For a long time I was a devoted user of Apple’s Mail.app, despite it’s shortcomings and ugly interface compared to it’s sister app on the iPad, and until a couple of months ago as well I was dragging my feel still using Windows Live for all of my email needs. So you would expect it had to be something pretty huge to drag me into the year 2011 and get me to start using Gmail. That huge thing was actually pretty dainty, and it was Sparrow.
Sparrow has been available in public beta for a while now, I jumped on the bandwagon at Beta 1, and i’ve bigged it up a tonne on here. As of a couple of weeks ago, it’s now available in the Mac App Store with a pile of new features. With this new shipping version, Sparrow comes at a cost as well, so here’s what you should consider before deciding whether it’s worth your £5.99.
It’s refreshing to see an app as well-crafted as Sparrow, it screams elegance and the amount of work that must have been put into it is phenomenal. It was designed to keep things simple and efficient. Just your mail and nothing else. Sparrow integrates really well with all mail accounts, you can use any mail account you want: Gmail, Mobile Me, Yahoo, AOL, and custom IMAP for anything and everything else. Sparrow really shines when you use Gmail though, supporting Gmail labels, Priority Inbox and Starring, if your a Gmail user, Sparrow is the closest you’ll get to a native Gmail experience on the Mac.
Since I started using Sparrow it’s really optimized my workflow, the support for Priority Inbox and labels mean I can easily keep a clean and tidy inbox and get through all of my mail quickly and easily, thanks to Sparrow as well replying to your mail has never been so simple using Quick Reply which means you can respond right inside the email. Click, write and send in the same window. The latest update to Sparrow has also added support for plug-ins so it can integrate better with OS X apps like Things or OmniFocus.Sparrow manages to make using multiple accounts a breeze as well, using the Tweetie inspired sidebar you can Stay up to date with your mail stream on selected accounts while being able to seamlessly switch from one to another. It might sound sad but I genuinely enjoy checking mail in Sparrow, it has threaded email unlike Mail.app letting you quickly flick through threaded conversations. When responding as well Sparrow makes it easy to change fonts, font size, alignment, colour, pretty much everything, right in the app, so that you can make your mail look gorgeous.
Sparrow fully embraces OS X as well, supporting multi-touch to browse your mail and to expand the window, it also supports Quick Look to preview all attachments in emails. Thats where it gets interesting though, Mail 5 which will be arriving with Mac OS X Lion has replicated Mail for iPad on the desktop with added support for threaded mail and other functionality to bring it up to speed against Sparrow including mail rules which aren’t supported in Sparrow yet, so, is Sparrow really worth your money when you can get Mail.app for free? Yes.
Even at £5.99, if you’re a Gmail user Sparrow offers integration Mail will probably never end up supporting, and even if you use MobileMe or Yahoo the rapid development of Sparrow so far shows these guys are great developers who are just going to keep pushing the boundaries.