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Lately, I’ve been trying to find the desktop email client that works best with Gmail. I’ve been a long-time user of Sparrow Sparrow - A New Gmail Desktop Client for Mac Users Sparrow - A New Gmail Desktop Client for Mac Users Read More , a fantastic mail app that was acquired by Google and thrown into the recycle bin. Since then I’ve been looking into a number of alternatives — many of which are still under active development.

I need support for Gmail labels and stars; the ability to handle multiple accounts, both Gmail and non-Gmail; multiple ways of sorting and dealing with email; and, if possible, a pleasing interface. Of these, support for Gmail labelling and non-Gmail accounts were of highest importance.

Here’s what I found.

Apps That Didn’t Make the Cut

First, let’s take a quick look at which desktop clients aren’t in this review. There are a few notable ones here, and I’ll address them quickly. I didn’t include Apple Mail, because it just doesn’t work all that well with Gmail. You can copy emails to folders to mimic the labelling functionality, but there’s no way to label an email and leave it in your inbox. It works, but it’s not great.

Inky and Thunderbird weren’t included because they don’t have label support. MailPilot, though it’s a great app, was left off the list for the same reason (Mailbox, however, was included, because I felt like one of the task-based clients should get a full review, and Mailbox is a solid free option). MailMate, at $50, is just way too expensive. MailPlane wasn’t included because it has no offline capabilities.

I’m sure there are others out there, but the six that I left off of the list and the four that made it are ten of the most popular clients. If you’re foaming at the mouth because I totally missed something, let me know in the comments.

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Unibox ($23)

unibox-interface

This “people-centric” app Unibox for Mac Makes Checking Email Less Tedious Unibox for Mac Makes Checking Email Less Tedious The number of email clients for both iOS and Mac platforms is about to explode, and personally I welcome the choices. Unibox is another option, so let's see what it can do. Read More places a strong emphasis on the idea of natural conversation in email. In order to do this, your emails are grouped by person, instead of by conversation — though you can still view your email conversations when you need to. While I found this method of organization to be difficult to get used to, I can imagine that some people will find it very natural and useful in their email correspondence.

Emails are presented as chat-like bubbles, following the trend toward unified messaging apps. The compose field appears in the same window, without opening a pop-up, which is nice. Other than that, the interface is relatively unremarkable and stays out of the way — there aren’t many distractions.

I ran into a couple small snags while testing Unibox. For example, some emails that I had previously archived were showing up in my unified inbox. I also found that the app worked better with folders than it did labels—you need to select “Move To” and then the label you want to archive your emails with that label.

That being said, Unibox is a nice app that functions well with Google’s email service, especially if you think you’d like the contact-focused setup.

Mailbox (free)

mailbox-interface

There’s been a huge amount of interest in Google’s new Gmail app, Inbox Google Inbox Review: A Breath Of Fresh Air Google Inbox Review: A Breath Of Fresh Air Gmail is a household name in the email department, but Google wasn't content with it. Meet Google Inbox, a new way of approaching email. Read More  — it treats your inbox like a to-do list Turn Gmail Into A Trello-Like Task Board With Sortd Turn Gmail Into A Trello-Like Task Board With Sortd In the modern workforce, your email often turns into your task list. Well, now you can get Trello-style organisation right in Gmail with a new Chrome extension, Sortd. Read More , and lets you mark emails as done, “snooze” them so they show up in your inbox at a later time, and organize them into categories so you can more easily deal with a number of them at a time.

Sounds revolutionary, right? Mailbox beat Gmail to the punch with this one. Dropbox released Mailbox for the iPhone Take Your Inbox Box To Zero With Mailbox For The iPhone Take Your Inbox Box To Zero With Mailbox For The iPhone The default Mail client for the iPhone has become in my opinion outdated, or it's certainly not as advanced as the hardware it resides in. Mail is not fun to navigate, and its latest features... Read More last year, and it does almost all of the same things. It’s still in beta, but the desktop app is nicely put together, and does just about everything you could hope for, except for one thing.

The big drawback for me in using Mailbox is that it doesn’t work with Gmail’s labels or stars; you could recreate all of your labels as lists, and create a high-priority list, but this seems like quite a bit of work. On the other hand, there is a Mailbox mobile app, so that lets you work in the same manner at your computer or on the go.

Another concern that some people may have is privacy; Condoleezza Rice, a former member of the Bush cabinet, is on the Dropbox board. The Bush administration wasn’t exactly known for being big on internet privacy Lessons Learned From Don't Spy On Us: Your Guide To Internet Privacy Lessons Learned From Don't Spy On Us: Your Guide To Internet Privacy Read More , and the fact that she’s closely connected with the cloud storage company has some people a bit nervous.

Airmail ($10)

airmail-interface

Although all of the apps listed in this review are purported to work well with Gmail, Airmail Airmail for Mac OS X Is Making Email Beautiful Again Airmail for Mac OS X Is Making Email Beautiful Again When I first heard of Airmail, 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... Read More does a notably good job with this integration. The first thing that stood out to me is that it’s very easy to label and archive messages. And, maybe most importantly, it’s possible to label messages without archiving them, something that I do a lot.

Overall, the app behaves a lot like the Gmail web app. The fact that you can go from a unified mailbox Combine Your Email Accounts Into a Single Inbox: Here's How Combine Your Email Accounts Into a Single Inbox: Here's How Juggling several email inboxes can be a hassle, but luckily with all the main email providers - Gmail, Outlook (Hotmail) and Yahoo - you can merge all of your email accounts into one inbox, and... Read More to a view of one of the labels from a single account is really useful, and means you can continue to work in the unified view more easily than you can in the alternative apps. Stars also work exactly the same way as they do in Gmail, which is nice.

The interface overall is pleasing — it has a minimalist vibe, with lots of black, white and grey; and few big logos or symbols. You can choose from a number of different views that increase or decrease the size of the snippets that you see and include or don’t include photos that indicate which account an email has been received in.

