Airmail for Mac OS X Is Making Email Beautiful Again

airmail transparent 300 icon   Airmail for Mac OS X Is Making Email Beautiful AgainFor those of us who were fortunate enough to have a childhood penpal, the word ‘airmail’ evokes fond memories of receiving packages from afar, usually laden with candy packed with enough corn syrup to put you in a perpetual diabetic coma.¬†Airmail has since taken on another meaning. It now refers to an email client developed by Italian software outfit Bloop, and a pretty incredible one at that.

When I first heard of Airmail ($1.99), I must admit I questioned if I really needed a new way to check my email. Like many people, Mail.app satisfied all of my email requirements, and I struggled to conceptualise ways in which an email client could be significantly bettered.

Airmail has conclusively proved me wrong. It has effectively dragged an old communication medium into the 21st century by combining beautiful and elegant UI design along with features that have traditionally not been found in email clients.

The end result is a brilliant email experience.

Getting Started and First Impressions

After I purchased and installed Airmail from the Mac App Store, it prompted me for my name, my email address and my password, along with a request to register for the Airmail newsletter. I declined, and clicked Add.

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My Gmail account was then fully synchronised and I did not have to do any manual configuration. Airmail also claims to work nicely with other major email providers including Zoho, Yahoo! Mail, iCloud or any IMAP account. Airmail will not work with your Exchange or Outlook.com email address.

One thing that startled me was how little Airmail felt like an email client. Emails are shown with the sender’s Gravatar next to them, and threads and hierarchies feel natural and intuitive. Closing an email in a thread is simply a matter of clicking the top of it. Pictures and videos are shown in-line in most messages and don’t look out of place.

At times, Airmail feels a lot more like using a web browser than checking your email.

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The process of composing new email is something that feels familiar and intuitive. Click the familiar compose icon in the main window or use the keyboard shortcut Cmd+N and you are greeted with the usual formatting and layout options.¬†The composing experience itself doesn’t feel radically different. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, as you don’t have to learn a new process.

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Looks and Features

Aesthetically, Airmail is something to behold. The combination of rounded edges, stark contrasts between dark and light colors and beautiful typography makes for an email client that is incredibly easy on the eyes. Icons are obvious and unambiguous, but I never feel lost while using this application. It feels utterly usable.

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It’s not just a pretty face, however. If you click one of the top menu buttons, you’ll see a dizzying array of actions which you can perform on your inbox. These range from the great number of flags and filters which you can apply to exporting an inbox in Outlook’s EML file format. You can also¬†delay sending emails and apply signatures to each email you send.

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In addition, Airmail comes with support for Dropbox, Google Drive, droplr and iCloud online storage services, meaning that any attachments you add to your outgoing emails are stored on your preferred online storage provider. It also integrates nicely with OS X, and has support for the Notifications Center that comes with the latest iteration of Apple’s operating system.

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Another compelling argument for Airmail is its cost. At just $1.99, it’s affordable and feature rich. It also contrasts favorably to the likes of Outlook, which can only be obtained by forking over great wads of cash for Microsoft’s pricey Office suite.

Conclusion

Those of us who happen to use Exchange (hosted or otherwise) will find that Airmail doesn’t work with it. The antiquated POP3 email protocol isn’t supported either. As a result, I’m forced to draw the conclusion that Airmail isn’t all that ready for the enterprise. Despite using the latest model of the MacBook Pro, there was some jitteriness when scrolling through my inbox. I should add that my inbox isn’t particularly large, so I dread to think what it would be like on a slower machine, or with a larger inbox.

Despite this, using Airmail is a joyous experience, and at this price point it’s hard to complain. The app feels astonishingly usable, and you can easily tell the developers exerted a great amount of energy in making email feel fun again.

Download: Airmail for Mac OS X ($1.99)

Have you tried Airmail? Would you recommend any other Mac OS X email clients instead? Add your thoughts to the comments, below.

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33 Comments -

Nicolo

How much did they pay for your Airmail review?
I bought the app two months ago I got a lot of issues in using it. Issues that people in Airmail team were not able to fix till now.
The thrue i s that Airmail is potentially a good application but they put it on the market too early catching money from people like me.

Matthew H

Nothing whatsoever! I even paid for my review copy of Airmail out of my own pocket. If it turned out to be an utter suck-fest, I’d have said!
What issues did you find with it, may I ask?

Nicolo

First of all it is really slow, it takes at least 2 minutes to download my mails (few seconds in Sparrow).
It doesn’t work with my email.it account (Sparrow does it). What I got from assistance is below:

From: Koda (Support staff)

You can ask the 2 dollar Refund to apple,
we apologize for trouble we are fixing the issues and releasing new beta,
I see you have an hang that should be fixed in beta
Thanks for the nice review however :)

Matthew H

Ah, what a pity. I admit, I’ve not seen those issues myself. Perhaps they were fixed in the build which I reviewed (version 1.0.4)!

Cheers!

Andrew

Another good, free alternative mail client worth checkin out is Inky (http://inky.com). Also trying to reinvent email with smart and simple features.

Matthew H

I’ll check it out. What do you like about Inky?

