Apple Mail vs G Suite webmail is a discussion I’ve had with many other IT directors at different schools over the past few years. Some Apple schools focus everyone on using Mail.app since it’s built it, updated with macOS, and creates a similar experience on iOS. Other schools actually remove Mail.app from the new Mac deployments and force people to use the G Suite web interface? I could argue it both ways, and I’ll give you my explanation in this week’s Making The Grade.
About Making The Grade: Every Saturday, Bradley Chambers publishes a new article about Apple in education. He has been managing Apple devices in an education environment since 2009. Through his experience deploying and managing 100s of Macs and 100s of iPads, Bradley will highlight ways in which Apple’s products work at scale, stories from the trenches of IT management, and ways Apple could improve its products for students.
Benefits of using macOS Mail.app
I’ve been a fan of the Mail app on macOS back from when I switched to OS X Panther back in 2004. I’ve had multiple email accounts for as long as I remember (work, personal, etc.), and I’ve always preferred having them come into the same inbox. I know some people like to keep everything separate, but that’s not my preference. By using Mail.app, I can add multiple accounts and monitor them at the same time.
Even for someone who doesn’t care about a universal inbox for multiple email accounts, there are a lot of benefits to using a local mail client. The macOS “sharing” experience works well with webmail clients. For users who want to use Safari, iCloud Photos, etc. – sharing via email will be much simpler in Mail.app. As an example, if you are using Mail.app, and you send a photo from iCloud Photos, you simply use the built-in sharing function to send it. If you use the G Suite webmail, you have to export to the desktop and then attach it to an email.
The bottom line is that using Mail.app with G Suite provides the most Apple-like experience for end users.
Benefits of using G Suite Webmail in your school
From a system administrator perspective, using Mail.app in your environment opens up additional troubleshooting possibilities. When issues arise, you have to determine if it is a local client issue or something server-side.
G Suite also doesn’t use traditional IMAP settings, so it’s possible you can run into issues where the label to folder translation doesn’t work correctly. Mail.app has gotten a lot better in recent years with how it works with Google email, but it’s still not perfect. When using the G Suite web interface, you get access to all the latest features of G Suite like the ability to set up an email send later vs sending immediately.
If your school is heavily invested in Google-based workflows with Google Drive, then users will have a much better experience using the G Suite web interface vs Apple Mail. Will it be as good of an experience when using local macOS apps? No, but again, that’ll just go back to your school’s workflows. The Gmail web interface makes it extremely easy to attach files from Google Drive, auto-upload large files to Google Drive when trying to attach, or use the new confidential mode for secured communications. These features just aren’t possible when using the macOS mail client.
Apple Mail vs G Suite Webmail: Which should you choose?
My school focuses on the webmail version of G Suite, but I don’t disable Mail.app. All of my new employee training focuses on the web interface, and I encourage teachers to use it. With that being said, I still support users who use Mail.app.
If I was at a much larger school, I might block users from using macOS Mail, though. One of the keys to help desk/system administration work is eliminating variables. By forcing users onto the webmail client, a troubleshooting variable is eliminated. Apple hasn’t kept pace with Google on evolving the Mail.app and has largely remained the same. Meanwhile, Google continually adds features to Gmail/G Suite email.