The inclusion of a number of services that you can hook into the app (Evernote, Dropbox, Google Drive, and a few others) is a nice addition, as well.

Postbox ($10)

postbox-interface-big

Postbox is a no-frills take on a desktop Gmail client. It has a very unexciting interface; it reminds me of Lotus Notes from five years or so ago. And while that’s not a huge drawback, it doesn’t fit in very well with the aesthetics used in Apple’s latest operating system.

However, it does have what I was looking for: support for multiple accounts and the ability to work with labels. It also lets you use Gravatar to download images, Dropbox to transfer files, and Evernote to store emails. Despite the bland interface, messages do display in a nice manner, making threads easy to follow.

There aren’t many drawbacks to Postbox other than its interface—but there are few things that make it really stand out from the crowd. For $10, it’s a very good deal, but it may not be the best deal.

Conclusion

After this search and a lot of testing, Airmail is the app I’ll be using on my own desktop. The fact that it works so seamlessly with Gmail sets it clearly above the other options. If you want a desktop client for Gmail, it’s worth the $10 it costs to download. Other apps do have merits that are worth mentioning, though.

Mailbox’s productivity-focused setup is great if you’re working toward inbox zero 5 Action Steps For Curing Your Inbox Zero Email Frenzy 5 Action Steps For Curing Your Inbox Zero Email Frenzy Inbox Zero is one of the most popular buzz words. To truly solve your email issues you need to go beyond Inbox Zero and address the underlying problems. Read More or using a productivity system like Getting Things Done (check out MailPilot, too). And if you often have to reference emails from a specific sender, and you’re less likely to need whole threads of conversations, Unibox provides a cool and innovative approach to email.

I’m leaving Sparrow for the more developmentally active Airmail. It won’t be easy, but it’s for the best.

Do you use a desktop client for Gmail, or do you prefer webmail?

  1. BLAH
    June 15, 2016 at 3:17 pm

    Airmail doesn't support a second factor authentication as implemented by Okta or others.

    • Dann Albright
      June 15, 2016 at 7:19 pm

      I haven't tried to enable 2FA on Airmail, but their FAQ says that it will work with Hotmail . . . not sure if that means Gmail will be coming soon, or is already available. Have you tried using it with non-Okta 2FA? Google's native option, maybe?

  2. Peter Gonzalez
    March 24, 2016 at 2:56 am

    I'm concerned about security with Airmail, I'm using the Airmail beta version for testing v 2.6. It automatically configured my gmail, iCloud and another IMAP account and I'm not sure the security configuration for my accounts is sending out my password in clear text or encrypted: incoming server security set to "NONE" for iCloud, “PLAIN" for my imap account and “LOGIN” for gmail account. Anyone know if this app is sending out credentials securely?

    Thanks!

    • Dann Albright
      March 25, 2016 at 2:12 am

      That's really interesting . . . I'll look into it and see what I can find out. Maybe I'll tweet the Airmail crew and see if they'd be willing to chime in on this question!

    • Leo
      March 25, 2016 at 3:01 am

      No Airmail 2.6 for Mac do not have push notification and does not store your credentials or messages on our servers. Gmail tabs support is planned.

  3. Mike
    February 18, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    No mention of the fact that Airmail still doesn't support Google's mail tabs (Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates), which makes Airmail pretty useless if you've been using Gmail web interface or something like Mailplane.

    http://feedback.airmailapp.com/forums/274948-airmail-mac-2-0/suggestions/5364540-add-support-for-inbox-tabs

    Maybe upvoting that a bit might help?

  4. Steve
    January 20, 2016 at 11:10 am

    Nice review. Just a quick question, is it possible to move mails from one account to another in Airmail?

    • Dann Albright
      January 23, 2016 at 7:04 pm

      Yes, you can! I haven't had to use that feature, so I had to go looking, but you can easily move them from one account to another.

      • Steve
        January 24, 2016 at 3:29 pm

        Thank you

        • Hugo
          February 23, 2016 at 9:02 pm

          I have used that functionality but it works rather strange. When you move a mail to another account the original date of the mail gets replaced by the date of moving. Have you had this experience as well?

        • Dann Albright
          February 24, 2016 at 12:14 am

          I just tested, and it does do that. It makes sense that the latest email would get an updated date, as it's like forwarding that email to the receiving account, but I'm not sure why all the rest of the entries in the conversation get updated. I'll see if I can find out why that happens!

        • Steve
          February 24, 2016 at 7:47 pm

          It does yes

  5. Fay Kelley
    January 4, 2016 at 4:45 am

    Thunderbird worked fine for both POP Earthlink AND IMAP Google for a few days ... then it won't download gMail.

    GOOGLE BULLY !

  6. Fay Kelley
    January 2, 2016 at 2:29 am

    I have not used Thunderbird before and I find I can have mailBox for both POP and IMAP. I am in the process of setting up multiple accounts.

    I don't know how easy it is to set up mail boxes yet. MacMail compared to Eudora is a pain, but at least I can retrieve both POP and IMAP on MacMail.

    Because of my experience with mail clients failing at some point, or the server won't deliver to some mail clients, and not to others for a period of time, I need to have my mail backed up in various places to be bullet proof.

    I'll see how this goes ... Unfortunately Thunderbird does not work on iPhone ...

    I was hoping to find a mail client to use on both iPhone and the MacBook Pros that i have. I'm still waiting for someone to design a mail client as robust and flexible as Eudora. If you did not use it to it's full capacity over a period of years, it is hard to understand the robust capabilities ... I have Eudora on another computer running Snow Leopard just so that I can find the mail I need, but I can't trust that old computer to do run the art applications because it is too small HD.

    • Dann Albright
      January 13, 2016 at 3:17 am

      Last I heard, Airmail was developing an iOS client as well!

