Airmail – A Real Sparrow Alternative?

After Sparrow dropped its steady development, many users included a new item to their wish lists: a replacement to the dear mail client. The spotlight was turned onto projects that pledge to revolutionize the way we work through our inbox, using existing apps or brand-new apps. However, revolutions take time.

Airmail is a mail client that retains the simplicity which made Sparrow such a appreciated application. Because, sometimes stripping a resource to the bone is the real shake-up we need.

Early Impressions

Setting up your first email account looks intimidating, however, unless you must pick a different service, the drill is the same as in Sparrow.

Setting up your accounts is easier than it seems.

When the main window pops up we can almost feel at home already. You’ll notice the additional column; Airmail doesn’t keep the icon sidebar integrating your accounts and their main folders, it splits in two screens. If this doesn’t please you, you can easily merge both functions in a single column as in most email clients by clicking the icon at the bottom of the application.

Airmail also has a beautiful menubar icon, but unfortunately, it doesn’t display your unread messages as in Sparrow. I can only hope there’s more to come for that pretty thing.

The main window definitely raised our expectations.

When accessing a single mailbox, Airmail lists your labels right below your folders. It integrates beautifully with Gmail and the other services it supports, bringing your additional folders to your menu. Airmail also provides the Gmail’s shortcuts, so the most avid users will adapt in a blink.

Airmail displays a lot of information for your emails in a clever way that won’t clutter the description. If you’re checking your Unified Inbox, each email has a thumbnail in the right corner indicating its enclosing mailbox. Hovering over it will also show an arrow to view the available options for the message, so you may avoid a right-click.

Sending a message just doesn’t follow the expectations

Sending a new message opens a window much closer to the default mail application than Sparrow. All options are displayed right in the window.

Airmail integrates with your Dropbox, allowing you to save your attachments in a dedicated folder and send links to the shared file. This process is not as fluid as in Sparrow or Postbox, and you may only share files this way if you click the Dropbox icon. Dropping a file anywhere will create a regular attachment.

What are you gonna miss?

As you check everything Airmail has to offer, you won’t find a way to link your social accounts as most email clients do to include the picture of your contacts. Postbox even goes further and allows you to send messages to your friends in Facebook, for example.

Airmail allows you to import the contacts from Address Book and you can synchronize your social networks there. However, be careful as it’ll fill your contacts with @facebook emails most of the time and they’re sort of useless.

Social integration is missed, but importing your contacts is easy.

Two other features to miss are Quick Replies, which allow you to reply to your emails without opening the New Entry window, and support to a server other than IMAP, which means users of POP services won’t appreciate Airmail pretty much.

What it brings to the game?

If there’s one thing Airmail overcomes the competition, it’s bringing together a nice set of default filters within its minimalistic approach in design. You’ll find these options in the bar crossing the bottom of your screen. It lets you only view starred messages, those containing attachments, or only conversations. You may reverse the order in which your emails are arranged and use multiple filters to narrow your search even further. As you have a message selected you may only display the emails received from that contact.

Using the Unread filter you can get an empty inbox.

But what really stands out is the Unread filter. It works just like the notorious smart mailbox from and only shows messages you haven’t checked yet. This means that every time you open Airmail you don’t have to face the messages you’ve already dealt with. Besides, there’s nothing more minimalist than an empty mailbox.

Airmail also presents several themes to customize your client the way it pleases you most. At the moment, there are five options that manage to differentiate from each other while maintaining the minimal layout.

Choose the theme that better fits your workflow.

Regardless of its features, the best thing about Airmail is a very active development. As you join its beta, new versions will be sent to you almost daily, with bugs being fixed and options being added. The world of email clients nowadays is up to the top with promises and, as results aren’t shown, it’s imminent that users will lose faith. Airmail is a step back into the reality. It might not be a Sparrow alternative, nevertheless, it is a much needed option in the emailing world.

Still a beta

If you need an immediate substitute to Sparrow, you’d better not hold your breath just yet. Airmail still crashes and malfunctions a lot and several of its functions often conflict with each other and display the wrong information. If all you demand is a nice way to read and reply to your emails, it is quite good to pick, but for more serious work you may expect some issues.

Airmail has a great feedback support for its crashes

This review didn’t evaluate most of the concerns related to Airmail that were directly related to its beta status. It is not as fast as its competition and its design could certainly receive some improvement, but is getting there.

It’s the world of testing, after all, and being part of the development of Airmail is your chance to shape a promising application to better suit your workflow.


Every minimalistic email client these days will face the shadow of Sparrow, inevitably, but what makes Airmail a great project to follow is that it can stand by itself. Great integration with the available services, Dropbox integration, multiple themes and its well-thought filters will finally let the Sparrow’s orphans sleep peacefully.

Airmail is not only the single real option at the time to fill the gap left by Sparrow, neither the candidate to keep its legacy alive. Airmail is growing to become an email application on its own. Don’t be surprised if after its release, no one will compare it to that email client you once loved and lost in the way.

Don’t throw away your actual email application yet. Just yet. In case you’ve missed, though, you may apply as a beta tester for Airmail right away.


Airmail is a minimalist approach to email client with great features that distinguish it from the competition.