If you’d told me I would be writing about the best email app for the Mac in 2018 when I was in college, I’d have thought you were crazy. For as far as technology has come in the last twenty years, e-mail is still essential to our workflows. We’ve got pocket computers on our wrists and smartphones with 4GB of RAM, but e-mail is still required to live and work in the internet era. If you’d asked me in 2002, I would have assumed something else would replace it.
I got my first email account in the mid–90s (When it was still $2.95 per hour for AOL). I stuck with AOL until I got an @comcast.net account when my parent’s first got high-speed internet. I switched to Mailblocks around 2002 (it was eventually acquired by AOL). I switched to Gmail in 2004 when it first launched, and then I finally switched to .Mac in 2005 when I got my first Mac (a Powerbook G4). I stuck with it during the disaster that was MobileMe, and finally arrived at iCloud.
One of the things about my use of email that is most surprising is that I’ve gone in the reverse with how technology has moved. In the early days of e-mail usage, I preferred using web-based mail, but as time went on, I preferred app based email. Part of that is that I am bringing in multiple accounts into one app (personal iCloud and multiple G-Suite accounts), but another aspect is that I prefer native apps. I think a lot of it has to do with iOS where native apps are the default. On the desktop, we’re moving everything to the web.
As much as I love iOS, If you told me that I had to pick between macOS and iOS, I’d choose macOS. When it comes to my “heavy lifting” type work, I can get it done much faster than on my Mac. Like I said earlier, I am pulling in multiple email accounts into one app, so using webmail isn’t something I want to do. I want one app to use instead of four web apps. So if you are reading this article, and are screaming about how much better Gmail’s web interface is – know that I am not looking at web-based solutions at all. So I want to answer the question, what’s the best email app for the Mac?
Apple is always going to be at a disadvantage in some ways when building apps because they have to develop for the masses. They are developing apps for the power user while also the computer novice. In a lot of ways, Apple Mail doesn’t seem to be a lot different than it did when I first used it under OS X Tiger.
From 40,000 feet, Apple Mail does precisely what you’d ask of it. You add your mailboxes, and it builds a traditional looking mail app (with a universal inbox), it supports all the primary services (iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Exchange, etc.), and generally works well.
My biggest issue with Apple Mail is that it doesn’t do anything to drive the concept of email forward. It primarily works the same as it did a few years ago. It’s only added a few new features like Mail Drop (a feature where you can send large attachments using iCloud), mark up on attachments, and VIP support.
On the flip side, if you want the traditional Apple experience, you’ll love this app. I use it day-to-day, but I know it’s mostly lagged behind a lot of the other apps concerning new features. If you do want to extend Apple Mail further, be sure to check out plugins like Mailbutler and Mail Act-On. The downside is that these run locally, so if your Mac is offline – nothing will happen to your email that requires these plugins.
Overall, it’s a fine app, but I am hopeful Apple begins to add new features to help people re-think email.
When I did my review of best email apps for iPhone, I praised Outlook.
If you want to find an app that feels like Apple Mail+, Outlook is it. It includes a smart inbox (sort between important emails and non-important ones). It contains customizable swipes (delete, archive, etc.). You can also schedule messages to show back up in your inbox. This feature is useful if you want to make an email disappear until you are back at work, etc.
Unfortunately, Outlook on the Mac hasn’t been given the same treatment. It feels like a completely different app. Microsoft has said they are overhauling it to make it more like the iOS apps, but we’ve not seen that yet. It still feels like a Mac version of Outlook for Windows. If you are a business user using Exchange 365, you’ll probably love it. Everyone else should look elsewhere.
It’s not that there is anything fundamentally wrong with Outlook, it’s just that, like Apple Mail, it feels stagnant. It’s the same tried and true app that they had years ago with a prettier design. If it can act more like the iOS version, I could definitely consider it a strong contender for the best email app for the Mac.
Spark is one of the newcomers to the third-party email app market, but it has had constant enhancements since it was released. Their tagline is “Love your email again,” and it certainly does a great job of helping you take control of your inbox. It supports all the usual accounts like iCloud, Google, Yahoo, Exchange, Outlook, and IMAP.