  7. Fay Kelley
    December 27, 2015 at 5:12 am

    I would not have discovered MailMate without this article. I just downloaded the 30-day full trial.

    I gotta say I really like it. It automatically set up and downloaded 8 mailboxes based upon what I had in Mac Mail.

    I'm reading the "instructions" my only questions is can I download earthlink mail as well like I can in Mac Mail.

    This is a really really fine mail client. If I can't find something that functions with gMail as well as this, I might spring for the $49 ...which is something we really cannot afford at this time, but I can't be using a web server browser screen for mail at this point during my life, LOL.

    Thanks again for the article ! In the meanwhile I'll check out some of the others.

  8. Fay Kelley
    December 27, 2015 at 3:10 am

    Apologies, I'm so annoyed with my lack of downloading gMail that I completely forgot to THANK YOU for the wonderful research ... I'll give a few a try ... but please peeps, forget PostBox. Very unreliable.

  9. Fay Kelley
    December 27, 2015 at 3:07 am

    PostBox *used* to work with gMail ... I have spent months trying to get it to work and it will not.

    I use MacMail as it will download both Earthlink and gMail ... however now THAT will now download gMail either!

    So I'm looking for a mail client to use as a backup for my gMail mail. It goes to the iPhone but not Mavericks desktop. This is very frustrating as I backup my Hubby's mail on my Mac and now his Google mail has been lost several times and I have no backup.

    I want a mail client that LOOKS and WORKS like Eudora ... that I can write scripts for and have a ROBUST mail client like that. One that never fails and for me -- I hate stars, personalities, and all that garbage.

    I want a regular dependable mail client that will down load for IMAP and POP and will do stuff in folders like Mac Mail and Eudora but will ALWAYS work with gMail.

    DropBox is owned by relation to Bush ... no wonder peeps were saying that DropBox is not secure !

    I guess I'll have to wait for the reincarnation of Eudora or a different MacMail ....

    Thank goodness I never gave up my Earthlink emails (almost 20 years) for that stupid free gMail as they keep blocking my downloads when I have never asked for that and it seems almost impossible to get them running again. It worked for a year and then nothing. No matter how many times I delete an account, change the password, etc. etc.

    We need some creative programs who will do a labor of love and create an AWESOME mail client.

    • Dann Albright
      January 2, 2016 at 1:54 am

      I totally agree that someone needs to come up with an awesome client—as I've mentioned numerous times in the article and the comments, I love Airmail, and it keeps getting better. But I think there's still a lot of room for improvement, and email clients are definitely ripe for disruption (can't believe I just used that phrase). Gmail's Inbox is a great example of thinking about email differently, and if more people start thinking that way, we could definitely see some big improvements in how we deal with email clients. I hope you find a good solution—be sure to keep us posted!

  10. kw
    November 19, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    Geez, I guess desktop email apps are just out of style on Windows and Mac. I'm not crazy about any of these.

    Postbox looks good, but it has gone up to $15. That seems like a lot considering probably 80% of the code came to them at no charge.

    I was entertained by the Condoleezza Rice comment considering the context of this article: GOOGLE mail clients. Worrying about privacy in Mailbox is like going back into a burning house to see if you left the oven on.

    • Dann Albright
      November 23, 2015 at 1:54 pm

      I've come to really like Airmail, and I'm hoping to try Mailbox in the near future, but I can see why you're not super impressed. Most of the functionality is easy to get from a browser window; I just like to be able to do some of it offline and to not keep an extra tab open.

      Also, if apps were priced based on how much of the code was developed in-house, pricing for pretty much everything would be WAY different. And a lot of companies would probably be out of business, leaving us without a lot of fantastic apps. :-)

  11. Max
    November 13, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    Why not just simply use Apple Mail app?? It has a nice interface and handles multiple email accounts nicely and does all the cool things you seem to like works flawlessly in the Mail app.

    • Dann Albright
      November 17, 2015 at 8:59 pm

      In my experience, Mail isn't great with Gmail. One big feature that it's missing is the ability to apply a label to an email in the inbox. In Mail—at least last time I checked—if you put an item in a folder, it would disappear from your inbox. In-inbox labelling is one of the things I like most about Gmail.

  12. Anete Zoo
    October 6, 2015 at 10:22 am

    thanks for the comparison

  13. Peter Westerman
    September 9, 2015 at 9:06 pm

    Airmail has an iOS version coming soon as well. Can't wait!

    • Dann Albright
      September 9, 2015 at 10:08 pm

      I actually really like the Gmail app for iOS, but I'll definitely be trying the Airmail one when it comes out!

  14. Darien Craig
    September 5, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    Check out kiwi for gmail (gmail for mac on kickstarter)

    • Dann Albright
      September 9, 2015 at 10:07 pm

      You know, I think I tried that when it was Gmail for Mac. I wasn't super impressed, only because I could have just opened a new browser window and achieved the same effect. Do you use it? Do you like it? I'm curious as to what advantages it offers!

  15. Dominique Pierce
    August 28, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    Thanks for your review. I am going to buy Airmail because you mentioned the one feature that I really want and have not been able to find: the ability to label a message without archiving it. I have tried Mailbox, Outlook, and Postbox.

    Thanks!

    • Dann Albright
      August 29, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      The ability to label without archiving is essential for my workflow, and Airmail handles it very well. It's still a little buggy at times, but I haven't come across anything deal-breaking. Hope you like it!

  16. Balint Hamvas
    July 30, 2015 at 2:35 pm

    I've been using the Gmail web app for about 6-7 years now, but since became a freelancer I travel so much, I felt I needed a desktop client so I could work offline at airports, on trains, etc.

    I've tried out a few options above but none was perfect:

    Mailbox: really like the simplicity and the interface, but for some weird reason, it didn't mirror the current state of my (empty) Gmail inbox, hence I had 4200 unread messages, which isn't very helpful.

