When I first entered the world of Mac in 2012 a friend recommended that I use Sparrow as my email client which at that point was one of the most popular email apps for OS X, as a long time Gmail/Google Apps user it was perfectly suited to my workflow and introduced me to a new concept called ‘Inbox Zero’.
I love everything about Sparrow. It has a nice simplified user interface that is reminiscent of Twitter (perhaps it’s name has some connection with that?), is quick to load and has some clever little features built in such as a Dropbox integration that allow you to automatically upload files and attach a public link inside your email instead of sending the file directly, great for getting around mail server attachment limits (alternatively you could use box.net for the same purpose). It also has great support for Gmail with label support and an archive button which moves your email to the All Mail folder.
Only 6 months after I started using Sparrow and it’s companion app on my iPhone the Sparrow team announced they had been acquired by Google, great you might think, now Gmail had a brilliant desktop app that would only be improved now they were behind it. Not so. Google have a history of buying out some great apps and services for the people that built them and the skills they can contribute to the Google Team.
So from that point to now I clung on to my Sparrow, I slowly watched my friends switch to Apple Mail, accepted the last minor bug fix update in October the same year, and then become the only person I know still using it.
That’s not to say I haven’t tried adopting a replacement, in no particular order here is a list of the clients I’ve trialled, bought or downloaded for free, that for one reason or another that I won’t go into detail in this post, have not replaced the features and User Interface which I know and love on Sparrow:
- Apple Mail
- Airmail 1.0 – Newer version available
- Mailbox by Dropbox – Discontinued
- Airmail 2.0 – Newer version available
- Airmail 2.5
- Nylas N1
I’ve tried so many clients, and while I’ve really enjoyed using a few of them (Airmail, Mailpilot and Nylas N1 all came close) none of them have felt to me like they completely replace what I personally like about Sparrow. So until last week I’d accepted that I was going to become a bit like that person that we’ve all met who is still using a mid-nineties version of Lotus Notes while all his colleagues are all using Gmail or Office 365… that was until I decided it was time to force myself to change to a different client, and for me that was going to be Apple Mail! Part of this decision was influenced by the fact I’ve just rolled out Xink.io to automate email signature updates for our team and it only support Outlook for Mac and Apple Mail on OS X.
Just for a little background, I’m a reformed Apple hater who has become a complete Apple Fan Boy in a few short years, I’m constantly selling the benefits of the Apple eco-system to my friends, family and colleagues to the extent that I often get asked if I’m on commission! Despite this I’ve always bitched publicly about how much I hate the Apple Mail client even though I tend to prefer Apple’s own software over third party alternatives. Until recently I’ve felt that the team behind Apple Mail were stuck in the past and purposely have delayed making Apple Mail as good as the company’s other apps just to keep the old school Fan Boys happy, but all that has changed in the last 12 months.
Yosemite and El Capitan have brought some much needed upgrades and I finally think I’ve found my Sparrow replacement, albeit with some heavy customisation to make it look and feel more like the client I’m used to. There’s still a few features I can’t replicate without third party add-ons (Icon only Sidebar, Top Bar Notification Icon, Dropbox integration) but for now it will do until either someone brings out a client that better suits my needs or I decide to develop my own (unlikely to happen anytime soon)!
I’ve attached some screenshots below to show what my Apple Mail looks like in comparison to Sparrow: