It has been said, time and again, that Mac’s “are the computers for the rest of us.” And while this is a true statement, there are a few select things about OSX that could use some updating. It is also true that OSX is about to get a new update this summer, Lion (for those keeping track), and with said update some of the basic Apps will be re-imagined; the rest of us are still stuck with some Apps that are nice, but could be so much better. This is where Sparrow, a new mail client for the Mac, can really get it’s chance to shine.
Sparrow is a mail client that takes some visual cues from some of the best things out there on the iOS platform, and the Mac. With a minimalistic approach, your mail comes to life in Sparrow. The UI looks almost like a buddy list for some kind of chat client. On the left side, in a darker grey panel, all of your multiple email accounts get their own sort of buddy icon, and some very basic options as well. Choose an icon (mail account), and a number of new icons drop down below it. An inbox icon, a star icon (for those who are using Gmail), an icon for your sent mail, drafts, and trash. You can also click on the familiar looking spyglass to search your mail folders as well. Another nice touch that Sparrow possesses is that the grey panel on the left is scrollable. So, if you’re like me and have lots going on and like to organize your windows so you can see most of them at once, you can make Sparrow very small, and still scroll up and down through your accounts buddy list like area and get access to all of your mail.
One nice feature about Sparrow that the default Mail.app does not have is the ability to live in your menu bar, or dock, or both – at your discretion. I like things that live in my menubar, though pretty soon I’m going to run out of room up there with all the Apps I have that live there. Where this really comes in handy though is that it not only will save space in your dock, but it will also help make Sparrow very non-obtrusive into your work space. Speaking of non-obtrusive…
Another interesting feature of Sparrow is the ability to keep your mail client as minimalistic as possible by closing (and/or opening) the reader window pane at will. If you want to read email after email that has popped up into your inbox, you can open the reader pane and see it in full view. Alternatively, if you’d like to never see that window pane, you can just double click the message and it will open a new window, separate from the main window, that you can read your message in and then get rid of. This also works for composing, and replying as well. With the list of keyboard shortcuts available, you can always master your mailing duties with ease and never have to bother the mouse at all. Keeping your desktop blissfully clear of clutter. Gmail shortcuts can also be enabled as well.
Just like the default Mail.app you can drag and drop pictures and text documents into an outgoing message and it will appear in-line, ready to go. This is just one of many features that make Sparrow every bit as useful as the default App, but the design of Sparrow really helps it stand out while maintaining a trim figure. The threads feature also helps Sparrow keep a minimal view as well. Adding labels to your email helps make finding things in your inbox very easy as well. One of my favorite Mac extensions, Growl, also has been integrated into Sparrow so you can read previews of incoming mail when it comes in, and a menubar notification also appears when new mail arrives.
My only one complaint about this client is that I can’t access my spam folders for any of my mail accounts. Normally I’d say good riddence to bad rubbish, but since I’m now a college student, you wouldn’t believe how much useful, or needed info goes straight into the spam folder. Complaint 1.5, or sub-complaint b maybe, would be that I have yet to find a way to add my own folders if I would like. Maybe I really don’t need to, just being honest, but I’ve noticed a lot of people who use Gmail, tend to make a lot of folders for things. Over all I find Sparrow to be a very good replacement for the default Mail.app and I will probably be using it on my machines for a long time to come. Pick up your copy in the Mac AppStore, or at sparrowmailapp.com.
App Receives an 8 out of 10 possible points.