Unlike Windows, Mac OS X comes packed with its very own mail client, aptly named ‘Mail’. You’ve probably seen it or indeed used it, if you have your own Mac. We have previously written about the newly introduced features in Mac Mail App.
However, don’t take it as a given that there is no alternative for the application, and although it pretty features rich, well supported and typically of Apple products in general, quite aesthetically pleasing, you might want to consider one of the following.
Alternative Mail Clients for Mac OS
For anyone who has dabbled with various e-mail clients over the years, Thunderbird from Mozilla must have become quite the obvious and ubiquitous choice. It’s popular for many reasons, but possibly most of all because it’s open-source, and therefore as is often the case: free.
Unfortunately, as is usually the case with open-source software, beauty takes to the back benches and compared to the standard Mail application in OS X, Thunderbird certainly won’t be up for any pageants any time soon.
Having said that, it’s functionally very adept, allowing you to keep your Mac and Windows PC’s in check and consistent, as it’s one of the only popular mail clients that’s truly cross-platform, including Linux distributions.
With this also being the 8.0 version of Thunderbird now, there are a lot of tweaks and extra features now that were never around before, including the option of add-ons, which allow for more customised productivity in an e-mail client, as well as the ability to customise the look and feel, something very rarely available in other clients.
The main reason you might want to use Thunderbird though, given that it caters for your mailing needs, is its openness. Not only would you be supporting the work of a giant not-for-profit organization that has a powerful ethos about delivering quality software, it also means that it’s being constantly developed, supported, improved, as well as being more compatible than any other mail client.
If you’re looking for a great free alternative to Mail, this is certainly the choice I would recommend. You can download it here.
However, if you’re looking for something a little more polished, then you might want to spend a little cash to get exactly what you’re after. Enter Postbox, probably my favorite of all Mac e-mail clients. Having said that, the £29.95 license might be a little bit of a put-off for budding buyers.
What you get for that though, is a great looking mail application that can handle social feeds, calendars etc. and the self-proclaimed ‘best Gmail client for Mac’. It’s hard to deny that it does host pretty comprehensive Gmail integration, new to the latest version of Postbox, 3.0, which is built on top of the open-source code that comprises Thunderbird.
On top of that, whilst there might not be a great deal that will ‘wow’ you in terms of what it can do over and above its rivals that cost a lot less, it’s more the experience that you’re splashing out for. The developers have gone to the effort of tweaking and perfecting every inch of the application so it’s fully incorporated into Mac OS X, including gestures and full-screen capabilities new to Lion.
There’s also a handful of useful features great for adding convenience and productivity to your Mail application, including a favorites bar with a similar premise to how your bookmarks bar works in most browsers, essentially providing a minimal shortcut to your various accounts and folders. As well as that you have a series of preset messages that you can simply send if you’re in a hurry and need to get a basic message across to a person or people.
There’s no doubt it’s a great application, but it’s the price you want to be wary of. If you don’t use Mail a whole lot, you’d be better off sticking to Mail in OS X, or even Thunderbird, but if you’re a heavyweight in this area then it might well be worth your while. If you have bought Postbox in the past, an upgrade to the latest version only costs just under £10. You can download the free trial, or buy the full version from here.
And now for something completely different. If you’ve used a variety of mail clients in the past, irrespective of platform, you’ll probably be familiar with the standard look and feel of them. It’s pretty consistent, to say the least. The typical sidebar down the left, function buttons along the top and the main body making up the rest of the window, displaying message lists and the message itself underneath.
However, the developers of Sparrow have opted for a totally new and minimalist look. This is very much one for the mail lightweight, in fact until recently it wouldn’t even work with mail accounts other than Gmail. However, a recent update has brought a host of new features, allowing you to entirely customize your Mail experience and make is as simple or as complex as you please.
If you’ve used the official Twitter app for Mac, you will be surprised by how strikingly similar the interface actually is to that, which is a great thing if you’re a bit of a minimalist as it does look great and professional. However, in terms of productivity, it can be slightly restricting, so I guess this is for the people who were disgusted by the thought of paying nigh on £30 for Postbox. The casual users.
Having said that, Sparrow isn’t free. Though nor is it expensive. Considering it offers such a vastly different mail experience to most of its rivals, and you might well prefer it by an equal gulf, £6.99 doesn’t seem altogether unreasonable. And there is a ‘lite’ version which is free and both versions are available through the Mac App Store, here.
The latest version of Microsoft Office for Mac, 2011, brought with it a brand new application for the Mac: Outlook. Though it’s proved the staple for many businesses and personal users using Windows for years, with its abundance of advanced features and being a standard part of Office, such a popular suite of applications on the whole.
For the Mac though, it’s something new, but it will probably be something extremely welcome. Though it isn’t at all cheap, with the entire Office package being £190 for a 1 user license, or the 2 user license being £230. Outlook only comes as part of the Home & Business edition, more expensive than the standard Home & Student edition. Unfortunately, you can’t buy an individual Outlook application as yet.
Outlook does come with a host of incredible features though, that once used you might not want to be without. For instance, for a pro user, the integration with OS X’s Spotlight and Time Machine features could be pivotal in sorting through heaps of email and backing them up, respectively. And with regards to productivity, Spotlight even allows you to access your mail accounts without actually opening the app itself, using Quick Look.
All in all, it’s a terrific Mail application, probably the best of the bunch, but the price is astronomic for a basic user but well worth it for a business or heavy mail user due to its advanced feature set, quality support, and broad connectivity. You can download the Outlook app here.