Exploring OS X mail clients

I’ve been using Fastmail for over a year now and have been exploring email clients the entire time I’ve been a subscriber. Until recently, the best client I’ve been able to find has been Fastmail’s web app itself (whether that’s in the browser or in a Fluid instance.

I’ve tried Airmail, which is fine but isn’t as flexible as I’d like (despite having a really extensive preferences pane) or as lightweight as I had hoped1. I suffered through using OS X’s Mail app and, though the Gmailinator plugin made it somewhat bearable, it frequently exhibited odd behavior that had me wondering just what the app was doing at times. I tried using Mailmate on several occasions but would get hung up on the minimal nature of the app’s designed and overwhelmed by it’s flexibility and featureset.

I circled back to the Fastmail web app, but didn’t love the idea of using a different web app for each of my email accounts (I have secondary Gmail accounts and would prefer a unified interface for all of my accounts). Frustration with using multiple web apps led me to give Mailmate another chance2.

I downloaded Mailmate and settled in to the idea of giving it a long term trial. I enabled the app’s support for Gmail keybindings and went to work modifying the app’s badge settings and creating custom folders I might find useful. I created a smart folder for tasks and assigned it to a dock and menubar counter3. The tasks folder I created looks for emails from task management systems and messages I manually apply a todo label to (this isn’t mapped to an IMAP label or folder — I don’t typically handle tasks on the go and don’t feel the need to reference this folder on the go).

I created several other helpful folders:

  • A folder that lists all git commit messages for projects I’m working on.
  • A folder that collects development meetup messages in Los Angeles so that I can decide which, if any, I’d like to attend.
  • Individual folders for my Fastmail accounts so that I can filter through my inbox based on which alias a message was sent to.

Once I had folders set up in Mailmate, adjusted to the UI and began to memorize keyboard shortcuts, I was sold. The app is extremely lightweight and responsive, it’s endlessly configurable and the app’s bundles feature is extremely useful. I also really enjoy it’s composer view and Markdown support (being able to email fenced code blocks is extremely useful). I think I’m finally done looking for a new email app. Finally.

  1. In fairness, this is a subjective judgement, but the app doesn’t feel quite as smooth or as responsive as I had hoped it would. 

  2. This decision was, in part, prompted by Gabe Weatherhead’s and Brett Terpstra’s posts about the app. I assumed there must be slmething I was missing. 

  3. I know, I know, I shouldn’t be using email as a task management or todo system, but I find it helpful to have a running tally of messages I need to act on.