    Airmail: like the interface, but when I tried to work offline, annoying messages popped up that it couldn't send the messages. More annoyingly, it doesn't offer the not very complicated outbox feature, so all the unsent messages were categorised as 'Drafts' and I had to send them manually, once I had connection again.

    Postbox: ruled it out as you have to decrease the security of your gmail account, which I was not willing to do.

    • Dann Albright
      August 10, 2015 at 1:04 pm

      Have you tried using the Gmail Offline extension for Chrome? That might solve at least some of the problems that you're having. I don't like it all that much (partly because it's really ugly, or was the last time I used it), but it might meet more of your needs than the clients that you've tried.

      I agree with the Airmail annoyance; getting all of those warnings is irritating. It's been a long time since I've had to send an email when offline, so I don't remember having to go back into drafts, but that would be really inconvenient, too!

      What's the best solution that you've found so far? I'm still using Airmail 2, which has been working really well for me. I try to keep an eye out on email client releases, but I haven't seen anything else come out recently.

      • Balint Hamvas
        August 11, 2015 at 4:05 pm

        I used to use the Offline extension, but I got fed up with it, as very often it wouldn't work when I was offline. And you are right, visually it is rather unpleasant, but I could live with it if it worked.

        I ended up with Mailbox, which has a few annoying, beta-related niggles (clicking on links freezes the software, archiving sometimes doesn't work, etc.), but I really like the ease of use, the clean interface and the 'Later' option.

        I'm conscious of the fact that I might end up using an inferior product out of convenience and there might be other, better options out there, so I guess I'll keep an eye on things, too :)

        • Dann Albright
          August 13, 2015 at 1:11 pm

          Sounds like Mailbox is working alright for you! I haven't checked out the beta yet, but I'm tempted to give it a shot; I like Mailbox on iOS, and I don't see why it wouldn't be a great option on OS X as well. Maybe I'll wait until those beta bugs are sorted out, though. :-)

    • carri bugbee
      November 20, 2015 at 12:24 am

      Now that it has been a few months, how has Mailbox worked out for you? Being able to get things accomplished while offline is one of the main reasons why I don't use Webmail. That can really boost productivity while you're on the road.

      I've been using Apple Mail for everything (including Gmail) over the years, but now that I'm collecting emails from 10+ mailboxes, the volume has really bogged down the app. I keep deleting, but it's problematic to have tens of thousands of emails.

      I want to separate my Gmails from my domain emails, which I've already done on iOS devices w/ the Gmail app. Now I'm looking for the best email client for Gmail on the desktop!

  17. Gary Cramp
    June 10, 2015 at 3:58 am

    I am looking for another email program to use. I have been using Thunderbird for nearly 10 years, on a PC and now on a Mac Book Air, for the last 3 years.. I have been very happy with Thunderbird and would still use it, if it would operate correctly with the new apple update OS X Yosemite. Since I downloaded OS X, Sending a photo with Thunderbird can no longer happen.. Apple have made the files where your photo are kept, very hard to find for Thunderbird.. In fact the photo file that TB tries to find isn't there.. As TB is so old and OS X so new the, it seems they have different ways of finding things.. I'm not very happy with the way Photos in OS X has sorted out my files a lot more work and harder to move photos around. In time we will all get use to using Photos but in the mean time there will be a lot of unhappy people.. Has any body else had trouble with OS X trying to email photos?

    Looking at some of the other email programs no one has mentioned emailing photos?

    Look forward to any comments Gary

    • Dann Albright
      June 12, 2015 at 2:00 pm

      That's interesting–I hadn't heard of that issue before. If you email a lot of photos, I can see why that would be irritating! Have you tried sharing from within the Photos app? (I haven't used it much, so I can't say if that's a good way to go, but it might work.)

      As for apps that work well with photos, I'll have to defer to the other readers here; I don't send all that many photos, and I've never had trouble with Airmail (and didn't with Sparrow before it). Maybe download a free trial of an app or two and see if it works better?

      Hopefully others can chime in with their experiences, too.

  18. Anonymous
    April 23, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    First off, thanks for the post. I am not a experienced user per say, and i think my needs are fairly simple. I have only one gmail account that i want to link to my mail app, so labelling may not be a priority. I need it to be very user friendly and stable, and easy to archive messages.

    I tried Outlook for Mac, but I kept receiving the same e-mails two to three times, and couldn't find a way to eliminate that. Sometimes I received e-mails on the web, and not in outlook...

    I tried the original Mail app for Mac, but i never could figure out a proper way to install the account and synchronize everything.

    I am now using Thunderbird, but it is a bit problematic not to be able to see event invitations. And it now seems to be a bit unstable (a lot of application memory problems...)

    I am starting to think the only stable option is the web based gmail, but as others were saying: it is not fantastic...

    Any hints?

    • Dann Albright
      April 26, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      Check out Airmail! I think it's the best option available right now.

  19. Paul Collins
    April 19, 2015 at 6:02 pm

    Gmail Offline is a reasonable suggestion, but I have not tried it. If it's anything like normal Gmail web client, it would not meet my wishes, which are:
    * Integrated work and home email accounts
    * Introspect dates, addresses in mail body to auto-create events and contacts when you rollover (I think only Air Mail and Apple Mail do this).
    * Archive messages to local storage where they are still searchable
    * Sort mail lists by to, from, status, attachment, etc.
    * Include mail in OS X Spotlight searches (often finds things I wasn't expecting to find in email)
    * Its hard to copy text (like subjects) when everything is a link.
    * I reserve Chrome for Flash content browsing only. Flash is not installed in OS X, for efficiency and extra security. http://daringfireball.net/2010/11/flash_free_and_cheating_with_google_chrome (or Google "gruber flash chrome")

    To resolve slowness, I'm paring down my gmail archive, and upgraded to Yosemite last night.

