Is there an email client for Mac that will help me regain my sanity?
September 29, 2019 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Like a lot of people, I get an enormous amount of work email every day, and it's completely overwhelming. Right now, I'm using Gmail's webapp (with some Outlook email also forwarded into it; I have some problems getting attachments in my work Outlook account, so I usually use Gmail instead). I want to switch to a desktop app for the Mac.

I like some of the features of Gmail (search, schedule send, canned replies, the way it handles spam filtering, etc), but I really want a cleaner design with folders. I feel like looking at something less cluttered will make me feel slightly better. Airmail looks interesting, but I've read that it's not completely reliable. Should I just use Apple's Mail app, or are there better options?
posted by pinochiette to Technology (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think the Apple email app would be great for you, especially if you dive into Rules and Smart Mailboxes to slice and dice your email influx.
posted by ejs at 9:36 AM on September 29, 2019 [2 favorites]

If you want “less cluttered” you want Newton. Super-clean interface. $50/year.

I would not recommend Airmail; I found it pretty flaky.

Search on Newton isn’t as good as on Gmail’s webapp, but I don’t think anything is. It’s a compromise that I’ve been willing to make in order to get the clean interface.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:45 PM on September 29, 2019

The Mac Mail app that comes with the OS. I've got 12 different emails, from various services and it works fine. Filter to your heart's content.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:18 PM on September 29, 2019

The Mac Mail app that comes with the OS.

And if you'd prefer something open source (you might, you might not) Thunderbird is a very good mail app for the Mac which allows some plug ins and design customization that I've found missing from the Mac. I use it to backup my gmail locally and also used it for a job where I had to do a lot of filtering and canned replies, etc. I am a fan.

The other option is possibly investing some time/energy into making gmail's web app look more the way you want it to. I made a skin for mine (shown here, does not look like what you are looking for) but it's made the difference for me in terms of being able to deal with gmail's web version.
posted by jessamyn at 5:02 PM on September 29, 2019

I like using Thunderbird, in part for the customizations that jessamyn mentions. It's also more utilitarian in design than Apple Mail.

Another option for using Gmail is Mailplane. It's a browser-based interface for Gmail, and costs $30. Adam Engst of Tidbits (who's been my go-to guy for Mac advice since the first Bush administration) likes it a lot. His review of the latest (I think) version is here:
posted by NumberSix at 9:06 PM on September 29, 2019

Thunderbird has, IME, lagged VERY far behind in usability and power, and especially in search. I am a very heavy user of, and honestly it's the best mail experience I've ever had (and an Old who's being using email since the late 1980s).

I have multiple gigabytes of email on disk here (local copies of IMAP and Exchange inboxes plus local-only archives), and the search feature is just ridiculously good.

I hadn't heard of Newton, which mr_roboto suggested above, so I looked at the web site. I'm immediately turned off by their bragging about read receipts and tracking, which honestly is horrifying. Plus, they're lying:
Newton provides a comprehensive Email Tracking solution that works with all email services — including Exchange, IMAP, Google Apps, iCloud, Gmail, Outlook and Office 365, and on all your devices, be it iPhone, iPad, Android or Mac.
This literally cannot be true. Anyone can flummox any read-receipt scheme by configuring their client to not load remote images -- which is, increasingly, the default, because using "web-bug" techniques like this is absolutely the hallmark of spammers.

I don't know anything else about Newton, but honestly if a company is going to lie to you about something like this, they're not ethical enough to earn your business. YMMV.

One Other Note

As I said, I've been a content user of for as long as it's existed, but I do still like to kick the tires on new players in the market. One thing I've noticed is that a lot of new "local" email clients have no provision for offline access to email. This means they really only show you what's on the server.

This is baffling to me. One advantage of a local client is that your mail is LOCAL, and can be searched by the Mac's own indexing systems, and backed up by your local backup regime. If you don't get a local copy, you're at the mercy of your server. This is a weakness of web mail. If you're going to go to the trouble of running a local mail client, then for goodness sakes pick one where your mail actually gets downloaded.

I mean, my two cents, anyway.

This got long, but here's the tl;dr is already installed on your Mac. You have nothing to lose by giving it a try, including & especially search & smart folders. I maintain my personal and professional inboxes in, and both of them have tremendous archives. Mail handles it VERY well. Good luck!
posted by uberchet at 6:32 AM on September 30, 2019 [1 favorite]

Agree with suggestion. Otherwise try Spark (free).

Airmail was good but they switched to a subscription model. It ain’t that good.
posted by terrapin at 6:36 AM on September 30, 2019

Since you specify that you're on a Mac, you should check out Kiwi for Gmail.

It's what I use for pretty much all my Google Suite services.
posted by The Pluto Gangsta at 7:02 AM on September 30, 2019

I have been using Airmail (now on version 4) since Summer 2016. My experience has mostly been with gmail accounts and initially with an Outlook/Exchange accounts. Airmail 3 and now 4 have worked well for my purposes. Now, I do have peculiar habits with email - I use hundreds of filters and labels to manage my email flow (in short: every mail I expect to get more of I will assure gets a label, if not something custom then something generic noting a category. I also hate the Gmail "helpers" that categorize things for me or prompt me to respond to things or any of that. If you have any questions about Airmail please comment here and MeMessage me and I'll be sure to answer.
posted by artlung at 10:02 AM on September 30, 2019

Another vote for Apple I manage about seven or eight different email accounts with it and have never had an issue with it.
posted by Thorzdad at 12:35 PM on September 30, 2019

Thanks, all. Does anyone have any comments on privacy issues with programs like Spark, Airmail, Newton, Kiwi, etc (given that I'm already using Gmail, so I figure that I've already lost some amount of privacy)? Is Apple's Mail program any safer?

Since I asked this question yesterday I started experimenting with the Mail app (and also started trying some new things in Gmail, including shortcuts, which is saving me time). I feel like I'm still looking for something cleaner-looking, ideally. I recently started using Toby for bookmarks instead of having a million tabs open, and it's already having a noticeable effect on my ability to focus.
posted by pinochiette at 4:30 PM on September 30, 2019

Well, you're kind of conflating mail SERVICE with mail PROGRAM, which is understandable because Gmail is both.

Apple's is just a mail program. It talks to whatever servers you want to use -- the ones with your ISP, Gmail, your work's Exchange server, independent providers like Fastmail, etc. From a privacy standpoint it's excellent, and I trust it, first because it's not a service that Apple can or will monitor, and also because I trust Apple.

However, if you're using it to manage your Gmail, well, the ship has sailed; a giant advertising company is reading all your mail already.

Spark I found to be hideously feature-poor compared to I don't *think* it does any local storage, either, so you're giving up one of the strengths of a local mail program there.

Airmail is in the same boat, IME.

Newton has privacy concerns for anyone you send mail to. I'd avoid them.
posted by uberchet at 7:04 AM on October 1, 2019

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