As mentioned in my previous article, the search for a perfect Mail App for OS X is still on. Sparrow has raised the level both on OS X and iPhone. It has to be hands down client on both the platforms. Now that Sparrow team has joined Google, I don’t see why would they would update their mail clients with more features. That very feeling of you being left out just doesn’t go well with me. I faced the same issue with HP Palm Pre 2. It was amazing phone and just after I heard that they are stopping their support for handsets, I had to make to switch.
Anyway, I use two Email account – personal and business. I have been using Sparrow for Business and InkyMail for personal. I recently reviewed InkyMail and it was just great. But a client like that is great only for personal. I didn’t feel it would replace my Sparrow. So the hunt went on and I stumbled upon – AirMail.
Early Beta Stage:
First, Its a beta! And Second its only for 10.7 (Lion) and above (Mountain Lion). Its a put off for many. We normally are bit apprehensive about using a beta software. But, a beta product doesn’t mean it always crashes and will have many bugs. Its stable, workable but with ‘limited’ features. You might face odd crash, the developers might hide their ‘trump’ card for the major release yet, they are never mean they are unusable. I have been using it for 4 days now and its stable and it crashed maybe once or twice. Nothing malicious with those. (Oh btw, if you are a Alfred Powerpack user download V2 beta. Its awesome as well!).
Second, with 10.7 version as minimum requirement puts many users off. Seriously, if you are still on Snow Leopard, you have to upgrade. You are missing out on many features. Its excusable if your hardware doesn’t support the upgrade but for the rest, Wake up!!
User Interface :
Its the exact layout version of Sparrow with few nice additions (I will talk about it soon!). AirMail has three panes just like sparrow or any other app client. The side bar is just the same as Sparrow with hardly any changes other than the icons for inbox! This is neat.
The next pane – the pane that consolidates all mail – is pretty empty in sparrow. It has icons for compose, reply, Archive and delete (Top right corner from right to left.). Airmail has richer pane even for a beta version. Its got the search box on right top corner and refresh on top left. The main addition are the filters on the bottom. Filters from left to right are – Unread Messages, Starred, Attachments, Conversation, Reverse Order, Mail from the sender. The mails from sender is very helpful.
The message pane is where Sparrow has its strength. Its quick reply has to be the best feature. Its got the neat “i” icon for the details about the mail the rest in the drop down menu. But Airplane, knowing its still in beta, has no easy way to view the “i” from sparrow and no quick reply. Its has got its icons – Reply, Starred, Archive and Move to Trash. Its helpful. Feedback Beta, Force Crash icons on the top pane along with Request Feature and Support icons are there because of its beta stage, which I am very sure won’t make it there on the final release. Airmail sure needs to improve the message pane to match up Sparrow, but right now, considering its beta stage, it does a good job.
The preferences under AirMail impressed me a lot. Sparrow’s preferences was great too, but AirMail just too good for me. I could edit the Advanced setting of the account easily (not that I am doing it on regular basis, its worth mention!). ‘Mapping’ , as AirMail put it, is handy. Signature customisation is to specifically mentioned. If I had to edit my Signature on Sparrow, I used Text Edit because of its lack of resources like fonts, size etc. AirMail does that job. It has almost 100 fonts, with all the basic customisation. Again, its not that we use this daily, but its good to have it.
Airplane lets me choose theme too, even though its in Beta. In contrast, Sparrow never lets me customise it. By theme I mean the visual changes in the middle pane. Its nice to have options :) so its great. Obviously, It still doesn’t support Growl but has support for default Notification Centre. And you can customise the sound too. Dropbox integration is handy to have.
In the ‘Advanced’ section of the preference, I have the option to import contacts from Address book and to clean up Image cache. Sure there has to be many more options, which I am pretty sure, would make its way on its final version.
Social Network Integration – Need or not?
I have read many articles saying its not wise to link accounts as it would make it ‘unprofessional’. I had similar view as well. Facebook is not professional, so does twitter. But, by integration its not about the status message or your las vegas photos or even tweets but just about adding the contacts. Because we already have an icon for the sender’s photo, it makes sense to link the accounts. Amazon, Twitter, Flickr, google and others have icons and its easy to identify email from them.
Having used this client for almost 4 days as secondary client, I must say I am not going to search for anymore OS X client. This has to be the client to beat Sparrow. Does it crash or lag or does any cheeky stuff? Once or twice it crashes. Other than that it was as stable as a final version and I have no problems with switching from Sparrow right away. Yet, just to be on cautious side, I am still sticking to Sparrow and once AirMail is out of its Beta, I am switching.
What it needs to have to make it perfect?
Obviously, there are many features that I would surely want. First being Social network connection. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn might do the job for me. The menu bar Icon can have few more features like unread message count, easy access to prefs, quit the app. Rather than just an icon, It would be nice to have a few more additions.Growl integration is a must for me. Its not the Notification Centre that I rely on, but on Growl.
Quick Reply is also missing. Its the most wanted feature according to users. I have my petition for ‘pull to refresh’ on and its among top 10 at the time of writing. So few basic features are not present. They have a dedicated page that takes in views of users and add them! So I am banking on them to add these features on the final release.
What would be the price on launch?
I am not expecting it to be priced cheap on its release. Its going to be around $15 mark for sure. And I am going to buy it, irrespective of its price. Postbox is priced at $9.95 and Sparrow at $9.99. With sparrow gone (Though its still available for download), and outdated Postbox as rival, they can price at above that $10 mark for sure.
Go download the Beta version. It rocks! And be sure to final version. It will rock!!
Update 1: With each update there seems to be lots of improvement (Almost every 2 days!!). Pictures here might not resemble the actual build.
Update 2 : Read my review of the official release.