    Because we use email so much, the user interface and UX is critical and personal. Everybody can find something that works for them, and choice is great! Which is why this comment thread could go on forever :-)

  20. Paul Collins
    April 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm

    I used Airmail for about half a year, with an Exchange account and two Gmail accounts. It did a good job with Exchange as well. In the end, though, the way it would file my sent mail item in a conversation along with a reply, when I only wanted to file the reply, was a deal-breaker. Did you notice this or find a workaround?

    I'm back on Apple Mail, although having severe performance problems due to Gmail's seem tendency to archive everything, even though I've set Mail to trash-not-archive mode. At about 50,000 items, Mail can't keep up.

    (I love how the conversation here has continued over time. I'm always finding pieces like this via Google search, and extended commenting is increasingly rare. Nice job on the replies.)

    • Dann Albright
      April 19, 2015 at 3:52 pm

      I'm glad you've found this extended discussion helpful! We have a great community of writers and readers here, and we try to keep up with these things as they evolve.

      Anyway, I think I know what you mean about filing a sent item in the conversation, though that's something that I haven't tried to find a workaround for. I like having as many pieces of the conversation as possible visible when I open a message thread. As far as I know, there isn't a way to only view the replies. The guys at Airmail might know, though (I'll see if I can get a hold of them and find out).

      And while I don't use Apple Mail, I can see why it would get slowed down after a while. 50,000 items is a lot, and archiving instead of deleting things (as Gmail is built to do) can be a pain. Have you tried the Gmail Offline extension for Chrome? I like the webmail interface for Gmail, and the extension lets you use it offline (though it's pretty ugly).

      Thanks for your comment!

  21. Shawna Moos
    April 6, 2015 at 6:34 pm

    I was not a fan of the Bush administration but your assertion that Condoleezza Rice's being on the board of DropBox makes people nervous about using Mailbox is just plain stupid. You're either a bald-faced liar or an utter idiot. Seriously, do you think she's sitting in board meetings saying stuff like, "Let's loosen up security controls in Mailbox to make it easier for us and the government to snoop on people."? No, I don't work for those companies. I have no vested interest in the product. I don't even like Rice.

    • Dann Albright
      April 6, 2015 at 6:44 pm

      Shawna, because I don't recognize your name and this is our first interaction (at least that I remember), I'm going to leave your comment up on this page. In the future, if you personally attack authors on this site in the manner that you've done here, your comments will be deleted. We're all for disagreement and debate, but we also expect commenters to act like adults.

      Anyway, if you read the article again, you'll see that I didn't say that people should be worried about Rice being on the Dropbox board. Only that some people are. There's an entire site dedicated to this idea (drop-dropbox.com). PCWorld, The Guardian, BBC, and Wired have all reported on this particular issue. You can think what you want about me, Rice, and Dropbox, but this is an issue that people care about. So call me a liar if you want, but if you do, just remember that you're also calling all of those (generally pretty well-regarded) publications liars as well.

  22. Coen
    March 28, 2015 at 10:20 am

    I love Reading these posts but I think we all miss sparrow right? There is simply no alternative and that sucks :-)

    • Dann Albright
      March 30, 2015 at 11:06 am

      Yeah, as much as I've come to like Airmail, I'd still prefer Sparrow to be under development. I'm so surprised that Google bought it and shut it down; there's a big fanbase. Very disappointing. Anyway, not a lot we can do about it!

    • Anonymous
      April 2, 2015 at 1:05 pm

      Exactly. Sparrow was the best client. I would still continue to use it but Sparrow started to act weird. When I send an e-mail to my domain's email from my Gmail's address it is rejected by secureserver.net (GoDaddy server). And if I send the same email from Google web interface or Apple Mail it works fine.

      I have no idea why Sparrow started to use GoDaddy smtp server or what other reason for this behaviour. It seems I just have to withdraw Sparrow and it's really pity.

      It was a bad choice for Sparrow team to cancel Sparrow support the next day the got money from Google. Funny thing I have bought Sparrow for Mac and just next day they announced it's over ;)

    • Dann Albright
      April 3, 2015 at 9:02 am

      Ah, sorry to hear that it's started acting up. It was bound to happen sometime. That's really bad luck that you bought it right before they announced its demise! I keep hoping that Google might resurrect it, but that's seeming less and less likely. I don't know why they shut it down. To keep it from competing with browser-based Gmail, maybe?

  23. Cainael
    March 6, 2015 at 9:44 am

    Hello,
    thanks a lot for your benchmark about these mail software.
    Can you tell me how did you show the name of your labels in AirMail in your thumbnail ?

    Thanks

    • Dann Albright
      March 6, 2015 at 2:44 pm

      It took me a while to figure that out! If you go to Preferences > Appearance, the Messages List dropdown lets you change the inbox view. I have mine set to Pro XL.

  24. pete
    February 23, 2015 at 2:55 am

    What about foxmail ?

    • Dann Albright
      February 23, 2015 at 6:48 pm

      I'm not familiar with Foxmail—what do you like about it?

  25. Mike Tatham
    February 10, 2015 at 1:46 am

    Note that Outlook for Mac works differently than the version under Office 365. Regular Outlook for Mac will sync calendar and contacts, where the 365 version requires Exchange to do so. I thought that might need to be clarified.

  26. Mike Tatham
    February 10, 2015 at 1:39 am

    I saw the comment on Outlook for Mac. I wouldn't have gone to it but with my frustration with Mail and my wife getting a Office 365 subscription with her new Surface I decided to give it a go. Microsoft support tells me that gmail calendar and contacts will not sync without Google creating an Exchange account for my gmail to flow through. Ive never used Exchange, except when dealing with my employers email, so Im wondering if they will want to charge me for it. If so, I may abandon Outlook and come back to this article to choose another client. Good list here. Thanks

    • Dann Albright
      February 10, 2015 at 10:34 am

      Ah, that's interesting. I've never been a huge fan of Outlook, but it is a pretty popular client, so you might find that you like it. Keep us updated on how you're liking it! I'm always interested in hearing what people use for email on Mac, as it's tough to find a client that works for everyone. But if you do decide to switch to something else, I recommend Airmail.

