than something like Notify. Having to click the trash can icon to move messages to the trash instead of just hitting the delete key makes it a lot less useful than it would be otherwise.

  • everzet

    Also there is no way to access existing folders or the ability to at least move the emails from the inbox into other folders.

    That’s not true. As of Beta5 (that was released yesterday) Sparrow supports GMail labels (GMail folders) and has ability to browse/filter/send messages to them!

  • Bruno

    Looks like a Tweetie ripoff. IMO.

  • http://www.jasonfweb.com Jason Fontana

    they implemented labels in the latest release

  • xcession

    Look like a mail version tweetie… :/

  • http://www.bugeyes.de Marvin

    I’m in love with this interface!

  • Mozgovvert

    Super! Very sleek and beautiful design and functionality! *9

  • http://fairheadcreative.com Adam Fairhead

    I moved over to Sparrow from Mail about a month or so ago, and I’m loving the progress. Not seeing labels yet, which is a critical omission, but the integration with Gmail’s feature set is just fantastic.

    The support for Gmail’s threading is what got me to move over to Sparrow for the time being.

    It even has support for Email Aliases that are set up on gmail.com. Once labels land, I’ll be very happy.

    My only point of curiosity is whether or not they are going to start changing for the use of this app once it exits beta … ?

  • insane.dreamer

    Downloaded Sparrow after reading this, and impressed. Love the interface (I use Tweetie already and like it). By the way, it does have the ability to assign labels to an email, and thus move it into a different folder, and access those folders. Except that I wish accessing a folder required one less steps (ie an available list, rather than selecting folders and then clicking on a dropdown menu. And it needs to be available from teh toolbar rather than having to right-click on an email.)

    The subject line needs to be larger (or customizable). And HTMLs/PDFs/Text files should display inline in the preview pane (like Mail) rather than having to click on an attachment.

  • Seed

    I love the interface because I love Tweetie

  • stephane

    I’ve tried sparrow, just downloaded the latest beta yesterday but I still have a conscience problem, I could never buy an app that copied almost exactly Tweetie interface. It’s bad enough when someone copies your idea but at least they should make it look a little less like Tweetie.

    Even the icon could be seen as a copy, metallic border on a glowing color…

    • Hiroshi

      Maybe it’s a copy but there’s nothing actually wrong with that; what you described is the “look&feel” of Tweetie and this can’t be claimed as intellectual property (it’s not the interface), so it’s “free” to anyone use/copy it. (I’m not a lawyer and don’t live on the US, so all that I said can be bullshit) =P

    • Erica S

      They didn’t just “rip-off” the Tweetie interface. They asked the developer of Tweetie himself if it was ok.

  • Hiroshi

    There’s some inaccurate info here; some people above already pointed that Sparrow get labels in the latest update, high five. But it seems that the “Gmail filters” referred at the end of the review was about the filters that you can create to perform a lot of actions – e.g. skip the inbox, archieve, label – not just search and that Sparrow don’t have. Although is easy apply labels and remove them, it’s not possible –yet, i hope see this soon– create or delete the labels. Both Gmail filters and a better labels management are the reasons why I still can’t set Sparrow as the default mail client.

    • Orca

      You can create and delete labels they are in the preferences pane:

      http://cl.ly/3Dez

      As the screenshot shows you can select each of your GMail accounts and add/delete your labels, filters will hopefully come with the next revision or maybe version 1.

      • Hiroshi

        Ops, i didn’t see the buttons down there. =P

  • Orca

    Has this been re-listed as a review from today (12th Nov) ? I swear I had read Adam’s comment before a while ago. And seeing the the newest Beta was released yesterday with support for labels it needs to be re-done.

    And how come Inane Dreamer has poster his comment in the future 13th Nov ??? or are we working on Australian Time (i am the UK)

  • http://nataliaventre.com Natalia Ventre

    I’ve been using Sparrow for a couple of weeks for my works accounts and I love it, the interface is what I expect for a Mac app, beautiful and usable. Today I update it and got the labels, which I can’t live without, so i can’t believe this software is free.

    I had problem sending some emails, as Matt, but for a beta is understandable, at least the draft was saved and I logged to Gmail and send the problematic messages.

    • http://fairheadcreative.com Adam Fairhead

      I just noticed the update with labels too; I’m all over this thing now.

  • http://www.ragunaru.com Ragnar

    I’ve been using Sparrow ever since I found it a month and a half or so ago. It’s just so simple and minimal, that’s what I like about it. Before Sparrow I was just using my Google Apps web mail but no more. Sparrow rocks my socks off.

  • Landow

    it seems can not access to the junk mail ????

  • LaToya

    this is my favorite mail app :D however it needs imap and junk mail support.

