Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

More To Do About Mail

Some of us spend a lot of time around email. So much, that our email app is probably about the most important software, if not the most oft used one. Having the right tools is most critical and essential for our productivity. Email software is so important that I’ve written about it before.

I’ve always been thinking about improving my email experience. To that end, I’ve explored a variety of email software. Back in 2013, I quit Apple’s Mail.app that came in macOS (referred to as “MacOS X” at that time) to move to Postbox. Over the years, I’ve gone from one app to another. Funny enough, I’m finding myself coming around one full circle, back to Apple’s Mail.app again.

The apps I’ve gone through, after Postbox, include Airmail 3 (and Airmail 2 before that), Mailplane 3, and Kiwi for Gmail Lite. They are all fantastic apps in a variety of ways. After all, that’s why I switched to them.

I liked Airmail because its clean, clutter-free, user interface helps me to focus on the email itself. It’s weak search features, at least in Airmail 2, ultimately drove me away. As much as reading, writing, and organising email is important, searching for them is also equally important. When you’re buried under mountains of email, being able to find that proverbial needle in the haystack is so critical.

That drove me to Gmail, and specifically Gmail wrappers like Mailplane 3 and Kiwi for Gmail Lite which offered some feeling of a native macOS app. I probably don’t have to tell you about Gmail. It’s great at organising email and its search is legendary.

Recently, in the run up to the imminent release of macOS High Sierra (which will be officially released tomorrow Singapore time), I somehow looked at Apple’s Mail.app again.

Something happened with Mail.app while I was away using other email clients. I have been using Gmail, including Google Apps (now called G Suite), for my various email needs. The way Gmail used labels to organise email was revolutionary. Unfortunately, it translated poorly to IMAP standards. Numerous email clients supported access to Gmail, but suffered some quirks. For example, when an email has multiple labels, most IMAP clients would have stored distinct copies of that same email in their corresponding IMAP folders. That’s not very smart.

Airmail was smart enough to not do that. I did not realise that with MacOS X Mavericks, which was released in October 2013, Mail.app learnt how to work Gmail the correct way. Migrating to the Mavericks Mail.app was actually a pain for Gmail users, if they had already worked around its IMAP quirks previously. But if you’re freshly setting up Gmail on Mavericks’ Mail.app, everything would work just fine.

Indeed, as I now try again Mail.app in macOS High Sierra beta (and similarly in Sierra), Gmail actually works just fine. The keyboard shortcuts in Mail.app aren’t all that great, and in fact I miss the easy Gmail shortcuts for manipulating my emails. However, I’m trying to see if I can somehow work with that.

After becoming a paid supporter of a bunch of email apps, I’ve come around to a software included free-of-charge in macOS. The app that comes with the OS might not be all that bad.

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