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Ask HN: Best email client for a Mac?
42 points by mjfern on Sept 24, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 70 comments

If you're looking for a more traditional email client, I'd recommend MailMate[1]. It's a no-fuss email client designed for power user (GPG support, Markdown support, advanced filtering, text-only mode, etc.) I've been using it for half a year with Fastmail (personal) and Gmail (work) and pretty happy with it.

The author also maintains a blog[2] where he post quirks about several IMAP implementations. For example, Yahoo IMAP[3] or Gmail labels[4]. The app itself also handled all these edge cases very well.

[1]: https://freron.com

[2]: https://blog.freron.com

[3]: https://blog.freron.com/2017/slow-descent-into-madness-yahoo...

[4]: https://blog.freron.com/2013/mavericks-gmail-apple-mail-and-...

I was very close to jumping ship with Mailmate 2 or 3 times. But the only reason that kept me from doing so is that it does not offer an option for local backups.

Not sure what you meant by local backups, but all messages retrieved by MailMate are stored in a plain directory as RFC 822-based EML file in ~/Library/Application Support/MailMate/Messages (which is relocatable from within the app). It also downloads all emails by default (but not the attachment).

Wait - you mean it is possible to properly archive messages on my mac now? Without having to run a local IMAP server? If I remember correctly that was the only solution at the time. Time to take another look it seems.


yes. It's your email. If you're in the market for improving how you interface with one of your number one communication mechanisms, you'll probably look at investing a tiny amount of money into it.

Compared to most other mail apps mentioned, $50 isn't tiny by a factor of about 4-5x. Is that a lifetime license? While it may be nothing to you, $50 is significant money for a lot of people!

What’s wrong with the built-in Mail app btw? I use it in daily basis and it’s pretty good to get its job done.

It gets quite slow with large mailboxes.

I hate that every email client also contains a poorly implemented database. Why is that part not standard and completely separate from the send/receive protocols and UI?

I've got pretty large mailboxes and have never had any problems. I used to be incredibly picky about mailreaders, but I've never had any complaints about Mail.app.

I have about 20k messages in my All Mail and around 5k in inbox, and it's pretty unwieldy. Usable, but definitely slow switching mailboxes, slow at searching, slow at sorting and filtering, slow to bring up message windows and so on. It's more UI lag than anything else.

It is a very fast mail client with near empty mailboxes.

I have mailboxes with over 70-100k messages in them in Mail.app, and they never take longer than about 0.5-2.5 seconds to load up when switching to them (the higher range being when the system is also under load).

I have a few small gripes with Mail.app (it occasionally claims that some messages are unread that aren't, for instance), but nothing I've seen of other mail clients has led me to think they'd ever be better for my workflow.

I've got about 80k messages total across two mail accounts, and it works fine. Scrolling through it takes time, but everything else is fine. Searching, filtering, sorting and switching mailboxes are not instantaneous, but reasonably fast. Certainly not unwieldy.

mail works fine for me with a large inbox (GMAIL).

And it’s freaking fast. After trying out other mail clients, Mail app is the fastest in term of new mail sync speed.

Not something that is wrong per se, but I moved away from the Mail.app because I switched to Inbox a few years ago because of it's productivity features. The way Inbox handled 'snoozing' mails (mails returing from snooze would appear at the top of the inbox) is not supported by Mail.app (or any other standard mail app for that matter, even Gmail at the time). So I switched to Inbox web app on the desktop as well.

I believe there are some plugins that support similar features, but I have not yet found a Mail.app snoozing that is portable as well (eg: Android/webapp support).

If you are using Gmail/G-Suite I would check out either https://mailplaneapp.com/ or https://www.kiwiforgmail.com/. Both are decent native Mac app wrappers for the Gmail/G-Suite web client.

I might be a "Gmail is weird" issue but I've always had trouble going through my inbox and deleting a lot of email one by one. They disappear, then they come back and then disappear again. Hitting undo after deleting something by mistake is also a recipe for disaster for email that kind of disappears but still shows up in search.

It can also be pretty laggy (e.g. selecting multiple messages), but this has gotten a lot better in High Sierra.

I still use it though since I have yet to find an alternative that I prefer (I've only tried a few though)

I just tried switching to it, but one instant problem is that you can't tie signatures to aliases, you can only tie them to accounts. So for example, I have a number of different email aliases that I switch between, but while Mail _does_ choose the correct alias depending on who the incoming email has been addressed to, you can't attach a signature to that alias - you have to manually choose the signature every time

Last time I used it with Gmail accounts, it doesn't show phishing warnings like Gmail proper does. For friends and family, I really want them to get flagged of anything suspicious - or even ideally an option to just not deliver anything suspicious.

Spark does pretty well for me. Nice inbox features and search functions.

FYI: Spark stores your credentials in their cloud unlike your typical email client which stores them locally.


+1 for Spark. I know there are other clients that have snooze and ‘send later’ functions, but I’ve been using Spark for a couple of years and haven’t really had any complaints.

I use spark and mostly happy, but the fact that I cannot setup inbox rules (if subject equals then trash) is a bit frustrating.

This is the main thing that keeps me on Apple Mail. In any kind of work context it's absolutely required for me, and the other alternative mail clients mostly concentrate on being pretty, unfortunately.

You can set up those in Gmail directly.

Don't use Gmail for personal.

Another Spark user here. Works great. I'm also using the iOS version.

Spark works great for me too!

mutt in your terminal of choice, to a local Maildir structure synced from your IMAP server, plus your search utility of choice.