    • Helene Smith
      May 9, 2015 at 2:57 am

      Hi Mike and Dann,
      I just trialed and then started an install of Office 365, with Google Apps support on the phone, and just as I was ready to hit "go", he found a major problem: Outlook for Mac 2011 AND Office 365 do not support aliases. That's it; game over for me!Really bummed.

    • Dann Albright
      May 13, 2015 at 7:27 am

      Ah, that's too bad, Helene. I didn't think about that. Have you looked into any other options since then? What have you been using thus far?

  27. Tom K
    February 1, 2015 at 3:06 am

    Gmail for Mac (by Zive) is supposed to be released soon. It looks very promising, although I can't imagine they'll be allowed to keep that name. I'm currently a Postbox user, have been for many years, and is my preferred client. While not quite as visually appealing as others, it's customizability and functionality are above and beyond the competition. Works flawlessly with Gmail, labels, etc. and even allows Gmail shortcuts (to some extent).

    I just installed MailMate and must admit I'm impressed. The scope of Smart Folder options makes it a very powerful tool for message grouping/processing. $50 is hardly expensive for a piece of software that is used daily and increases productivity through its feature set. 10 cups of Starbucks. 5 fast food meals. A tank of gas. I mean, seriously.

    • Dann Albright
      February 3, 2015 at 10:34 am

      I hadn't seen Gmail for Mac before . . . looks very intriguing! I'm definitely looking forward to trying it.

      And the more I hear about MailMate, the more I regret my decision to not review it. I may have to do an updated version of this article with a review of MailMate. It seems to have a lot of fans!

  28. lincoln
    January 27, 2015 at 2:30 am

    Unfortunately Postbox has been decreasing in usability for a while now. Over the last three months especially it's been crashing about 6 times a day, freezing a lot and just generally being really shitty. I've stopped using it - decrease in work output due to constant restarts, having to rewrite emails, etc was too much. Am on the lookout for a new client...

    Shame too, as I really love to delegation of emails (important, etc) and also use of smart inboxes that can sit along the top tool bar...

    Maybe if they fix all the bugs - instead of telling me to look at their FAQ all the time - I'll head back. It's a good app for sure and really did help a lot when I first started using them...

    • Dann Albright
      January 27, 2015 at 10:51 am

      Sorry to hear that! My copy of Airmail has actually been misbehaving over the past week, too; it's been slowing my computer down a lot. Hopefully both apps will get fixed in the near future. They're both really great. Continually being referred to the FAQ is infuriating—I've had that happen before with other support teams. Drives me nuts.

      Thanks for the heads up on that issue!

    • lincoln eather
      January 27, 2015 at 11:00 am

      it's frustrating for sure, but it seems to be part an parcel with email clients these days. think i've tried about ten now, all which fail in some way or another. seems anyone building a client is more obsessed with the fairytale dream of 'zero box' versus creating something for people who need it for organisation.

      again, if postbox pull their finger out i'll head back. right now i'm stuck in the browser with gmail. also very gross.

      thanks for the heads up on airmail, was about to re download it again for another shot (search function, or lack there of it, has always killed it for me)

    • Dann Albright
      January 27, 2015 at 11:06 am

      I definitely agree that people are trying to go with the trendy 'inbox zero' and 'task-based e-mail management' angles right now . . . which I'm sure is good for some people, but it's annoying if that's not what you're looking for.

      I'm using browser Gmail at the moment, and it's not too bad. I hate having more tabs open, but it does do the job. At least the keyboard shortcuts are the same ones that I'm used to. I think I could get used to it again, but desktop clients are so much better (especially for offline capabilities).

      As for Airmail, you could still give it a shot . . . my computer behaves strangely every once in a while, and certain apps do that from time to time (my Macbook is now over three years old, and I use it many hours every day both for work and play, so it might be approaching 'acting weird' time).

  29. Rick
    January 21, 2015 at 4:26 pm

    Good article, Dann, and very much appreciated but it was really spoiled by the interjection of politics into an email review.

    Obama's NSA spying on ALL emails and cell calls of ALL of us doesn't scare you 1,000x more than Rice, an ex-Secretary of State and highly respected college professor and college President, on the Dropbox board?

    Privacy concerns are fair but really?

    • Dann Albright
      January 22, 2015 at 7:49 am

      I didn't mean to imply in any way that I wasn't more nervous about the NSA spying and the things that the Obama administration has done to keep a very close eye on everyone in the country. That makes me very uncomfortable.

      However, some people have found it concerning that Rice is on the board of Dropbox. It doesn't concern me much—I use Dropbox all the time, and I've used Mailbox in the past—but I know that some people take issue with it, so I thought it was worth mentioning.

      I know that she's highly respected and that she served as Secretary of State, but that doesn't keep a lot of people from associating her with the administration under which we saw some of the first warrantless collecting of information (or at least a significant increase in the amount of it).

  30. Peter Gray
    January 15, 2015 at 4:39 pm

    I'm looking for an alternative to Mac mail, which I find drab and unreliable (some messages from inbox get trashed and no one seems to know how), and I'm seeing mostly conflicting opinions. Macworld likes Postbox, the Sweet Spot loves Mailbox, which this site doesn't (Bush administration and Condoleezza Rice, really???) and prefers Airmail which SS hates.

    I think I'll give Postbox the chance; it looks robust and I think I live with some austerity. Anyway, thank you for the analysis; it helped me make the decision.

    • Dann Albright
      January 16, 2015 at 9:19 am

      Definitely give Postbox a try—if it wasn't for the not-very-exciting interface, I think I would have liked it more. It's not surprising to me that different sites have different preferences—a lot of it comes down to things that you like or don't like, completely on a personal level. There are some pieces of functionality that are just better, but for the most part, I think it comes down to finding the app that works best with your style of emailing. Same goes for privacy concerns—some people are worried that Rice is in the Dropbox board, some are not.

