By default, every Mac is loaded up with a copy of Apple’s email client, Mail. It’s a fine little app, but it lacks a lot of features and settings. Thankfully, with a few tweaks to the settings and some plugins, you can turn Mail into a powerful little email client — and it’s all free.
Fiddle with Mail’s Default Settings
If you’re anything like me, you’ve never really dug into Mail’s settings because you just assumed they were boring, but you can actually make Mail a lot more useful just by digging into the various settings and tweaking it from its default operation.
By default, I’ve always felt that Mail was a bit cluttered. The good news is that it’s easy to clean it up. I took a lot of my Mail inspiration from AppStorm’s UI customisation, and the end result is a cleaner, easier to use Mail.
Here’s what you need to do to get there:
- Use 16:9 ratio: Uncheck “Use Classic Layout” under Preferences > Viewing.
- Hide the Sidebar: Click View > Hide Mailbox list.
- Use Conversation view: Click View > Organize by Conversation.
- Create your own shortcuts: Head into System Preferences > Keyboard, and add any shortcuts you like under Application Shortcuts > Mail. For example, I added shortcuts for flagging and archiving messages to make Mail a little easier to use with just the keyboard.
Obviously, it’s about your own personal preferences, but the above got Mail to at least look like I wanted it to. I also suggest taking the time to set up VIP lists if you haven’t already. To get a little more functionality, it’s time to start playing with plugins.
Extend Mail’s Functionality with Plugins
Once you have Mail to look like you want it to, it’s time to make it act that way too. That’s best done with a few plugins. Here are a few I found helpful.
Add Social Network Pictures to Email
One of the surprisingly nice features of Sparrow is the fact that it pulls images from social networks for email. This makes it easy to organise your mail at a glance, and let’s you get a glimpse at what all those strangers you email with look like. Face2Face is a plugin that brings in social network profiles and shows them in Mail.
Add Cloud Service Attachment Support
If you’re not a fan of sending attachments all over the place, then using a public link with your cloud storage service of choice is an easy way to send files without worrying about attachments. Mail doesn’t support this on its own, but the CargoLifter plugin adds that functionality provided you’re using a popular cloud storage provider such as Dropbox and Skydrive.
Add Special Text Snippets to Make Replying a Breeze
We’re big proponents for text expansion, but if you don’t use it enough to justify having it run system-wide, Compose It is a Mail plugin that only works within mail. This means you can load it up with all kinds of custom email specific snippets that you don’t have to worry about triggering elsewhere.
Fix The Quote Replies In Mail
By default, Mail’s quote reply system is very messy and includes a lot of junk you don’t usually want. QuoteFix makes it work better. So, when you’re replying selected text in Mail it removes the original signature, deletes useless lines, and uses “bottom-posting” for the quote so your text appears above the quote instead of below.
Easily Add Encryption to Your Emails
Since pretty much everyone out there is trying to spy on your email, you might want to encrypt your messages. GPGMail is the easiest way to do that. You just select the “OpenPGP” option, and it encrypts your messages for you directly in Mail.
Mail certainly doesn’t have nearly the amount of working plugins that Thunderbird has, but it’s still a solid (and free) email client. If you don’t like the fact that Sparrow is out of active development, returning to Mail might not be as hard as you think.