Mutt is great if you're not often dealing with images or rich text, and if you love keyboard-based workflows. I was a mutt guy for a while. But I've found apps like MailMate or even GMail's web client to be keyboardy enough, without some of the compromises and pain points (e.g. fighting OfflineIMAP)

Not sure why this is being downvoted. It works for a lot of people I know, is modular, stable, open-source and works across the Unixen.

The obvious tradeoff the relative lack of polish and overhead during initial setup, but if you're willing to put up with that it's a fine choice.

I have wanted to switch to mutt a few times but it feels complicated to setup and adapt to my workflow. Plus I want to POP down most mailboxes but not all of them.

are you using mutt's built-in imap functionality, or something like offlineimap?

I also use Mutt.

I'm partial to Airmail (http://airmailapp.com/), which I use for a mix of Gmail and self-hosted (IMAP) addresses. Works great, lightning-fast to use, and with a very Mac-native feel.

I've liked Airmail, but it has a tendency towards weird bugs (e.g. adding gibberish attachments to email chains in large numbers). Email tools, imho, need to be 'boring', stable, and predictable, and Airmail never has been, any of the times I've tried to use it.

Does that store mail on their servers at all? It's becoming increasingly confusing as to which of these new mail clients require a 3rd party server for them to do their "magic" on.

I don't believe Airmail requires any 3rd party server. I have been using Airmail for a few years now and really like it.

No. It does OAuth with GMail, but it's a local client.

I have to dissent unfortunately, I find it slow, buggy, unwieldy, and it will frequently do crazy things to HTML formatted emails.


I use it with my personal email (hosted at Hover), and my work email, hosted on some IMAP server.

Works like a charm.

I've really been enjoying Astro recently (https://www.astro.ai/). I was a big Newton/Cloudmagic fan before they shut down in the last month, but nearly everything I liked from Newton is also present in Astro. Unified inbox, snooze/send later, excellent keyboard support, etc.

Also has the best "less important emails" inbox implementation that I've used so far. The whole gimmick of an AI bot I could chat with is just that, a gimmick, but bot the desktop and mobile apps are solid.

Wishlist items remaining: Newton had you have a Newton account that would automatically set up all your accounts when you installed it on a new device, but Astro doesn't do that. Also, I'd love it to automatically pick the right account to send from once I type in the recipient's address, based on past correspondence, like Newton did. But neither of these are even small issues.

Funny/sad considering that Astro was _just_ picked up by slack... with a shutdown of October 10th! That's a short sunset period... harsh.

BAGH!!! I just got the announcement email as well. Lame.

I loved Astro. Came to this thread after hearing the announcement :(

If you are looking for an email powerhouse that requires some time to set it up in order to use its full potential, then I recommend to take a look at MailMate: https://freron.com/

I've had a good experience with Mailspring. It has a clean user interface and sets of key bindings that are similar to email clients like Mail.app, Gmail, and Inbox.

Does any integrate with Microsoft Exchange and their encryption of emails? It has made my use of Thunderbird less and less an option because of this.


I’ve been using Boxy (https://boxyapp.co) for inbox for a long time and now they’re on to making Boxy Suite (https://www.boxysuite.com/) which should cover Gmail and Calendar once Inbox is deprecated.

Overall quite happy with them.

I love https://www.uniboxapp.com/, mainly for the way it treats mail as a continuing conversation like iMessage. It hasn't been updated in a while, but works well. I can't go back to the dreaded thread layout of most mail clients at this point.

I wanted to use this, but i couldn't get any answer from the developers if the App stores my e-mail credentials on their cloudservice. There was a review on app store where the user had their account overtaken in connection with installing the app.

Been using it for a couple years. Not aware of any cloud based account, there isn't a single mention of that anywhere. It's just a standalone mail client. I could be wrong though!

You can pry Eudora from my cold dead hands…

How does it feel holding on to a relic? :D

In a more serious note, are you actually using eudora? If so I'd love to hear if there is a still-maintained version as well as the reasons sticking to it.

I still use it for ‘real’ (own domain) email, while using a popular web service for web logins and other junk attractants. I have an OS X 10.6 machine to run it along with some other things that I don't want to ‘upgrade’ (e.g. non-subscription Adobe CS). The main missing feature is UTF-8, but as an English speaker it hasn't been a problem in practice.

Eudora was recently donated to the Computer History Museum¹, so there's some faint hope of a revival, although it would more likely be the inferior Windows version.

¹ http://www.computerhistory.org/atchm/the-eudora-email-client...

I've been really enjoying Canary. Good cross platform support for iOS and Mac and its a one time purchase instead of monthly. Add in the security features, snoozing, and smart notifications and its almost at inbox levels.

As I'm frequently switching across platforms, I still haven't found anything better than Thunderbird for my use cases.

Just noting that if you're like me and use multiple gmail accounts for personal, work, etc., then I suggest Wavebox.

I started using spark since google announced discontinuing inbox. Works really well between iOS and macOS.

mailplane. I just want inbox but I don't want to waste a pinned tab on it.

Postbox works for me at home, Gmail at work (because corporate policy)

Mailmate- good search, updates, responsive dev... keyboard centric

Postbox is pretty swell.

I used to love Postbox until the latest 6th version.

Sure, they've - allegedly - made it run faster but they've also removed extension support, blocked any ways to hack in a calendar (which could previously be done by adding a permanent browser tab pointing to Google Calendar) and seriously hurt legibility with its new design by removing dividing lines, decreasing contrast across the board and giving all the icons a bright random colour.

A real shame as there are no real alternatives.

Searching in postbox is absolutely horrible. It will regularly not find the emails i am searching for and i have to go through all emails one-by-one.

Last example of today: Filtering emails whether they have an attachment. A mail with attachments i was searching for was not included in the selection.

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