      Let us know how you find Postbox!

  31. Doug Lerner
    January 15, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I tried the $2 version of Airmail for a while but I had all sorts of syncing problems with Gmail, such as not being able to find Sent mail (it wasn't getting labeled). I like Apple Mail's aesthetics except it doesn't always work reliably with Gmail. Sometimes mail sits for hours and hours on the Gmail server and never gets synced over into Mail. Also the lack of simple labeling (shortcut L) and label/archiving (shortcut V) is a big drawback.

    I've been using Mailplane for a while now simple because it is reliable and because of the Gmail shortcut support. But its handling of embedded images is really awkward (it takes like 4 clicks before you can finally paste a PNG and get it sized right. That works much better in Mail. And, of course, it only works with Gmail.

    One feature that Mail has which neither Gmail nor Mailplane has is "Send Again" which is very useful in my work. In Mailplane the best you can do is forward and clean things up before sending. Airmail insists it has a "Send Again" feature but at least the version I had did not and I got tired of arguing with their developers about it. The feature labeled Send Again didn't. I wonder if the new $10 version has that feature.

    Also, the aesthetics of Airmail still didn't seem as nice to me as Apple Mail. The black left columns seemed gaudy to me. But again, I don't know if that has changed lately.

    I read about all sorts of problems with Airmail and Gmail, but you seem to indicate that there are no problems anymore. No syncing or missed labeling issues remaining?

    Thanks,

    doug

    • Dann Albright
      January 16, 2015 at 9:17 am

      Doug,

      Thanks for sharing your experiences! Sounds like you've done a lot of comparing. The Send Again feature sounds interesting—what, exactly, does it do? Do you just hit "Send Again" on an item in your Sent folder? I've never noticed anything like that in Airmail, though I've never gone looking.

      As for the aesthetics of Airmail, I have to disagree with you—I really like how it looks. Especially the black sidebar. But that's just a personal preference. :-)

      And as for syncing issues with Gmail, I haven't noticed any. My labels are working fine, and it syncs reliably. The only thing I've noticed actually started recently, and that's that some of the emails that get labelled and archived automatically get labelled and stay in the inbox of Airmail for a bit, even though there's no "Inbox" label on the email. So I can't get rid of it. It's not a huge deal, but something I've noticed.

      Thanks for reading!

      • Carri Bugbee
        November 20, 2015 at 12:34 am

        The "Send Again" feature is VERY handy if you have to send the same or similar message to a number of people.

        It's like a short-cut for copy/pasting a message into a new email, but it's faster because you don't have to copy/paste in both the subject header and body. You can change the recipient and edit it before you send it again as well.

  32. larrymcj
    January 13, 2015 at 3:32 pm

    Dann, the Mailbox (beta) app for Mac actually does support Gmail labels. But like its iOS sibling, you need to move all your labels (in Gmail web) under the [Mailbox] label. Then they all show up in the Mailbox app.

    • Dann Albright
      January 16, 2015 at 9:14 am

      Ah, that's good to know! Thanks for sharing that tip.

  33. Mark Adams
    December 25, 2014 at 8:25 pm

    One of my frustrations with The default Mail app is that the font becomes messy when emails are viewed in Outlook on pcs (they'd often arrive in 2 different fonts). I tried add-ins but found they always seemed to lag Mac updates. Hence switched to Airmail and this has addressed the problem. Since many corporate users are not in the Mac environment isn't the presentation format of emails important in any assessment of desktop email client?

    • Dann Albright
      December 29, 2014 at 6:17 pm

      Yes, I'd say that the formatting is very important! This is a problem that I haven't heard of before, so I'm not able to offer any advice. Switching to Airmail seems like a great way to deal with the problem, though!

      Has anyone else run across this problem? Any recommended solutions?

  34. Keith Martin
    December 9, 2014 at 11:42 am

    A useful roundup, but if you're truly searching for "the perfect Mac desktop Gmail client" then I feel you should have reviewed MailMate for its features and THEN commented on its cost – not simply rejected it solely on that basis.
    MailMate is a very powerful, effective email client, and I originally found it through a similar article that did exactly what I suggested above: reviewed it for its features and pointed out the cost. From that I made my shortlist of apps to try and decided that MailMate's price was worth it *for me*. It has turned out to be MY perfect email client, as far as such a thing is possible.

    • Dann Albright
      December 11, 2014 at 7:54 am

      As you probably noticed, you're not the first person to share this opinion. And, to be honest, I'm now convinced that you're right. I was thinking of myself and what I understand the average user to be. For some people, though, MailMate seems to be a great choice. I'll certainly keep that in mind in future roundups, and especially in conversations about mail clients for OS X.

      Thanks for chiming in!

  35. R
    December 4, 2014 at 12:40 am

    You've left out Google's own offline Gmail client. It is by far the best.

    • Dann Albright
      December 4, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Ah yes, I did fail to mention that extension as a possible solution to the problem. It does work well, and maintains the general feeling of Gmail. However, it doesn't work well for people who have a number of different accounts from other providers, and it only kind of qualifies as a "desktop" client, as it still runs in the browser. Other than that, though, it's a very functional option. Not very pretty (at least not the last time I used it), but definitely effective. Do you use it?

  36. Noel Green
    December 3, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    You have successfully logged my monthly experience and evaluation of mail apps for quite some time! I found this post by doing my regular search for "Mac Email Client." I was too a fan of Sparrow and ditched it when support stopped. Since then I've been simply web-based Gmail... but that is so... I don't know... "non-fantastical." The search continues for me — and may include giving Airmail another go. I am also excited (?) about the Gmail "Inbox": the Google Kool-Aid has been good so far so I'm all for drinking more of it.

    • Dann Albright
      December 4, 2014 at 10:10 am

      Glad you stumbled across this post, Noel! I agree that web-based Gmail is nice, but non-fantastical. I highly recommend trying Airmail—it took me a little while to get used to it, but give it a bit of time, and I think you'll come to like it.

