First Click: Mailplane is the plainest of all Mac email apps, that’s why it’s great

May 11th, 2016


I like my coffee served black, usually from Nespresso capsules. I like my whiskey on the rocks, usually Jack Daniel's. I’ve drunk luxury coffee shat through a monkey, and I’ve visited distilleries in the Scottish Highlands. But what differences I can discern just aren’t worth pursuing. My tastes are simple in that regard, veering toward authentic yet unbounded by the confines of absolute purity. That’s why my preferred email client for the Mac is Mailplane.

Why it’s not called "Mailplain" is beyond me, because it’s the least fancy Mac mail client you’ll find. It’s basically a browser wrapped inside of an app, which helps it integrate better with OS X. Mailplane has been around for what amounts to forever in email time — 9.2 years, according to the home page, which still touts 2013 reviews from websites like Macworld and TUAW. In that time I’ve tried and even purchased several pretenders such as Airmail, Mailbox, CloudMagic, and Sparrow. As pretty or as novel as they were, I could never get them to stick because they usurped too much of the genuine Gmail experience (like priority inbox) that works so well for me.

What led me to pay $25 for Mailplane way back in 2009 is the same reason I still use it today: support for multiple Google accounts. As a Gmail user since 2004, I’ve amassed a fair number of identities. True, I could manage these through the Chrome browser, but I find Chrome to be slower and more resource-intensive than Safari, and the account management is still too cumbersome.

With Mailplane, I launch the app and watch it automatically log me in to an unlimited number of Google accounts. These days that means three personal and two work accounts, each given a dedicated tab in the app. It sounds minor, but having tabs that I can hotkey between for all of my personal and professional inboxes and calendars is critical to my workflow. I can also assign different audible notifications to each inbox. I’m now conditioned like a Pavlovian dog to find a new personal email with each "tink," a work email with each "purr," and a hot tip from a Verge reader with each "ping." Among several superfluous features I can’t be bothered to use is a handy Do Not Disturb option visible from the top menu bar that mutes all notifications. Otherwise, Mailplane provides the same unadulterated Gmail experience you get from a browser, just as the good lord intended.

Look, Google knows how to do mail. You don’t need a Mac client to make it smarter, because Gmail’s smart enough already. That’s why I use Mailplane.

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