Over the years, as operating systems have matured, one need that has survived the test of time is emailing. From web-based clients to desktop ones, the need for a working email solution has always been there, especially in today’s digital world. And email clients — both web-based and desktop — have come a long way, too. However, there’s still room for improvement.
In OS X (now macOS), the native Mail app has been pretty capable, and over the last several years, this is one of those areas of the operating system that has seen consistent improvement. It’s a pretty capable client that just works, but there are naturally better alternatives. In this article, we take a look at some of the best third-party macOS email clients that exist today:
Of all the email clients that you can find for macOS, Airmail is arguably going to top every list. Currently in its 3rd iteration, Airmail is the one client that you can rely on for speed and stability while delivering an experience that matches and improves on the native Mail app in OS X. It’s one of the cleanest email clients out there today, that supports iCloud (naturally), MS Exchange, Gmail & Google Apps, IMAP/POP3, Yahoo!, Outlook.com and AOL (who still uses that, anyway?). Airmail comes with multi-account support with a unified inbox, alias management, quick replies and interactions, gesture support, great folder and filter management, works well with Time Machine, can interact with other productivity apps like Evernote, Fantastical, native Calendar and Reminders etc. and so much more.
The complete list of features is pretty exhaustive — there’s a reason why Airmail is hands down the best third-party macOS email client. Airmail exists for iPhone/iPad as well, and supports Handoff if you’re using it on both devices.
Install Airmail ($9.99)
Unibox is ‘unique’, to say the least. This email client takes a different approach towards email organization, grouping emails by the person you’re interacting with and not by subject/thread (that’s doable, too, of course). The premise is that whenever you’re interacting with anyone, you have a full context available of your past conversations. In practice, this works pretty well, although if you don’t interact a lot with the same people every day, you’ll get frustrated pretty easily. Unibox’s email management approach is something that’s hardly a one-size-fits-all, so experience it yourself to reach a verdict.
Other features in Unibox are pretty familiar. There’s a wide support for a variety of email services as well as POP3/IMAP, unified inbox with multi-account support, an attachment grid that let’s you view all attachments that you’d have received (I find this particularly useful), quick actions from email preview etc. Unbox also features an iOS app for a more complete package across the board.
Install Unibox ($15.99)
Inky is all about secure emailing. This cross platform email client, which is available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, focuses on encrypted and digitally signed email to ensure that your email exchanges are secure and from/with the right person, no matter which email provider you’re using. Because Inky is more of a service than just being an email client, it comes in different tiers, with the free version supporting Gmail, iCloud and Outlook.com, while the Pro version ($5 a month) gives you MS Exchange, Office 365, Google Apps and other IMAP services. An enterprise tier is also available for large organizations.
The biggest advantage you get with Inky is private and secure email, which is great if email encryption is your biggest pet peeve. You also get a powerful search index, allowing for finding emails no matter how old they are or how obscure. Inky also supports unified inbox for multiple email accounts, has smart email suggestions (will ensure that you’re sending email from the right account), powerful filters and cloud-based settings profiles that ensure that your settings are reflected across all your devices, be it desktop or mobile.
Install Inky (Free, Pro $5/month)
Postbox is yet another email client with a service element. The client is all about managing email overload in the most efficient manner possible. Postbox’s biggest strength is the four-part interface that helps with focus. These comprise of the Focus Pane, which basically separates email on the basis of attributes (is it a reminder? is it a subscription-based email? does it have attachments) and separates them into different labels. The second part is topics. which can break email overload into meaningful chunks (all emails related to a particular project, for instance). Finally, you get favorite contacts, which don’t really need an explanation.
Other features to improve email management include a favorites bar, account groups, and something that you don’t see in email clients a lot: tabs. I find tabs most intriguing, as they enable you to stay focused on one thing at a time without losing sight of others. Postbox also features quick replies, which are basically templates should you need to send the same kind of response frequently. Postbox is available for Windows and macOS. It will set you back $20 for a single-user license, but is worth it.
Install Postbox ($20)
5. Canary Mail
Canary Mail is a new entrant in the macOS email client arena that focuses on ease of use and simplicity augmented by a beautifully designed interface. Canary is in beta as of this writing, but that’s a good thing, because that means you get to use the client — no strings attached — for free (they will have both free and paid versions when they do a commercial launch). Canary has all the features that you’d have come to expect from a capable email client, with the additional option to ‘snooze’ emails (something that the good old Mailbox popularized before it was shut down). Snoozing an email means it will come back to your inbox when you’re ready for it (depending on how you want to handle your email load).
Canary supports Gmail, Yahoo!, Outlook, FastMail and any other IMAP account, and comes with a unified inbox. It also features an attachment browser, stores emails locally with encryption and has a small memory footprint. It’s one email client that you should try out just because it’s worth it.
