Are you looking for a new email client for your Mac because you’re tired of Apple Mail? Many third-party clients are worth considering, each packed with features either missing or lacking in Mail.app.
Let’s take a look at what features you’re missing out on, and which clients do them the best.
Has Your Message Been Read?
So you’ve sent an urgent email but have no idea whether the recipient has read it. Because of this, you don’t know when you need to follow up. This situation is where email tracking would be ideal. Even if you’re sending to multiple recipients, you’ll know exactly when each recipient reads your message.
One of the few clients to do this is Polymail (currently by invitation only), which shows you when a recipient had read your email right from the message screen. Just hover over the lightning icon to see the time and date when the recipient read the message.
Put It Off for Later
Ever get an overflowing inbox full of important messages, without the time to read them all? This situation is where a set-aside feature comes into play. By removing emails from your inbox, you can focus on what’s important right now and remain distraction-free. Just schedule messages to show up again at a later time or date. Some clients, such as Airmail ($10) call this “Snooze.” Others, like Polymail, call it “Read Later.”
Most clients with a set aside feature only move emails from the inbox to another location. However, Airmail takes this a step further.
To “snooze” an email in Airmail, right-click on the mail you wish to remove and select Snooze. From there, you have the following choices: later today, this evening, tomorrow, weekend, next week, or set aside. Each selection removes the email from your inbox and places it in the “Snooze” folder. At your specified time, it will once again appear in your inbox.
Send at a Better Time
Some messages aren’t meant to be sent right now, even though you have the time to draft it. What should you do? Send it later.
Once again, Polymail does this quite well. When you’re drafting an email, click Send Later at the bottom of the screen. From here, you can select from the following: later today, tomorrow morning, tomorrow evening, this weekend, next week, in a month, or pick a date & time. Polymail also lists the exact date and time the email is to be sent. This feature is an excellent way to make sure an email doesn’t go out on a weekend or holiday, for example.
Mail Pilot ($20) is also worth considering if you like this functionality. In addition to a set-aside feature, it includes a reminders area. By setting a reminder for a message, Mail Pilot will prompt you when it’s time to deal with it. This feature is perfect for messages reminding you when deliveries are arriving; meetings are scheduled; bills are due, or the like.
Use Gmail Keyboard Shortcuts
Gmail keyboard shortcuts are a critical tool for many users. They can dramatically reduce the amount of time you spend in your email client. A list of these shortcuts is available by pressing “?” in Gmail. Unfortunately, these shortcuts are not supported by Apple Mail. However, they do work, at least to a degree, in some third-party clients.
AirMail, for example, supports many Gmail and Apple shortcuts. You can also create shortcuts, by going into your Mac’s System Preferences, and then Keyboard > Keyboard Shortcuts. Postbox ($15) and Polymail also support Gmail keyboard shortcuts, while Mail Pilot offers a set of its own.
Who Are You Emailing?
In a digital world, we are always sending emails to people we’ve never actually met in person. Apple Mail pulls email data from your Contacts list, but there are better ways of doing this than going back and forth between two applications to find more information about someone.
The application that does this the best is Polymail, which gives you a detailed Contact Profile for each recipient. From this screen, you’ll see everything listed in the Contacts application, including their social accounts. Email interactions and attachments sent are also listed and clickable from this location.
Other Tools That May Be Good to Have
Write in Markdown
Airmail is one of the few email clients to offer the ability to compose in Markdown or HTML. As you type on the left, the result is shown on the right side of the screen. Being able to view the formats side-by-side means you can make sure to remove broken links or weird-looking text before sending.
It’s also an excellent way to practice your markdown if you’re learning.
Know How You’re Doing
With Mail Pilot’s Dash, your daily life is summarized on a dashboard, thereby helping you to become more productive. It includes the number of messages that you have received in the past 24 hours, plus those that are completed, set aside, due, and late.
Dash also summarizes the average time it takes for you to reply to emails and more. Another handy feature provides links to files that you’ve recently sent or received, which is very nice.
Looking for Modifications?
No email discussion is complete without also mentioning Nylas N1 (free), available on GitHub. It’s the only open-source solution on our list.
Nylas N1 is the closest thing you’ll see to a next-generation mail program. It features a clean user interface, supports Gmail keyboard shortcuts, and best of all — because it is open-source — it has a community to back it up. However, because it’s so new, you may run into some problems, at least in the short-run. For example, N1 doesn’t currently offer a unified inbox and the formatting isn’t quite right.
But What About Apple Mail?
Despite its shortcomings, there are a few reasons you might want to stick with Apple Mail. Not surprisingly the biggest reason is integration. Like other native Mac apps, Apple Mail works with Spotlight, a system-wide desktop search feature on OS X and iOS.
Yes, all email clients have search capabilities. However, only Spotlight lets you look at the entire picture. For example, you may wish to search your Mac for a colleague. With Spotlight, you’ll have access to emails you’ve received from them, photos, web addresses, and more. In OS X El Capitan, you can even use natural language processing to find “email from Mark I received in March.”
Apple Mail also works with Continuity, which lets you seamlessly move between your iOS devices and your Mac, or use them together. One of the key features here is Handoff, which allows you to start a document, email, or message on one device and pick up where you left off from another device.
One Final Note
Email clients, like other software applications, aren’t perfect, but each is unique enough that you can probably find one that’s perfect for you. Though many of these tend to be on the expensive side, most offer free trial offers. Our best advice is to shop around and see which one is best for your needs, and be sure you can do without Apple Mail features not yet available elsewhere.
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