MaCinJay’s Musings

another case of inverse vandalism

Posts Tagged ‘Mail

Mailplane brings Gmail to the Mac desktop

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As far as email clients go Gmail has a number of strong points. First, it provides an incredible amount of free online storage capacity (almost six-and-a-half gigabytes), a big plus for people with smaller hard drives who prefer to keep their old email. Second, you can access your mail on any computer with a web browser. Third, it comes with Google’s excellent search engine built in and, last (but certainly not least these days), it has very effective spam-filtering.

It also has a few weak points of course:

  • It’s web-based, which is a show-stopper if you need to access your emails offline. There’s no desktop integration – for example you can’t create attachments by dragging files into a new message from the Finder.
  • Many are put off by the idea of having all their email archived on remote servers although, arguably, this is just as vulnerable residing on their own computers.
  • Users have to put up with advertisements, though to be fair these are very discreet.
  • The minimalist user interface may not be your cup of tea.

Which brings me to Mailplane, an application designed to address some of these weaknesses by integrating Gmail with the Mac desktop. This application sandboxes Gmail to approximate a traditional desktop email client (the email itself remains in cyberspace), which I think is a nice touch.

gmail.jpg

The toolbar is certainly useful; it saves fiddling about with some of the less-than-intuitive elements of Gmail’s user interface. Most of the toolbar buttons serve as alternatives for those already found in Gmail – “Discard” for “Delete” for instance. However some of these activate features not available in Gmail itself. For example you can easily access photos, audio and movie files by clicking on the iMedia button, then drag and drop them onto the Mailplane window to attach them to new messages. Other nice touches are the Mailplane shortcut in the OS X menu bar and Growl support.

The question is though, is Mailplane worth the $25 dollar price tag? It is after all possible to configure Gmail accounts in Mail, Apple’s free email solution, and enjoy the advantages of a desktop client for nothing. It will really depend on your own preferences. If you want to leave your email on Google’s capacious server farms and like Gmail’s features, but enjoy having it integrated with your desktop, then Mailplane is well worth considering

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Written by macinjay

February 12, 2008 at 9:57 pm

Posted in Apple Mac

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Mac OS X Leopard: Mail

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I’ve tried a few email clients for the Mac but always come back to OS X’s built-in solution – known simply as Mail – due to its superior user-friendliness. On the downside Mail isn’t as fully featured as rivals such as Entourage, which is bundled with Microsoft Office for Mac. However the Leopard version of Mail has a number of new features that make it a lot more powerful.

In the past one of Mail’s biggest shortcomings in my opinion was its lack of a “follow-up” feature; it wasn’t possible to take, say, an invoice sent by email and flag it for payment on a specific date. In the new version of Mail this can done by selecting the relevant text in the body of the message and selecting the “To Do” icon in the toolbar, which creates a to-do note in the “Reminders” section of the redesigned sidebar. (Incidentally the Mail sidebar is – much like the new Finder – reminiscent of the familiar iTunes interface, another example of Apple’s move to a unified theme for Leopard.) After selecting the to-do note a follow-up date can be entered via a contextual menu (activated by CTRL-mouse click).

mail-to-do.jpg

Granted it’s a slightly long-winded approach, but it does have a certain elegance about it. I also find the new notes feature to be a more convenient alternative to Apple’s Stickies application.

More impressive perhaps is the new “data detector” feature that identifies email addresses, telephone numbers, dates and so on in emails. Again a contextual menu provides the user various options – for example telephone numbers can be added to the address book. Naturally this is far more convenient than having to copy and paste the information.

The new version of Mail also comes with a whole range of useful templates for things like birthday greetings, special announcements and so on, which are a great way of whipping up snazzy-looking messages.

My only complaint about Mail in Leopard are the nondescript toolbar icons; I much preferred the OS X Panther icons, to the extent that I used a third-party application to bring them back when I bought my last Mac running OS X Tiger. Regrettably though the developer hasn’t come out with a Leopard-compatible version yet. I can’t say I regret the sacrifice though because the new version of Mail has so much more to offer.

Written by macinjay

December 13, 2007 at 10:31 pm

Posted in Apple Mac

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