Email and me have a love hate relationship that is filled with mixed emotions. I hate email. I love it when I don’t get any email. When I don’t get any email, then I worry that something is wrong.
Even worse, email apps have become too complicated. There are templates, and notes, and to-do items, and threads, and themes, and POP and IMAP, and worse, oh my. Is simple email better?
Minimalist Email For Simplicity’s Sake
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve used Apple’s Mail for years. It’s OK. It does nearly everything well, but it’s become a complicated little beastie with a complex list of features to keep track of, sometimes behaving like my three-year-old when she’s had too much Kool-Aid (sugar).
Simplify, simplify, simplify. Easier said than done when it comes to email, no?
All of Apple’s Mail features tend to lock us in to using Mail rather than making it easy to find improved or more useful solutions elsewhere. We get used to Mail’s basic features, so there’s a fear of changing email clients.
We become afraid of losing email messages (not much of a problem with IMAP email) when we switch to a different app. Mail can tie us in to Notes and iCal and Address Book, further making it difficult to change apps.
Elsewhere is where email life is easier. Take the iPhone Mail app. Easy to set up, easy to use, not very complicated. Take Sparrow, the simple IMAP email app for the Mac. Easy to set up, easy to use, not dripping with time-consuming features, or complicated functions.
Sparrow is IMAP email only. No POP. No templates. No Notes. No to-do items. Email only (almost). Nothing else. Just IMAP email, so it works with MobileMe, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, even AOL Mail, and other IMAP mail servers.
Sparrow’s inbox is unified, just like the iPhone. It handles multiple email accounts, and brings you just a few useful features, like a Menubar notification, simple quick replies, and, a favorite—conversation threads.
The basic simplicity and elegance of Sparrow is refreshing to those of use with too much email, too many email accounts, and too many features and functions to figure out how to use.
Sparrow manages to make creating email pleasant, with a simple word-processor-like formatting bar. Even the labels make it easy to tag and sort messages.
Where it loses me is the social functionality.
Sparrow does Facebook, just when Facebook, thanks to Google’s Google +, is becoming passé. And, if you’re going to do Facebook, why not Twitter? And, if Twitter, why not Google +?
About all that Sparrow does with Facebook is pull in your friends current photo, but still. Apple’s Mail does that with Address Book photos, so Sparrow may be elegant but it’s not overdoing it with glossy, needless eye candy.
A few more things I like: Integration with Omni Focus and Things for to-do items. Drag and drop messages to other apps. Send and Archive in Gmail (very nice). And, my favorite, the extended Sidebar (wonderful for wide screen Macs).
Sparrow is the closest you’ll get to the simplicity of Mail for iPhone, but with a few extra features that make it worth the try-before-you-buy opportunity.