8 Awesome Alternatives to Mail.App on Your Mac

One of the best things about your Mac is that it comes pre-loaded with tons of software goodness, right out of the box. Apps like Mail, Preview, iCal, and the iLife suite are all very functional, but sometimes they lack a little piece of extra functionality that more in-depth users need. That’s where more “pro” apps like Aperture, Adobe Reader and Photoshop come in.

Mail.app is not excluded from this situation, as it has had it’s reported share of problems and limitations. Even though most are not very significant, over time they can become annoying and sometimes switching to another application is the best solution. If you’ve had any problems with Mail.app, or if you have just grown tired of it, you should check out our eight alternatives below!

Postbox

Postbox

Postbox

Postbox is the newest, and most popular addition to mail applications. With its simple interface, easy setup process, RSS compatibility, Growl, Social Networking and OS X integration, it is definitely a contender for replacing Mail.app. If you’re looking for a simple and user-friendly, yet fully-featured alternative to Mail.app, this is it.

With Postbox 2 coming, there’s just more to expect from this great piece of software. Although it is expensive, Postbox will do anything you want it to do, and once you try it you probably won’t want to go back to any other mail client.

Price: $39.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Postbox, Inc.

Mailplane

Mailplane

Mailplane

Mailplane is a Gmail-only app, touted as “Gmail on your desktop”, and that’s exactly what it is. Basically, it’s a Gmail window, but being displayed in an app with some extra handy buttons added. Multiple accounts are supported, so is Growl; however, no mail accounts are supported other than Gmail, and it’s not anything new, it doesn’t bring any extra functionality to Gmail, other than the fact that it is actually running in a separate application and that could be convenient for some people.

It also adds a button to your menu bar where you can quickly see info. You could look at Mailplane as a convenient way of managing your Gmail account with the same lovely interface that Google has spoiled us with, but in a separate window. Or you could see it as Gmail with a price tag.

Price: $24.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: uncomplex ltd

Notify

Notify

Notify

Notify is a very basic mail application – simple, but brilliant. It functions through the menu bar; if you click the Notify icon you will see a drop-down window with a few buttons where you can quickly check your new mails and even send a brief message (with no formatting or attachments, though).

On the downside, it only supports IMAP accounts, and it’s a bit lacklustre for some people. For example, if you want to see images or details about an email, it has to pull up your account in a browser. If you want a fast, simple way to check your mail and/or write brief replies from your menu bar I’d recommend this, but it’s in no way a replacement to a full-featured mail client like Mail.app.

Price: $9
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Vibealicious

Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Thunderbird

Thunderbird is a mail client developed by the people who made the most successful browser to date: Mozilla Firefox. And its exactly what you’d expect from them: solid, functional, open-source, and full of fun and productive add-ons. It’s not exactly great looking, and it feels heavy and even a bit slow (when pulling data from your accounts), but it does exactly what Mail.app does, even RSS and tabbed browsing.

If you are a fan of Firefox and the add-ons that made it so popular, then you should try this, since it’s open source and it has a very robust library of add-ons. It is also one of the only free options that we are reviewing, and probably the best one. Thunderbird is definitely a solid replacement to Mail.app.

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Mozilla

GyazMail

GyazMail

GyazMail

GyazMail is seemingly very simple, but in reality it’s not that user friendly. There isn’t any setup assistant like with the other apps, and to set up your accounts you need to provide information that can be confusing for a regular user without much technical knowledge, such as the incoming and outgoing server of your accounts.

I had heard a lot of buzz about this app but I really don’t see why, there’s not much to it. It seems dated, not really good looking and it’s far from feature-packed (at least not when compared to more complete clients like Postbox or Thunderbird).

Price: Free
Requires: Mac OS X 10.3 or later
Developer: GyazSquare

Entourage

Entourage

Entourage

Although it’s already on its way out and we’ll be getting Outlook for Mac with the release of Office for Mac ’11, I had to put this, as it is the go-to for people that switched from Windows and are looking to replace Outlook in their new computer. Entourage comes with the Office for Mac bundle and, of course, it has full integration with the other Office apps.

It’s exactly what you’d expect from a Microsoft product; lots of buttons, features and functionality, but it also comes with a learning curve and confusion when you start using it.

It’s far from simple, but it does plenty and it does it well, I guess that’s enough for some people. If you are used to Outlook, or other Windows applications, you’ll most likely feel at home with this app, but you may as well just wait for Office for Mac ’11 to be released in a few months.

Price: Starts at $149.95, bundled.
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Microsoft

MailForge

MailForge

MailForge

Like GyazMail, MailForge also is a bit complicated in account set up, even though it has a setup assistant. What makes this app special is that it actually lets you chose between a “Classic” or “Unified” inbox, the former being a view with all your accounts separated, and the latter being just one inbox where you see all the emails from every account. It’s a nice touch, but the application itself is very reminiscent of GyazMail – perhaps a prettier, more polished version.

It’s an acceptable alternative, it’s simple and looks good. The fact that MailForge lets you chose your view is a pleasant addition, but aside from that it brings nothing new.

Price: $19.95
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Infinity Dat Systems

MailCue

MailCue

MailCue

MailCue is very similar to Notify – it mainly runs in the menu bar, although unlike Notify, MailCue’s main window is not the drop-down one that is displayed in the menu bar. Another thing that it shares with Notify is that it only supports IMAP mail clients, so you can’t check your Hotmail or other POP3 accounts here.

It’s actually very nice in it’s design and proved to be easy to use and setup. However, it does need to pull an extra window in order for you to be able to read your new mail, as the drop-down window can only display the number of new emails. It’s close to the price of Notify, so if you are looking for a fast menu bar alternative to Mail.app, it comes down to how you’d like your app; very simple (Notify), or just simple (MailCue).

Price: $10
Requires: Mac OS X 10.4 or later
Developer: Blue Crest Studios

Gmail

Gmail

Bonus Web App: Gmail as a Unified Inbox

When I got my first Mac stolen, with all the Mail.app info (along with the other tons of information I had in it) easily accessible to anyone, I realized how inconvenient and unsafe it is to use applications that store old mails and that don’t require a password to access them, such as Mail.app.

When I got my new Mac, one of the first things I did (other than change all my passwords from any site, ever) was redirect all my Hotmail, Yahoo! and other mail accounts to my main Gmail account. Then, I set up labels (with conditions) that indicate what account a certain mail came from.

That way, I only have to log in into one account and I can see all my mails neatly separated into different labels, and I can even access all my mails with one login from different computers. It’s very, very convenient and easy to set up, and I would highly recommend this, coupled with a browser notifier add-on.

Price: Free
Requires: Any browser
Developer: Google

Conclusion

There are a huge range of Mail applications for Mac OS, and most of them would be a good alternative to Mail.app. It really comes down to what your needs are, and what you are looking for in a mail client. If you are a business man, or if you are used to Windows applications, you might be better off using Entourage. If you are looking for something simple and fast, you could do with Notify or MailCue. If you are a Gmail user, Mailplane is for you. And if you are simply looking for a nice, functional full-featured client, try Postbox and Thunderbird.

Price also plays a part here. A mail client is something that you will most likely use everyday, but if you make the wrong purchase you might have to spend more money on another app. That’s why you should first try a free trial for a few days, or even a free app like Thunderbird, Gyazmail or Mailforge.

Overall, I’d declare Postbox as the winner with its simple UI and feature set that can’t be found anywhere else. It’s not everyday that you fork out $40 for an application, but Postbox is definitely worth every cent.