Install Canary Mail Beta (Free)
6. Mail Pilot
Mail Pilot is one email client that gets its wide acclaim over the internet from the unique approach that it takes toward email. The creators of Mail Pilot believe (and perhaps rightly so) that most email these days are “tasks” and so, even if you’ve “read” a message, it is practically “unread” because the required action has not been taken yet. The idea is that once you’re done taking the required action on an email, you can mark it as “complete”, just like you would for a task, and it will get archived.
Haven’t got time for an email yet? Set a reminder for it to come back when you will have time, and forget about it until then (similar to Snooze in other email clients). For other scenarios, you can create Lists, like Waiting for More Information, Waiting for Reply etc., and put relevant emails in those lists as applicable. Mail Pilot’s unique approach might take a little getting used to, but it works wonders once you’ve set it all up. Mail Pilot is available for both iOS and macOS, and can be obtained on the latter for a $20 one-time payment.
Install Mail Pilot ($20)
7. Nylas N1
Nylas N1 is the most curious new email client that I’ve ever come across. It’s an open source email client that gets its uniqueness from being open to developers. So, in effect, anybody with knowledge can take Nylas N1 and customize and tweak it to their liking and needs, and deploy in whatever environment they like. Since not everybody is a developer, there are some standard features of N1, too, and that’s what we’ll focus on. Nylas has a pretty decent suite of features, with the most standout being its built-in support for Mail Merge. That means Nylas is ideal for deployment in large organizations.
There is message scheduling, calendar integration and tracking, and a host of other plugins that enhance the functionality beyond what it is capable of, out of the box. All the usual bells and whistles — unified inbox, search, email service provider compatibility, aliases etc — are available, too. Nylas is free for the developer version, and has paid higher pricing tiers. It’s worth exploring, that’s for sure.
Install Nylas N1 (Free)
Polymail is another capable email client for macOS as well as iPhone and iPad that enables better control over email for an average user. It combines powerful email tracking features with scheduled emails, and is one of the few email clients that allow you to control the exact time that you want your scheduled messages to be sent at. There’s snoozing emails for later use, option to unsend a message (much like Gmail’s experimental Undo feature) within several seconds of hitting send, and best of all, one-click unsubscribe to emails that you don’t want to receive anymore.
Polymail supports Gmail, Google Apps, iCloud, Outlook and Office 365 for now, with IMAP support coming later. It also carries a unified inbox with combined search to find the right message, no matter which account it was received on. All of this, and more, comes in a neatly designed package that works seamlessly well on both iPhone and your Mac.
Install Polymail (Free)
CloudMagic is one email client that gained popularity from iPhone and Android, and has now expanded to cover the macOS desktop space as well. Naturally, with that much experience under its belt, CloudMagic delivers a solid experience. It focuses on being clean and pleasing on the eyes while providing as much functionality as it can, including support for Gmail, Exchange, Yahoo!, Outlook.com, Office 365 and all the regular players. Other features include the standard set of aliases, a unified inbox, quick filters and actions, HTML support, keyboard shortcuts, rich sender profiles (subscription based), advanced printing controls and multi-language support.
CloudMagic is a pretty solid contender, except that its $20 price tag is a tad on the higher side, especially considering that the mobile apps for CloudMagic are free. Still, you have an option if that’s what you prefer.
Install CloudMagic ($20)
Mailplane is one of those apps that have been around for longer than most others, and it’s hard to classify it as an “email” client, because all this app supports is Gmail and Google Apps. Why, then, is it in our list? Because Gmail and Google Apps are widely used, and for that, it’s hard to find a better experience on Mac other than Mailplane. This app allows you to enjoy a number of native-app features while retaining the power and functionality of Gmail, combining the best of both worlds.
There’s preview and annotate for attachments directly within Mailplane, and integrations allow you to utilize a number of third-party apps with Gmail, including macOS’s native Share menu, Todoist, Omnifocus, Evernote, Apple Photos, automation via AppleScript and much more. Mailplane has multi-language support, and integrates Gmail plugins like Rapportive, Boomerang etc. Mailplane is paid, with a single-user license costing $25.
Install Mailplane ($25)
Try out the top 10 email clients for macOS
These are our top 10 picks for best email clients available on macOS, as of now. It’s worth mentioning that the native Mail client itself is very capable and gets new features and enhancements with almost every new iteration of macOS, but it’s still not as powerful as some of these third-party options. Another honorable mention goes to Thunderbird – another open source client that has been around since time immemorial and has seen a bunch of feature updates, even if its interface has become dated by today’s standards.
So, do you have a favorite email client for macOS that we missed out on? Let us know in the comments section below.