3 Great Gmail Menu Bar Apps

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?

MailTab / MailTab Pro

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
Developer:

MailPop / MailPop Pro

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

Email Pro for Gmail

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.
Price: $1.99
Requires: OS X 10.6.6 or later
Developer: iLife Technology

Conclusion

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!


  • Air

    I’ve been using MailTab (the free version) for a while and I’ve never had a problem with it. The whole idea is just amazing. It apparently does a better job than Mail.app. However, I do think that Mail.app is irreplaceable, especially when you have several email accounts to manage at the same time. MailTab, on the other hand, is a convenient, fast-running software that really makes your life easier if you just need to send and receive mails at any time — given that you don’t have too many mails to deal with every day. I’d definitely give MailTab a five-starred review.

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  • http://www.pcweenies.com Krishna

    MailTab Pro is what I use. Great little app – makes it easy to check my emails at a glance. The company also has a FB app (MenuTab) which installs on the menu bar as well. Both are well worth their $1.99 asking price.

  • http://www.fiplab.com Rishi

    Hi Jorge,

    Thanks for the write up and recommendation!

    You will be glad to know that our update coming out later today will have even better hotkey support. In addition to our standard open/close, refresh etc hotkeys, we have added a global compose hotkey and are working on some secret behind the scenes improvements for later versions.

    One of the most requested features we recently added is the Unread Emails count, which appears next to the menubar icon (pro users only).

    Don’t accept the knock offs. MailTab is the original Gmail notifier for the Mac App Store with more than 400,000 downloads to date and 3,500+ five star ratings. It has almost 2 years of updates and improvements put into it – so you can rest assured it is robust :)

    We drive so much traffic to the mobile Gmail website, that Google gave MailTab a special URL so they can handle our traffic separately (which is why the issue of false-positive automated requests lock out from over a year ago was quickly fixed).

  • danny

    I still run Notify because it can have multiple accounts from different services. My personal email is Gmail but my uni email is through Hotmail. Only thing it (and all these menu bar email apps) is missing is the ability to add attachments to am email.

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      MailPop actually does support drag and drop attachments.
      I own multiple accounts as well, but I have them all forwarded to my main account, where they get labeled accordingly to where they come from. Try it out, it’ll probably take you 15 minutes to set everything up in Gmail.

  • larrymcj

    MailTab looks nice, but after using Gmail since its inception, I’m not about to jeopardize my account with Google. In the MAS there are many 1-star reviews of this app saying Google locked them out of their accounts because of “unusual activity” when using it. Additionally, other reviews say it won’t work with a Google Apps hosted domain account, which I have. i can’t imagine any Gmail add-on or enhancement not working with Google Apps these days.

    • Rishi

      Those reviews are from years ago. We now use a special URL provided by Google themselves, which prevents the ‘unusual activity’ error. This message was displayed as MailTab became so popular and Gmail’s servers flagged the traffic wrongly. Since then, Gmail’s product manager reached out to us and we solved the issue together.

      Also, MailTab does work with Google apps accounts. I use my google apps account with it perfectly.

      • larrymcj

        Thanks for the clarifying explanation, Rishi.

        • larrymcj

          @Rashi: I’ve been trying MailTab and though I like it a LOT…there’s one thing missing that I depend upon and use a great deal. “Undo” is an indispensable feature of Gmail but I understand it’s not possible for you to add this to MailTab.

  • Robin

    None of these apps support multiple gmail accounts. Notify is the only one I know of which does – which is why I’m (reluctantly) still using it – despite the bugs and absence of ongoing development.

    Are there any alternatives which support multiple accounts?

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      I wish I could keep using Notify, but it is truly unusable since I upgraded to Lion in my computer. I don’t know of any alternatives that support multiple accounts, but I use the method I described above in a reply to Danny.

      Basically, I forward all of my secondary accounts to my primary Gmail account. Then, I set up labels for each of the secondary accounts so that everything gets labeled and organized properly, and that’s it: happiness!

      • Vidal van Bergen

        When I upgraded to “Mountain Lion”, notify started working correctly again, the only issue I have now, since I bought a retina mac, is that some of the graphics are of lower quality.

  • Elena

    what about the altamail app?

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      I think that’s an iOS app? Not really what we were going for with this roundup.

  • Millca

    I have found that the best option for gmail on the Mac is Mailplane. It allows for quick access to numerous gmail accounts, includes notifications for all accounts or just the active one, and so many other features! Can’t believe it wasn’t mentioned in this article, but it isn’t strictly a Notify replacement but rather an email client for Gmail. It is $24.99 in the MAS but worth every penny!

    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      Mailplane’s pretty cool and we have included it many times in our past roundups, but it doesn’t really fit into the category that we were going for with this roundup, as you mentioned.

  • Hawk
    • http://about.me/jorgerdz Jorge Rodriguez

      That looks pretty cool, it could work as an alternative for everyone looking for an app that works with multiple accounts. Not sure if I’m that much into the UI, but thanks a lot for the suggestion!

  • Tom G

    I still hate Apple Mail.

    I could stop right there, but a couple reasons with a little history.

    I hated the first Mail out of the gate, most of you don’t need to ask why. I hated each of subsequent iterations of Mail because they didn’t make anything better, and some things worse.

    So it would take a really spectacularly dramatic change that would catch my attention in a minute if not in a second, to get me to use Mail again ever. Today’s Mail doesn’t do that, in fact it’s the most meh upgrade I’ve ever seen and it’s a pain in the ass to set up and use for my gmail accounts (which are all that I own, except for one iCloud POP account. And that brings me to my final complaint ever about Mail — I will never use Mail again except for the one exception I mentioned — I hate IMAP mail, though I understand why other people use it and many can’t live without it. When setting up Mail the app ASSUMES, more like DECIDES I will use only IMAP mail now and, presumably, for ever. That’s why I say goodbye to Mail forever.

    In fact I do use it now just to keep an eye on its further evolution, and for my one iCloud mail account, which account I only use for one project I’m working on, including apps dedicated to the project and nothing else.

  • larrymcj

    I’ve been using MailTab Pro for awhile now, and the one missing feature that will probably force me to change to something (perhaps MailPop Pro) is MailtTab’s inability to use drag & drop for attachment. I send a lot of attachments, and it’s a genuine PITA to attach a file when you’re used to drag & drop. Other than that…it’s a great app, as are the other apps I use from FIPLABS.

  • Ed

    I’ve been searching for a while now hoping someone might have any success with my situation.
    I have a Mac with the gmail notify app on it for my mail.
    Is there a way to have that app running for my wife’s gmail account? I mean specifically having 2 apps running at the same time. We don’t want to have the 1 app retrieving her mail and my mail. We want our own personal notifier app. We don’t want to set up our own individual login accounts either.
    Thanks.

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