The Perfect Mail Client
October 15, 2009 11:28 PM   Subscribe

I switched to mac recently, and hate applemail.

I don't think thunderbird will do everything I want, at least it didn't a few years ago. I want something like Pocomail, easily scriptable and enhanceable, and perfectly reliable (and easy and standard enough for me to fix on me own when there are problems). But Pocomail doesn't have a client for macs.

Also, I am going to have to gamble that whatever I pick will keep being updated and maintained over the years. I have a lot of mail and I really hate to move it around. In fact (I have some mail I've been unable to get to after a year now, but that's another question altogether).

Suggest mail applications for mac, preferably with some of the suggested parameters! Help me get to read (and sort) my vast tracts of mail.
posted by tejolote to Computers & Internet (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
What is it that you want to do that you don't think Thunderbird will handle? Because there are a hell of a lot of extensions for it now.
posted by flabdablet at 11:42 PM on October 15, 2009

MS Entourage is one of the other popular mail clients for Mac. It's part of the Office suite.

It would be nice to know more specifically what you're looking to do and what Apple Mail doesn't do for you. Thunderbird is theoretically one of the most scriptable mail clients, as you can find extensions to do quite a number of tasks, and you can always write your own in JS if you really want to get into that.

Both Apple Mail and Thunderbird store messages in really standard formats and are popular clients, so getting your mail out someday is very much unlikely to be a problem.
posted by zachlipton at 11:46 PM on October 15, 2009

Haven't used it, but there's been a lot of buzz about BuzyCal recently. John Gruber seems to like it:

"Built-in calendar sharing (BusySync compatible), Google Calendar syncing, superior handling of to-do items, way better UI for creating new events — BusyCal is simply better than iCal in every imaginable way. $40 per computer."
posted by martens at 11:48 PM on October 15, 2009

I've tried many mail apps but I keep going back to Apple's Mail because it's the only one that can handle my (several million) old messages and all the (many hundreds of) new ones per day with anything approaching acceptable speed or grace.

Here's a couple of hundred add-ons for Apple Mail and almost a thousand for Thunderbird. And of course they're both very very scriptable for more than that, so....what do you want to do that's not in there somewhere?
posted by rokusan at 12:04 AM on October 16, 2009

I think you have to make a prioritized list of your requirements, independent of "works like $PRODUCT".

If you start your search by basically saying, "I want something that works just like Pocomail," then you might as well give up—nothing is going to meet that requirement except Pocomail. If that's the case, get a copy of VmWare Fusion and run Pocomail in Unity Mode. It'll save you a lot of time and dissatisfaction.

But if you really want to investigate alternatives, you need to make a list of features from your current client. Brainstorm first if you want, and then divide the list up into three categories: your absolute essentials—things that you'd just immediately drop a product from consideration, if it lacked; features you want but don't consider totally essential; and "nice-to-haves." It may be tough, but try to keep the essential features portion short, maybe 3 or 5 really crucial features at the most.

And then from there, with that list in hand, you can start looking through alternatives and have something approaching an objective criteria to evaluate them by. This lets you skip right through all the marketingspeak, ignore the quality of the website, and cut right down to features.

I'm putting all this out there because I spend a lot of time working with people who are migrating from one piece of software to a new one, and it's easy—even if you're an experienced user who thinks you know what you want—to lose sight of the really crucial features. By making a list and using that list to put products onto your shortlist for actual testing, you may end up with some real oddballs that you might not otherwise consider (maybe, if you really think about how you use your client, a combination of more than one program, or a totally customizable console-based client like Mutt might be appropriate; who knows).

In terms of GUI clients, the list really isn't tremendously long; there's Apple Mail, Thunderbird, Entourage, Hogwasher, GyazMail, MacSOUP (mostly a news client I think), GNUMail (may not be under active development), Eudora (semi-abandonware), Mulberry (I know nothing about it), and maybe a few other niche ones I'm unfamiliar with. Plus there are lots of Unixy programs like Mutt that run in the Terminal that you could use.

Personally, if you have the time, I would set up an IMAP server and move all your saved mail onto it. That way, you can play with various email clients, or even use more than one email client on an ongoing basis, without worrying about keeping your saved mail folders in sync. (IMAP works great not only for mail delivery, but for maintaining/syncing folders. I use it this way for gigabytes of saved mail between multiple computers.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:40 AM on October 16, 2009

You should consider these five truly cross platform mail clients, which are all actively maintained and open source; thus avoiding this issue in future.

Otoh, Apple's Mail integrates well with TimeMachine, AddressBook, etc. I'd just avoid any naggy shareware programs like Hogwasher, GyazMail, and MacSOUP, as well as abandoned ones like GNUMail or Eudora.

If you have X11, then almost any Linux email client will compile & work. But google says nobody ever cared enough about Pocomail to even write an open source clone.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:43 AM on October 16, 2009

If that's the case, get a copy of VmWare Fusion and run Pocomail in Unity Mode. It'll save you a lot of time and dissatisfaction.

VirtualBox has an OSX version and it's free if you want to run windows program. Might not be as nice as VmWare Fusion, though.
posted by delmoi at 3:48 AM on October 16, 2009

I use Zimbra on XP - but they do have a Mac client. It's not scriptable like Poco (which I used for years) but it's not too bad. It quite stable, I open it Monday morning and shut down Friday afternoon, with rarely a problem in between.
posted by COD at 5:58 AM on October 16, 2009

I've started using Postbox. I loved Apple Mail when I started using it, almost ten years ago. It just hasn't changed much in the interim, and it's showing its age. Postbox, on the other hand, has lots of buzz-worthy features (like Twitter posting, etc.) but not at the expense of being a rock-solid email client. The only drawback is that it costs $29.99. I wrote a (slightly longer) thing about it on my site. Good luck finding something you like!
posted by littlerobothead at 7:13 AM on October 16, 2009

You might try MailForge. It's a sort of functional replacement for the long-defunct Eudora.
posted by 6550 at 7:29 AM on October 16, 2009

What is it about that you don't like?

Anyhow, in addition to all the various mail clients mentioned above, there is also Mailsmith and Powermail (both Mac-only). Both of these have been around for many years.
posted by adamrice at 8:02 AM on October 16, 2009

floam: If you use IMAP, switching clients will be a lot easier and nothing will have to be moved around.

I'd go one step further and put it on Google. I've had my own domain and email address for about 15 years now, and after getting tired of the hassle of archiving/moving email when I changed providers every few years, I decided last year to just use Gmail for domains. It's free and awesome, and rock solid. Plus, you have Gmail as your web interface.
posted by mkultra at 8:40 AM on October 16, 2009

There's a mail app on this thing? My mac runs programs other than Firefox and Terminal? Use Gmail.
posted by GuyZero at 10:45 AM on October 16, 2009

Mailsmith is free now, as noted above, and is pretty crazy.

I love Apple Mail. And i'm pretty sure it has crazy AppleScript support.
posted by chunking express at 2:10 PM on October 16, 2009

The Thunderbird 3 nightlies / betas are actually a MAJOR improvement over version 2 on the Mac.

However: It still doesn't integrate well; other programs can't use Thunderbird to send mail as they can with Apple Mail. I still use Thunderbird, and am annoyed that the lack of integration has been filed as a bug for a very long time now (like since 2004, at least).

But Thunderbird is still the best mail client I've used, on any platform.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:50 PM on October 16, 2009

Thunderbird is pretty horrible. But it's free, so I guess that should count for something.
posted by chunking express at 8:37 PM on October 16, 2009

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