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Why isn’t there a native Gmail app for Mac?

It might sound like an odd question – after all, Gmail was one of the first truly functional web apps. It’s always been in the browser, and that’s arguably a key selling point even today.

That’s one perspective; here’s another. Gmail offers native apps on Android and iOS, both of which blend with their operating systems. Why shouldn’t the far more powerful desktop operating systems get the same treatment?

It’s a particularly relevant question for Mac users, who love the window management, notifications, and other features of OS X. We went searching for the perfect Mac Gmail client The Search for the Perfect Mac Desktop Gmail Client The Search for the Perfect Mac Desktop Gmail Client Need a desktop client for Gmail on your Mac? We put ten to the test. Read More , but I’m not convinced we ever found it. All have some sort of limitation that feels like you’re missing out on great Gmail features, such as instant search and proper label support.

Isn’t there some sort of compromise?

Kiwi: Less Than a Client; More Than A Browser

Clearly lots of people feel the same way I do, thinking Gmail deserves a dedicated desktop app. 3,444 backers pledged $42,202 on Kickstarter for something called “Gmail for Mac” (since re-branded as Kiwi for Gmail).

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The video makes a lot of promises; does the final product measure up?

Taking Gmail Beyond The Browser

Before we get started: obviously on some level this is Gmail running in a browser, albeit a browser with numerous Gmail-specific features.

kiwi-main-screen

The approach is similar to Current, a Facebook app for Mac Chat Outside The Browser With Current, A Facebook App For Mac Chat Outside The Browser With Current, A Facebook App For Mac Sick of opening Facebook in your browser, just to use chat? Current for Facebook is a Mac app that brings your favourite social network to the OS X desktop. Read More , which takes Facebook’s website and better integrates it into the Mac environment. There are pros and cons here, obviously.

On one hand you get a complete experience: everything you expect from Gmail works just the way it does in a browser. On the other hand, you might argue this is little more than just a browser window.

But there’s more going on here. Here are a few features Kiwi offers that you can’t readily get in the browser:

Let’s take a look at a few of these features, and see how they work.

Gmail With Native Mac Notifications

As someone who thinks of notifications as some sort of mental poison Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Eating Only Dessert: Why Your Information Diet Is Probably Terrible [Feature] Email. Social networks. Blogs. Online video. People today consume more information than ever before, and typically only consume the things they really, really like. Clay Johnson compares this to a bad diet. "If you only... Read More , I was really impressed with the way the Kiwi team implemented native notifications. The reason: for the first time, you can choose to see notifications only for emails Gmail deems “Important”.

Most people don’t pay a lot of attention to Gmail’s “Important” tag, but it turns out (at least for me) that it does a pretty good job of only showing the emails I’m likely to care about. If you want to be notified of important emails, and only important emails, this is a great feature. You can better “train” the feature better by flagging email you consider important, and vice versa.

You can also see a count of unread emails on the menubar and the dock icon, if you like, and choose whether there’s a sound. A built-in “Do Not Disturb” feature, accessible from the menubar, lets you turn off email notifications for a while. You can also launch compose windows from here.

Detached Compose Windows

A few years ago Google changed the way “Compose” works in Gmail Gmail's New Compose Cleans Up Clutter, Enables Multitasking Gmail's New Compose Cleans Up Clutter, Enables Multitasking Gmail's new compose mode is simple, it's clean, and it's a great sign that Google isn't done improving Gmail yet. Back in July Google acquired Sparrow, a brilliant email client for Mac and iOS users.... Read More , making them hover over the rest of Gmail. Some people like this; others hate it.

Whatever your feelings about how compose works within Gmail, I think you’ll agree that separate windows are better. In Kiwi, you can launch such a window from the menubar or by use of a keyboard shortcut (Control + Option + Command + M by default). Set Kiwi as the default mail client and these detached windows will also show up when you write a message.

Quickly Switch Between Users

You’ve probably noticed a box with an email address at the top of every window here. Click that box and you can switch email accounts, quickly. And when I say quickly, I mean just that: you won’t be waiting for another instance of Gmail to load. It’s seamless.

It’s a small thing, sure, but if you use one Gmail account for personal use and another for work this is a big deal.

What’s Missing?

I think Kiwi just might be the Gmail client Mac users are looking for, but it is missing a few things.

Try Kiwi For Free; $10 For All Features

Curious about this app? You can download Kiwi right now. You can choose between Kiwi ($10) or Kiwi Lite (free). Lite differs in a few ways:

  • Only supports one account
  • No keyboard shortcuts
  • No important-only notifications
  • No do not disturb feature
  • No support for Gmail plugins (when such support comes)

Which version you need is obviously up to you, but Lite is free so there’s no reason not to try it out.

Is This The Ideal Mac Gmail Client?

When Google bought Sparrow, a much-loved Gmail client for Mac with a fully native interface, it prompted a lot of anger, but also some speculation. Might Google be planning to put out a Gmail app for Mac?

Three years later, it seems not. Google seems steadfast in its belief that desktop apps are a waste of time, and that absolutely everything should be run through Chrome.

kiwi-mac

That puts Mac users who also love Gmail in a tough spot, because there will likely never be an officially supported desktop version of their preferred email client – only unofficial attempts that don’t quite work.

From this perspective, Kiwi for Gmail just might be the best Gmail client for Mac we’ll ever see. All of Gmail’s web features are here, because the app is essentially Gmail running in a browser. Kiwi strikes a balance by providing just enough additional features to make it worth running.

Is all that worth $10? What do you think?

  1. Milo Thompson
    December 7, 2016 at 5:01 pm

    Please Try Gamma it is for Windows, Linux , and MAc and doe all of these thing plus office 365 integration

  2. Darren
    August 15, 2016 at 2:57 pm

    After paying for the full version I wouldn't have expected to see the gmail ads. Or have I missed something?

  3. Henry Nielsen
    August 11, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    I think Aura is a better alternative to this, all the parts you want like multiple accounts and important notifications, and none of the stuff you don't.

    It's also half the price!

    https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/aura-your-smart-gmail-assistant/id953924032

  4. Rachel Yates
    August 8, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    What about Mailplane? Did I miss something?

  5. Robert Farrell (Rob)
    August 7, 2015 at 8:49 pm

    Why on Earth would you want this? The great thing about Gmail is that it does not need a native, desktop application.

    • Justin Pot
      August 7, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      It doesn't need one, sure, but sometimes having access to desktop features is nice. It's not for everyone, but lots of people wanted it for a variety of reasons. It just fits in nicely with the Mac operating system, without sacrificing anything.

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