Email clients come in all shapes and sizes, but when it comes to the options available on the Mac, we feel that Airmail is the best email client for most people. It’s easy to use, supports a number of different email providers, has a solid search function and more.
Platform: Mac OS X
- Supports Gmail, Google Apps, iCloud, Exchange, IMAP, POP3 and local accounts
- Unlimited email accounts with a unified inbox
- Gmail keyboard shortcuts, global shortcuts and custom shortcuts
- Adjustable interface with multiple themes, modes and layout options
- Global search, filters, advanced token search and a preview mode
- Integration with Calendar, 2Do, Things, Spam Sieve, Reminders, OmniFocus and Evernote
- Large contact photos for most contacts
- Support for folders, colours, Gmail labels, flags and more
- Attachment support for integration with Dropbox, Google Drive, Droplr and CloudApp
- Customisable notifications
- Support for Markdown, rich text, HTML and plain text
Where It Excels
Airmail is similar to the now defunct and unsupported Sparrow. For most of us, Airmail does everything an email client needs to do while remaining fast and responsive. It integrates well with Gmail, supports labels and tags, and has plenty of keyboard shortcuts for quick navigation. Airmail’s big strength is its customisation options. You can change how Airmail looks, how notifications operate, how folder structures work, how conversations work and more. You can also set up custom folders and shortcuts for things like to dos, memos or whatever else. This is to say, with a bit of work, you can really make Airmail your own. You can even try out beta versions from the developer’s site if you prefer to stay on the cutting edge.
Where It Falls Short
For $2.49, it’s hard to complain too much about Airmail, but it does have its own set of shortcomings. Namely, Airmail doesn’t have the best support out there, and its support forums aren’t helpful either. Otherwise, a few interface quirks keep Airmail from being perfect. A lot of the buttons are difficult to understand, and functions like quick reply or spam control aren’t obvious. Likewise, the preferences pane, although packed with options, is difficult to navigate and use to customise Airmail to your liking. Once it’s all set up, you’ll never look at it again, but it takes a bit of work to get it to operate how you want.
The obvious competition is Apple Mail, which is very similar to MailMate but with fewer features and more problems. If you want to save $40, however, those problems might be worth it.
MailMate ($40) was a previous top pick for the best mail client, and it succeeds on many, many levels — especially if you like Apple’s Mail but find it lacking in features, speed and viewing options. It has a very similar interface to Mail.app, but it corrects pretty much everything that’s wrong with Apple’s default client while adding a few other really compelling features. It’s light on disk space (only 13MB), and it runs very quickly in comparison to every other email client we looked at. Search is amazing, providing you with a ridiculous amount of control. Smart mailboxes are smarter because you can filter based on plenty of very specific criteria, plus you can get pretty specific with the rules you can assign. You can access almost everything from keyboard shortcuts. The layout of the app can change with a quick shortcut to one of five very useful options, including widescreen mode. While Gmail support could be better, you can actually do things like archive messages with a click of a button. Lastly, dynamic signatures is very helpful. MailMate takes a look at the last email you sent to a particular person and what signature you used (if any). Rather than selecting a signature based on the email account you’re sending from, it selects the last signature you used. But it’s not perfect. It only supports IMAP, it has some navigation issues, its threaded messages aren’t ideal, and it isn’t always intuitive to use.
Postbox ($9.95) is another great competitor. Like MailMate, Postbox excels in search options and additional powerful features you won’t find in most other mail clients. For example, you get message summary mode, sorting by type/subject of email (called the Focus Pane), add-ons, easy archiving of messages and more. Postbox features most of the strengths of MailMate without the price tag.
Mail Pilot is another solid option ($19.99) that fits somewhere in between Postbox and Airmail. Mail Pilot takes the task-oriented approach and offers up a lot of ways to organise and flip through your email. If you treat email like a to-do, Mail Pilot is a great option that includes to-do lists, workflows and reminders.
Lastly, there’s Outlook and Thunderbird. These are two well-known email clients on the Mac (and on Windows as well, of course). Both offer compelling features but tend to not integrate with Mac OS X quite as well as most other apps.
Lifehacker’s App Directory recommends the best applications and tools across multiple platforms.