robinadr

Tagged Mac

Mailbox logo

I got into the Mailbox for Mac beta today, and gave it a try. I’ve tried the app before on my iPhone, but it never seemed useful enough to be worth the trouble of using it instead of the built-in email client.

I tend to use my inbox as a to-do list, so at first Mailbox seems like a perfect solution for me. I strive to take care of these tasks in my inbox, and my work doesn’t finish until it sits empty. This philosophy goes by the name of Inbox Zero, as made popular by 43 Folders.

What I’ve learned from first trying Mailbox on my iPhone and now on my Mac is that I’m not an email power user. I’ve never received so many emails and had so many “tasks” sitting in my inbox that I felt overwhelmed. At most, I have fewer than 10 items waiting for me.

Now that I’ve realized this, I see how Mailbox would be a godsend for a lot of email power users. The ability to quickly swipe left to delete or archive, or swipe right to deal with it later would be great if I had to deal with hundreds of emails every day.

The Verge’s review agrees with this. With this in mind, I still think Mailbox serves as an excellent email client even for a light email user like myself. Ever since Sparrow sold out to Google, I’ve been using Airmail but it’s always felt bloated and clunky to use.

My biggest problem with Mailbox when the iPhone app came out was needing to hand your IMAP credentials over (now to Dropbox) in order to use the service. It seems for Google they’re using the OAuth setup, and I assume for iCloud they’re using the same token setup Sunrise uses.

This limits the services you can use to Gmail and iCloud email, but I assume more providers will be added in the future. This ensures you only ever enter your Google credentials on a Google website, and that they don’t have to store your iCloud credentials. I’m going to try using Mailbox as a simple email client and see how it goes.

I also have three “betacoins” to give out…

I recently had to swap from an Apple keyboard to a Dell keyboard here at work on my iMac, and I had a problem with where the Windows and Alt keys are located on the Dell keyboard. By default, Mac OS X treats the Windows key as the Command key, and the Alt key as the Alt key. However, this is backwards from where the keys are located on the Apple keyboard, as shown in the picture above.

Luckily, there’s an easy way to fix this.

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Sparrow

Today I made my first purchase (ever) from the Mac App Store. I can’t say I’ll be purchasing anything from there again, but seeing as Sparrow was only available on the App Store, I didn’t really have any choice.

Sparrow

Which brings me to the app itself. I first heard about Sparrow back when it was in beta, and at that point it wasn’t developed far enough for me to be interested. But today I read on Daring Fireball that it had hit 1.0. The screenshots looked cool, the video looked cool, and I guess $10 isn’t that much.

No Demo?

This is where a demo would have been nice. I’ve used Gmail from the web since the beginning, so switching to a desktop client was iffy for me. Luckily it worked out, and I love Sparrow so far, but this almost made me didn’t want to purchase the app — videos and screenshots are one thing, but actually demoing a product is another experience entirely.

The lack of demo versions of the software on the App Store has been one of its main criticisms; that being said, I can’t say I really see a solution that not only offers a demo version, but is a clean and efficient way of handling the demo period and prevents piracy.

Sparrow So Far

The problem I’ve had with desktop clients of originally web-based apps is that the UI’s didn’t really transfer over well, and I had yet to use a desktop app that made it worth moving away from the web-based interface.

An example of this is Reeder, which is intended to replace Google Reader. While it’s a nice-looking app and does everything it advertises, I still couldn’t see why I should be running an extra app to do what already works so well in the browser.

I can now say that Sparrow is the first desktop client of a web-based app that actually improves on the experience. The UI is arguably less cluttered, as well as improved:

  • I don’t have a junk mail box in the main column (spam gets auto-cleaned every 30 days anyways).((However, if you want to view your junk mail, there’s an option for that.))
  • I don’t have to deal with the contacts and the chat; I use neither.
  • Messages’ chronology is bottom-to-top, whereas the web goes top-to-bottom.
  • The quick reply is magic. Hit R, type your quick message, and send (Apple-Shift-D, like Mail.app).
  • Of course, cool Mac OS X-style animations.

I think that Sparrow’s design is something that I can use for a long time, and it will certainly help speed up the minimal amount of time I spend on email on a daily basis.

It Looked Like the Twitter App

Sparrow in action

From first glance, it had a similar UI as the Twitter app. Thankfully, it actually works well, doesn’t sacrifice usability for the sake of an attractive UI, and doesn’t involve Twitter.

Conclusion

Overall, I’m very satisfied with my purchase. Assumably I’ll be getting free upgrades for the lifetime of this app, which makes my $10 go very, very far. Thankfully the lack of a demo didn’t affect my decision, but if the app was, say, $50 or so, I’d have my doubts.

That being said, I’m hardly an email power user, so my observations are largely from the perspective of a casual emailer; people who spend hours on their email every day may have a different experience with Sparrow. So far, though, Sparrow is awesome.