  • Ian

    I like what I’ve seen so far all apart from one major thing. It seems to sync almost constantly with Gmail which leads to the spinning beachball for a lot of the time spent using the app. I wish I could set it to sync only after I press a “send/receive” button. The beachball led to me clicking a few times to get a window to open as it didn’t work at first, then the extra click slowed it down further.

    I will still use Apple Mail for downloading, filing and backing up emails on my system for day-to-day email, but I will buy and use it a lot for day-to-day emails if it syncs less often, or at least just doesn’t give me the beachball.

  • Sam

    been using sparrow for few days now
    really like the interface and the speed

    hopefully more features are introduced
    :)

  • Scott Danielson

    Great review, Justin. I downloaded the app and as soon as I opened it, I removed Apple Mail from my dock!

  • SannyD

    i just use sparrow for my gmail accounts as gmail has alot going on almost too much. sparrow organizes it just right.

  • Leo

    Excellent application, and just what I needed on top of Notify’s features. And it’s beautiful and free! Great job and all the best to the developers. The only serious complaint I have is memory usage, which is horrendous – I hope they minimize it to something modest.

  • http://twitter.com/z0r z0r

    It takes SO much time for sparrow to synchronise with gmail account. The mail might not appear in sparrow for 2 or even 3 minutes. That means, if you reset your password somewhere or registered on a great site, you must wait a long time for just clicking an actiovation link. Frustrating. And it doesnt work with priority mail.

  • Oliver Sumpton

    It’s odd how this review doesn’t make any mention of MailPlane.

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  • Aquaman_Tom

    I have been following this for awhile. The time between each release varies but hopefully IMAP should be coming before the middle of the year. They mentioned it was coming in the first half of the year.

  • Sam

    Very nice app but my only grievance is text / font size. This isn’t so much a problem with Sparrow (or any of the other mail apps I’ve tried for Mac) and more to do with the high-res display on my MacBook pro. Text in messages is impossibly small and there seems to be no way of increasing font size. Or is there?

  • Naatan

    “Also there is no way to access existing folders or the ability to at least move the emails from the inbox into other folders”

    Right click an e-mail > Label. Gmail does not use folders.

  • Matt W

    Lovely looking app, but it seems to chew the CPU on my iMac 2.16ghz Intel Core 2. Somewhere between 10% & 30% even at idle.

    Uninstalled immediately unfortunately.

    • Jacqueline

      Is the program always taking up CPU or only when it downloads initially?

      I’m guess if its set to download mail only on demand that would be less of an issue.

  • Jacqueline

    I switched from vanilla mac mail to this program as soon as I tried it. I love it but see where it could use a bit more features. Sending mail is a bit slow.

    In any case, I can easily see Apple incorporating features in the next generation of the OS whenever they decide to finally change how mail looks and behaves.

  • Henrique

    Every single time – let me say that again – EVERY single time I send an email vua Sparrow, both to gmail accounts and other non-gmail accounts, the sender either does not get them (gets delivered into the “junk” mail folder, even though they receive mails from my gmail account every day without trouble) or Sparrow fails to deliver, with a “Technical details of permanent failure: Google tried to deliver your message, but it was rejected by the recipient domain” – EVERY single time. When I switch to browser (Firefox) gmail, I send the exact same messages to the exact same recepients without any delivery woes.

    Sparrow might have a lovely interface, but fails 100% as a gmail client. Want my money back.

  • markwvh

    Mostly, I love Sparrow. But 3 huge complaints:
    * font size
    * font size
    * font size

  • Bob

    Since we have a lot of apple mail gurus here–Has anyone had trouble with Apple mail causing Gmail to show unread messages as having been read?

    If so, is there a cure? So far, the only cure I have found is to stop using Apple mail.

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  • Polexzc

    I like STHeiti font, but it always goes back to Helvetica after sending a email, how do I set up the STHeiti as default font for sparrow?

  • Tom G

    Like another reviewer I’ve been using Mailplane since its earliest days, and I still love the app with its full integration with Gmail and regular notification to users of new Gmail features, e.g. labs, gears (no longer with us thank god), and tips.

    Time marches on, however, and so do email apps in the Mac universe. SparrowMail is a brilliant, as they say “minimalist,” app with all the essentials and no nonsense. I like the way the developers taking a thoughtful evolutionary path and I fervently hope they continue doing so.

    One feature that I would very much like in SparrowMail is spam/junk mail filtering. I know it’s a pain in the butt to implement whilst facilitating its use, but I think it would be well worth the effort.

    Other than Apple Mail, some standalone mail apps use SpamSieve—Mailforge immediately comes to mind. Perhaps SpMail could do the same.

    Otherwise, no complaint. Congratulations to the team!

  • Ben

    Can’t skip Facebook sign in … very annoying – and makes it silly for trying to use it as a business application (which I’m looking for). Looks good though.

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