      Inbox is really cool, but I don't think there's any way to use it offline on the desktop. It also encourages a pretty specific way of dealing with your email, and if you don't already use your email in that way (as I don't), it can be a bit of a tough transition. I'm looking forward to seeing it continue to develop, though!

  37. Lakhmir Singh
    December 3, 2014 at 11:43 am

    I'm sorry If It may sound out of sync but why was Outlook for MAC not a part of evaluation here?

    • Dann Albright
      December 4, 2014 at 10:07 am

      I should have mentioned that I did briefly consider adding Outlook to the test list, but from what I can tell, it doesn't play nice with Gmail labels. Like Apple Mail, it can be made to work, but it's not ideal. Have you used Outlook with Gmail before? How did you find it?

    • Lakhmir Singh
      December 4, 2014 at 11:06 pm

      Oh yes; must say not a fan of Outlook or M$ but then been in professional environment and using exchange addresses, I've had to work with it. I've been using Outlook for mac for my personal gmail account for nearly 4 years now. Granted no supported for labels; it plays fairly nicely actually. I still use OSX's stock calendar which works pretty well(instantly) with Gmail's calendar. That's why I wondered why not Outlook for Mac.
      I've used Apple's Mail but much as I like Apple's products(barring iPhones), Outlook for mac is what I'd prefer.

    • Dann Albright
      December 5, 2014 at 7:55 am

      Thanks for sharing your experience! It's good to know that Outlook can be made to work well with Gmail. The lack of support for labels was a big count against it for this article—that was one of my top priorities. Probably my topmost priority, in fact, just because of how I use my email account (seemed to make sense to reflect my personal search in the article, as well as a wide view of options).

      Anyway, what about Outlook do you like more than Apple Mail? Which features does it have the Mail doesn't?

  38. Sean Inglis
    December 2, 2014 at 9:56 pm

    Mailmate has a 30 day trial option. Given that's the case, I'm amazed you can assert that it's "way too expensive" without offering any supporting evidence.

    For me at least, Mailmate had a unique combination of *working* label / tag support, multiple account / identity support, and a functional threaded conversation view that no other client offered.

    Well worth the price od admission if you drive your workflow largely from email, and don't want to be locked into a particular web client / provider.

    • Frank
      December 2, 2014 at 10:34 pm

      Here, here.

      i worked thru all the listed apps in the list above and found that with my 5 mail email addresses (all on different services) Mailmate was well worth the money.

      Frank

    • Dann Albright
      December 3, 2014 at 1:41 pm

      Sean, yes MailMate does have a 30-day trial, but that doesn't make it any less expensive in the long run. $50 is still a lot for a mail app.

      That being said, I'm glad to hear that it's the best option for you! It sounds like the combination of features is exactly what you were looking for. If it was cheaper, I think it would fit a lot of people's needs really well. I just don't think most people are going to be willing to pay that much.

    • Dann Albright
      December 3, 2014 at 1:42 pm

      Frank, with five different email providers, I can see how paying $50 might not seem like a bad deal! As I mentioned in my comment directly above, though, I don't think most people are going to be willing to pay that much for an email app when there are so many free and cheap options available. I'm glad to hear positive feedback for the app, though!

  39. Justin Pot
    December 2, 2014 at 9:45 pm

    Nice roundup. I found this OS X app for Google Inbox recently, it's not bad if you're into Inbox. I think notification support is coming, which could be useful.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/osx/comments/2lz0x2/using_inbox_by_google_ive_made_an_os_x_wrapper/

    • Dann Albright
      December 3, 2014 at 1:38 pm

      Glad you liked it! The OS X app for Inbox looks interesting—I think Inbox is going to be very popular once it gets out of beta. And if there's ever a standalone app that'll work offline, it'll be even better!

      I still like my Gmail labels, though, and in my limited experience, Inbox isn't great for working with them. Maybe one of these days I'll just suck it up and start using email the way they want it to be used and see if I like it!

    • Justin Pot
      December 3, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      I'm just lucky, in that I already use email exactly the way Inbox thinks I should!

  40. Samuel
    December 2, 2014 at 3:54 pm

    Before I made the change to Mac earlier this year, I was an undecided Thunderbird/Webmail user. Thuderbird, being free, was an excellent choice. The possibility of running a calendar extension made things even better. But, like discussed, the 'labels' feature made web(g)mail more interesting and, at times, easier to use. I created a million different filters to get my folders on Thunderbird to work similar to webmail, but I continued to use both intermittently. I later won a Postbox contest (courtesy of MakeUseOf) and didn't return to Thunderbird or Webmail. The interface and other little things were decisive.

    Later, with the change to Mac, I figured I'd continue using the OSX version on my Mac. I set up both Postbox and the native Mail client... but for some reason, the Mac's native client felt better.

    Sure, I can't play around with labels (but for my day to day usage, they're not that necessary), and for integrating my work account, it seemed to perform better than Postbox. Mac Mail has what I need... and whenever necessary, I'll jump to webmail to clean out my trash and spam and all that other junk Mail can't handle.

    • Dann Albright
      December 3, 2014 at 1:34 pm

      Thanks for sharing your experience! I've contemplated using the Mail app a number of times, and even tried it a couple times, but it just never really felt like it was doing a very good job of what I needed it to do. Glad that it's working well for you, though!

      If Apple ever introduces good support for Gmail labels, I think it'll be a solid contender for best mail app out there.

  41. Robert
    December 2, 2014 at 2:27 pm

    I tried all of desktops mail clients and still number one for me is Sparrow. I know that no updates but everything works fast and good :)

    • Dann Albright
      December 3, 2014 at 1:32 pm

      Yeah, I can understand that—I really do like Sparrow! It's still a great app, even if it's not getting updates. I hope it continues to work well for you!

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