I’m a die-hard fan of Gmail’s web service. I just can’t get myself to work with Mail.app, I’m not used to it and I’d much rather take advantage of Gmail’s labels and filters directly from their web mail. Still, there are a few things that I like about Mail.app, like the notifications for new messages.
Some time ago, I had a menu bar Gmail notifier that solved this problem and worked wonderfully called Notify. Eventually it stopped working and the developer ceased developing it. I started searching for a similar app, but I couldn’t find anything worthwhile. Well, it’s been a while since then and some new alternatives have come out that I’ve found just as good if not better than Notify. Want to check them out?
I included MailTab in my last roundup, and I mentioned it as an app with a lot of potential, but that was ultimately broken. I have good news, though: it has been fixed and now it works wondefully. It’s my default Gmail notifier, and I’ve been using it for some time without any problems at all.
MailTab will notify you through the Notification Center of any new emails that you get almost immediately, and it also implements a mobile view of your inbox as a drop-down in your menu bar, so that you can read, reply and manage your inbox without having to open Gmail in your browser.
MailTab is free, but it gives you the option to pay an extra fee for the “Pro” version which removes advertisements, adds opacity control, gives you notifications (if you’re not running Mountain Lion, if you are you’ll get this for free), and provides access to Gmail’s Chat. You can upgrade to the Pro version for $1.99, or buy each feature separately for a little bit less. Personally, I’m just fine with the free version.
Price: Free / Opt-In Upgrades
Requires: OS X 10.6.8 or later
MailPop might look very similar to MailTab, but when it comes to features is when they differentiate from each other. They both run Gmail’s mobile web version, and they both have free and pro versions. But unlike MailTab, MailPop’s free version doesn’t have support for notifications, which is a big deal for me. It does have, however, a few other goodies like more keyboard shortcuts (for refreshing, navigating, composing and showing/hiding the app), and a stand-out compose window that works with drag and drop.
On the other hand, the paid version does support notifications and implements a few other amazing stuff over MailTab, like being able to set it as your main email client, full-screen desktop mode, and the ability to use it in “tablet mode” (iPad) instead of just the “mobile view” (iPhone).
MailPop has some interesting extra stuff that MailTab does not. Its free version might be inferior to MailTab because of the notifications, but the paid version fixes that and implements even more great extra features.
Price: Free / $2.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.8 or later
Developer: Binary Bakery
I ruled out Email for Gmail at first for a few reasons. It’s labeled under the “weather” category in the MAS. It’s name is not very creative, in fact, it’s kind of confusing. Its website is labeled as malware by Chrome. There’s two versions of this app on the App Store, “free” and “pro”, and they’re both the same price. There’s no useful info provided in the description on any of them. Still, you have to do your research, and so I went with the “Pro” version.
The first thing I noticed it’s that it’s a lot prettier than the other apps I’ve mentioned. It runs the mobile version of Gmail as well, but it shows it along with a sidebar that has a few shortcut buttons to give you quick access to your Inbox, Sent Mail, Drafts, Trash, and Starred items. This is great and a much needed step up from the way you access these in the other apps (which is just navigating around the mobile Gmail thing).
All the other things you would expect from a “pro” version are here, though. Growl and Mountain Lion notifications, desktop and mobile view, transparency control, and it allows you to run it in a window outside of the menu bar. A few things missing: keyboard shortcuts and drag & drop. Overall, not the best of the bunch, there’s a few bugs and some missing things, but the usefulness of its design makes this a good contender.
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: iLife Technology
Running a mobile version of Gmail in your menu bar might not be very convenient for many, and having them provide almost instant notifications of your new emails raises the question of how on earth they do it and if it’s safe at all for your Gmail usage and your system’s memory. Back when MailTab first came out, it had a lot of problems working with Gmail, as it would make it so that your account was limited after a while for “excessive usage”. I’ve also heard people complain about how much of a resource hog these kinds of apps turn out to be.
I’ve been using MailTab for a long time now and I’ve never had any problems with it, not even the old “excessive Gmail usage” thing, as that’s been fixed. The immediacy and great compatibility that these apps provide with Gmail has made them primary in my computer, and I can’t imagine going back to Mail.app or anything like it. Having access to my labels and contacts from Gmail is far too important for me, but how about you? Are you a die-hard Gmail fan as I am? Or do you use Mail.app, Postbox, Sparrow, or anything like that? Let us know in the comments!