Ever since Google bought out Sparrow, we’ve been hoping for a new best-in-class email app for the Mac. We listed the elusive .Mail as one of the main apps we hoped to see released in 2013, but alas, nothing has materialized to date.
That’s no reason for doom-and-gloom. Instead, there’s an updated Mail.app in OS X Mavericks, along with the just-released Unibox and Airmail 1.2. Plus, there’s a public beta of Mail Pilot for Mac coming soon. Here’s the latest email choices on the Mac, with enough options that almost everyone should find a mail app they like for now.
Our own Pierre Wizla showed us earlier this year how Mail.app can be the best mac email app, and that’s even more true than ever in OS X Mavericks. The latest version isn’t perfect — it has some issues with Gmail that may mean you’ll need to redownload every email from Google’s servers — but it’s faster and more stable than ever. It’ll check for emails automatically, which means they’ll come in at least nearly as fast as in Sparrow, and in my usage, syncing doesn’t seem to hang as often as it did in Mountain Lion. Plus, it takes advantage of Mavericks new notifications to let you reply to emails right from the notification without leaving your current app. Throw in new and improved smart mailboxes that let you limit searches to just one of your accounts more, and search that lets you look for specific types of attached files, and you’ve got a rather good email app included with your Mac for the low, low price of free — one that happens to even support Microsoft’s Exchange server.
Most email apps are generally the same list of folders on the left, messages in the middle, and the conversations themselves on the right. Unibox turns that around, and makes your email about the people you talk to. Instead of focusing on Inbox Zero, it makes it easy to manage a full inbox — so much so, you might not want to archive emails anymore. You’ll instead be able to see every conversation in chronological order, with easy-to-identify avatars that make it easy to know who emailed. It’s got in-line quick reply just like Sparrow, and a clean interface that’s even simpler than Sparrows. And yet it makes sense.
We loved Unibox while it was in beta, and now that it’s just been released on the App Store for $9.99, it’s time for you to try it out. It’s easily the simplest and most unique email app on the Mac right now. For all the talk of replacing email, Unibox shows that the core email experience can be reinvented and made to feel much more like a modern chat app without ditching email itself.
The first new Mac email app to make an appearance this year, Airmail’s beta was initially promising but then didn’t hold up as great in its first release. Don’t let that first impression stick with you, though — the Airmail team has kept at it and continued to hone Airmail into a great email app. Every complaint I had about the initial version is gone, and there’s more new features to boot. The latest version includes support for Mavericks’ interactive notifications, just like Mail.app, and also throws in full-app keyboard navigation and a ton of bug fixes. It really works great now, and is a refreshing new mail app that’s new yet still works the way you’d expect an email app to work.
If you want a simplified email experience that’s customizable to work and look just like you want, Airmail is a great option. The options can be a bit overwhelming, but with a tiny bit of effort you can make it more minimal than Sparrow or as full-featured and options-packed as you want. It’s just $1.99 on the App Store, so there’s really not to try it.
Coming Soon: Mail Pilot
If you’ve always thought of your email inbox as a todo list of messages to clear out and things to get done, and you happen to be a fan of minimalist interfaces, get ready to love Mail Pilot. It turns your email inbox into a real todo list of sorts, where you “complete” your emails, can set reminders for the emails you need to check on again at a certain time, and can organize messages in your inbox the way you want. Most interestingly, you can push an email from your Mac to your iPhone or vise versa to clean out your inbox and still have the info you need on the device you need it. It looks very, very cool.
With a promised public beta very soon, Mail Pilot is the app that’s tantalizing us this time. We may never see .Mail in action, but Mail Pilot is actually coming — and that’s exciting.
Email’s too big of a market to ignore — we all have to use it, after all, and Sparrow’s lack of continued updates has left a hole in the market. There’s still Microsoft’s Outlook for business types, and the Thunderbird spinoff Postbox, and with this roaster of brand-new email apps, there’s surely something for everyone.
Our own James Cull argued that the future of email might not look so different than it does today, but the little tweaks and changes to our workflows that each new app brings makes the age-old online communications tool a bit more palatable to keep using. And we’ll still hope against hope for something really different that changes the way we all think about email.
Then again, sometimes it’s the little things that really matter the most.