The great thing about Spark for Mac is that it brings over a lot of great features from the iOS version. The app includes a smart inbox to help organize your email into buckets like newsletters, pinned, new, seen, etc. It also includes the ability to snooze emails, send later, email follow-up reminders, smart notifications, and tons of integrations with third-party apps (Dropbox, Google Drive, One Drive, etc.).
The send later feature is one I’d love to see come to Apple Mail. I want to be able to process my inbox on the weekends, but not clutter other people’s inboxes up while they aren’t at work. It also includes a built-in calendar that supports iCloud, Gmail, etc.
Spark also has team plans that answers that question for me. By signing your organization up, you can collaborate on emails together, talk about replies privately (without having to forward things back and forth), and create permanent links to email messages (helpful for linking in a CRM, etc.).
A basic version of Spark for Teams is free, but they have paid versions (monthly per-user fee) with extra file storage, enhanced link sharing, and team roles and control. This add-on turns Spark into a platform as much as it does an email app. When Spark initially launched, I questioned how it could remain in operation with no business model, but I now clearly understand how it plans to grow. If you’re interested in a teams plan, but Spark doesn’t work for you, PolyMail is a similar product.
Spark is free download on the Mac App Store.
Airmail has been around for many years, and it’s one of the most common third-party mail apps that I see mentioned on the Internet. Airmail supports all the major email accounts like iCloud, Exchange, Outlook, Google, Yahoo, IMAP, etc.
Airmail features an extensive list of apps you can integrate. The list includes Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box, Trello, Asana, Omnifocus, Google Tasks, Evernote, Todoist, Drafts, Deliveries, Things, and many more. Airmail supports snoozing an email to another date/time as Spark does. You can create a PDF from an email, mute/block senders, or create a to-do (Airmail offers a lightweight to-do list built in). The action list of items you can take on a message is too long to list. With Airmail, almost everything is customizable. If you want an email app with a lot of knobs to tinker with, Airmail is going to fit in with your workflows.
One feature that Airmail offers that I’ve not seen any other macOS email app offer is a Google Apps/G-Suite Directory look up. This feature allows you to look up email addresses in your global G-Suite directory that you don’t have in your contacts list.
My main complaint with AirMail is that lacks the polish of Apple Mail and Spark. It’s a great app, but it’s never been able to win me over for day-to-day usage. It’s definitely near the top, but it’s not the best email app for the Mac.
AirMail is $9.99 on the Mac App Store.
Post Box is one of the apps I hadn’t heard of before I started doing my research on this topic. At first glance, it is nice looking, and it looks a lot like a prettier Apple Mail. It claims to be an email app for power users, but I fail to see what it’s doing that Spark or AirMail aren’t doing. It does have many third-party integrations, but so do many of the other apps.
It also lacks essential features like Snooze and Send Later. It’s most unique feature is Account Groups. This feature allows you to combine multiple accounts (example: all of your personal accounts) into one unified inbox that keeps your work separate.
You can buy Post Box for $40, and there is a 30-day free trial available.
MailMate is most known for its extensive keyboard control, Markdown email composition, and advanced search conditions. It’s not the prettiest app, and it doesn’t have the most overall features. It really could be called the Plain Text Mail App. I find it hard to recommend for novice users or for someone who wants features that Spark and AirMail are known for, but if MailMate interests you, it’s probably the only app that will satisfy you. It has a unique set of features that aren’t for everyone, but it will interest a specific user group. I wouldn’t be able to say it’s the best email app for the Mac, though.
MailMate is $49.99, and there is a free trial available.
What’s the best email app for the Mac?
Before I get to the reason you read this article, I do want to mention one other app. If you have a few Gmail accounts, and you are happy with the Gmail interface, check out MailPlane. It’s a native macOS app for Gmail (supports G-Suite as well).
If you want the best email app for macOS, and you want more features than Apple Mail, I would have to recommend Spark for Mac. It has a great design, a broad feature set, and a clear business model. If you hate your email, Spark claims you’ll “Love your email again” with their apps. If you already love the Mac version, be sure to check out the iOS app.