Andrew

I like the Smart Views, which automatically filter certain types of messages (social updates, newsletters, etc) into special views. There’s also the option to sort messages by personal relevance (kind of like GMail’s Priority Inbox but more fine-grained and for all types of mail accounts). Also, Inky has a Unified Inbox in addition to separate inboxes for different accounts, which is useful.

Matthew Hughes

Oh, cool! I’ll check it out! Thanks for the heads up!

Chris F

I went to their website and downloaded the Beta to give it a go. I wasn’t really that impressed. I am still a Sparrow user, and I love that Mail Application a lot. Airmail has to make a bunch of improvements still, and I hope they do. Considering sparrow was bought out by Google…

Matthew H

I’ve not used Sparrow much. Any good? What didn’t you like about Airmail?

Chew J

Wow. This is really beautiful.

Matthew H

I thought so too! I think you need to be using Mountain Lion to get the most out of it, though. Stuff like notifications is 10.8.x only.

Thomas MacKenzie

This looks good! I personally use PostBox. Looks very nice and integrates well with everything including my own mail server.

Matthew Hughes

I’ve never heard of postbox. I’ll check it out. Cheers!

Roberta Boe

I just downloaded based on your recommendation but I am having problems setting mine up. It keep saying there is an error on my server set up but it does not allow me to manually chance it! ;(

Matthew Hughes

Oh no! I’m really sorry to hear about that. Have you reached out to some of the Airmail guys? I think they have an online helpdesk, and you can speak to them on Twitter.

Hope it gets sorted out!

Cheers!

Michael Webster

I love Airmail. I have 14 different IMAP accounts I check and i haven’t had any issues. I love the way it sorts each account by a picture and shows them on the email so you know which one it came in on. I havn’t had any slowness issues at all. My only wish is to be able to collapse the IMAP folders and save mail locally as well, which according to their website are pending features. Keep up the great job. I gave up Outlook! No more MS !

Matthew Hughes

Thanks for your comment! Yeah, I think the whole ‘unified inbox’ thing is such an awesome idea. I rather like the product.

You say you’ve not had any slowness issues at all? May I ask as to what platform/machine are you on?

Cheers!

Michael Webster

I have a 15 inch MacBook Pro mid 2012 with OS X 10.8.4 with 16GB RAM

greg h.

Great review!
I have enjoyed using Airmail for over a month now.
I’d say I definitely fit into the “slower machine, or with a larger inbox” category using an old unibody macbook and three email accounts. Even still, Airmail does the job for me and I am very happy with the look and feel of it.
A workaround that’s works perfectly for me to use an Exchange account is to use DaveMail Gateway – http://davmail.sourceforge.net/

Simon Douglas

Would you mind sharing your settings?

Bas Grasmayer

Initially I really liked Airmail, but have been having a lot of issues with bugs, particularly in the text editor used for sending emails (eg. sometimes mails that are replied to or forwarded are cut down to about 200 characters).

Like it, but mail clients can’t afford to be this buggy.

Ben

Airmail has an infuriating bug where it does not allow you write between quoted text. One is only able to enter an inline comment after a line-break in the quote text.

Very frustrating, alas a nice interface and much smoother than the Mail app.
I hope they`ll fix this soon.

Doug Lerner

Since upgrading to Mavericks, Mail is still not showing all my Gmail from this afternoon. I can’t figure out why it’s so slow. Airmail shows everything right away.

I don’t necessarily thing Mail is better than Airmail, but I’m used to it. But the sheer speed of Airmail may have me getting used to it. There are things I find annoying about Airmail as well. But at least it is working!

What on earth is taking Mail so long?

doug

Matthew H

Huh, that’s weird!

Legendary Walker

I have the same problem as Doug Lerner. Since upgrading to Mavericks, it is taking hours for my latest messages to show up in Apple Mail.

Luke A

Getting Mail to work the way I want it to with Gmail just never seems to work the way I want it to (read: I WANT AN ARCHIVE BUTTON!). Despite using user suggested workarounds, it’s just not the same. I’ve also noticed somehow my default “send from” email somehow got switched, so for a few weeks I’ve been sending email from the wrong account…

All that being said, thanks for your Airmail review. I figured, for $1.99, why not? And now I have wonderful archive and trash buttons that do what they’re supposed to! (Oh, and all that other stuff the app does seems to be great, too… But did I mention I can easily trash and archive now?!!)

Pierre-Louis P

There actually is an archive button in Apple Mail. Just right-click the toolbar, click ‘Customize Toolbar…’ and drop the archive button where you want it.

However, it’s annoying how Mail creates yet another label for your archived emails. Of course, if you delete it, Mail doesn’t consider those e-mails archived anymore. Even if Apple has definitely been improving its integration with Gmail recently, they aren’t quite there yet, which is why I bought Airmail a couple of days ago, and I couldn’t be happier :-)

Mak

The only problem is that it does not have option to not save attachments on hard disk. This ends up taking a lot of hard drive space. And airmail is not doing anything about it despite repeated reminders from people about this issue.

Tim

How is it taking up hard drive space if it doesn’t let you save attachments to your hard drive?

Ichechi

I have a MAcbook Air running Mavericks and I recently downloaded Airmail.
It doesn’t allow me to configure my gmail! I have tried everything from help to manual…

Do you know what’s wrong?

Tim

Is there a way to get locally stored email in Apple Mail into Airmail?

Phil L

As of version 1.3, you can.