I finally have enough of Mail.app this week. Mainly because I’ve been spending more time using it constantly last couple of weeks and notice many small things that bug me. So I start looking for alternatives and ran into Sparrow in the Mac AppStore so I decided to give it try.
I’m not a huge email person. I’m more a face-to-face or Twitter person. I don’t get many emails a day, nor I create many new emails. Partly because I use email for communication only and not for other purposes. I don’t use email as my repository of information, I use Evernote for that. And I don’t use email as a to-do list, I have Remember The Milk. I also apply “Inbox-zero” approach to my emails so they are either actioned pretty much straightaway or they are deleted/archived.
I’ve used Sparrow for only 2 days so my opinion may (and probably will) change in the future.
Sparrow basically puts Gmail on to my computer as native app, which I prefer. Even after all these years I still haven’t been able to make the mental leap of using a ‘web app’. (I guess I’ve just shown my age…)
One of the main failing of Mail.app is that it doesn’t work with Gmail’s Archive folder. So deleting emails in Mail.app moves the email to the Trash folder instead of “All Mail”. Sparrow supports the Archive folder out of the box, and can be toggled back to delete if you wish.
Sparrow, like many new OS X apps (Reeder, for example), have a narrow mode. This means I can arrange my desktop to have non-overlapping apps, occupying as much desktop space as possible without some area hidden behind another app. This is obviously a very personal thing as I know many people who has no issue with apps covering each other.
Keyboard shortcut support is more explicit. You can navigate a lot of Mail.app using keyboard but a lot of the shortcuts are ‘hidden’ (i.e. OS X system default behavior) and require some discovery time. Sparrow shows the shortcuts in menu so learning them is easier (for me at least).
Ability to organize Gmail label is nice but not critical for me.
Menu bar icon and Growl support are nice. You can do the same with Mail.app with plugin.
Facebook connection to customize contact’s picture. I don’t use Facebook so there.
Quick reply, like in Gmail. I never understand the need to quick reply. Email != IM.
The (Slightly) Bad
As far as I can tell, there is no way to change the message preview font or the number of line of text in the preview. Not a big deal but since Mail.app allows customization, it is a minus for Sparrow.
Also you can’t search from the Unified Inbox. Search is only available once you switch to the individual mailbox.
So is it worth the $9.99 from the Mac AppStore? I’m not so sure. $9.99 isn’t too much money for experimentation. The narrow view is the biggest selling point for my desktop layout OCD. But YMMV. The tight integration with Gmail is really nice.
Did I regret spending the $9.99? No. Would I recommend someone who is unhappy with Mail.app to switch to Sparrow? Probably not. It depends on what you want from a mail client that Mail.app doesn’t delivery, and how much email you deal with everyday.
At least with Sparrow, you won’t be at the mercy of Apple’s OS X delivery schedule.