Review: Airmail for Mac

Mail.app on the Mac is a powerhouse, but I don’t like it. I never have liked it. It is cluttered, slow, and although it is not necessarily a bad app for dealing with email I just don’t enjoy using it. For me, Mail.app is overkill. I don’t have issues keeping email under control, and because of that I would rather have a more lightweight email client.

On my iPhone and iPad I use Mailbox. It is a beautiful, simple app that gets the job done quickly. On my Mac, I have always used Mail.app because there was no good alternative. Sparrow, the epitome of beautiful email apps, is still available, but I refuse to use an app that is no longer developed. Because of this, I have been forced to use Mail.app.

A few weeks ago, a came across a new Mac app called Airmail. It promises everything that I was looking for: speed and simplicity. At the time I downloaded it the app was a public beta, but it has since been released in the Mac App Store.

The way I use email is not very complicated. I receive email, I read and act on them, and then I either leave them in my inbox or archive them. Ever since I adopted Mailbox I have used their “later” feature to clear my inbox, but because that simply uses a Gmail label it is available in any email app.

Because my email workflow is so simple, Airmail works great for me because it has the ability to be very simple. However, Airmail is also a powerful email client with a rich feature set.

Have it Your Way

Setting up Airmail is the most complex part of the app. I don’t mean adding an account though, that part is easy. The app supports Gmail, Google Apps, iCloud, Yahoo!, AOL, and generic IMAP. I use Gmail, and the app syncs flawlessly. Adding your account is easy, but digging into Airmail’s settings and customizing the app can take some effort.

When you first open Airmail and get logged into your account, the app looks a bit cluttered. In order to achieve that Sparrow look, it takes a little customization. Hiding the filter view, the folder view, and the detail view will get you started. You can also switch to the minimized view with ⌘9. That should give you a window that looks like this:

Airmail

This is how I like my window configured because it has a minimal footprint, but still gives me access to the features I need. If you need a more complex layout, Airmail has got you covered. It is extremely flexible as far as customization goes.

It is also worth noting that Airmail has several themes in its settings for the email list, the app’s window, and the compose window. Here are the settings I am using:

Airmail Settings

I highly recommend you take your time to play with Airmail’s settings before you make any judgments. It may take some time to adjust the options to your liking before Airmail shines.

Using the App

The best part about using Airmail is that it works, and it works fast. The app syncs well with Gmail, and push notifications work as expected. I did notice a few syncing hiccups, but they all resolved themselves quickly.

Airmail displays your email in a clean, easy to read way. Replying to messages is equally as easy with a very nice looking compose screen.

When in the minimized view, the app gives you access to your inbox, starred items, sent mail, drafts, and trash via small icons in the sidebar. In order to access folders, you must extend the sidebar by opening the folder view. I would love the ability to add folders to the narrow sidebar. Having quick access to my all mail folder would be nice. Luckily, there is a keyboard shortcut to open the folder view.

Another quibble I have with the minimize/expanded views is the fact that opening the expanded view widens the window, but when you return to the minimized view the original, narrow window width is not restored. It’s not a big deal, but it requires me to grab the edge of the window and drag it back in every time I return to the minimized view.

My favorite part of Airmail is the quick reply. Simple select a message and press ⌘E to get a popover that allows you to quickly type a short response. It looks like this:

Quick Reply

This feature is extremely useful and it works very well.

Airmail has many features that I don’t make use of simply because I don’t need them. They include Dropbox support for attachments, the ability to filter by several different criteria, and custom folder mappings.

Wrapping Up

Airmail is great little app for handling email on your Mac. The best part about it is that it is as much or as little as you need. I use Airmail as a simple way to process email, but if you needed a more powerful client, Airmail can handle that with its rich feature set and very customizable settings.

The app is not without its quirks, but fortunately the developers are constantly working on it. If you download the beta version from their website you will get a new build every couple of days addressing bugs and adding new features.

If you are looking for a different email experience on your Mac, give Airmail a shot. It is a great app, and at only $1.99 in the Mac App Store it is a steal.

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