Mailplane, Gmail will replace your desktop email client

One year ago, I experimented with Google Hosted – 5ThirtyOne – Google Hosted Email – and soon moved and began managing all of my email accounts using Google’s services. Why? Because it was convenient, accessible, simple, quick, and everything email should be. Because Gmail provides the option to “Send mail as:” or download mail from other accounts via POP3, there really is no limitation as far as email management is concerned. Couple both of those features with Google’s powerful search algorithm which digs deep into your archived mail, as well as filtering, forwarding, and its own POP access, deciding on your default email service can be difficult.

Desktop clients integrate with your OS & other applications

With no real plans to turn this article into a “my method is better than your method” argument, I’ll get straight to the point. Desktop email clients, like Apple Mail, offer integrated OS features which are difficult to make use of with a web based email service like Gmail. Attempting to do so requires a number of 3rd party software packages or utilities which give the feeling of tight integration.

  • Google Notifier – Google’s official OS X menu bar utility. Provides quick access to both Gmail and Google Calendars. Includes a notification pop-up window for new messages. Unfortunately, clicking on notifications will open Gmail in Safari. Disable this option and use Growl notifications in order to open messages in your default browser. Also provides support for mailto: links.
  • Gmail + Growl – Provides Growl support for the official Google Notifier. Growl notifies you of new messages; clicking on Growl notifications opens the message in your default browser.
  • iPhoto2Gmail – Quickly email images from within iPhoto. Send original images or optimized (resized) versions. Unorthodox method of sending which requires users to Export > iPhoto2Gmail in order to send.
  • Gmail Notifier (Firefox) – Notifies you of unread messages in your Gmail account. Automatically composes new messages in Gmail for mailto: links. Unfortunately, because this is a Firefox extension, no support for other applications.

If you’re hoping to ditch Apple Mail for Gmail, you’ll need to rely on one of the aforementioned utilities. As you can see, no single utility acts as a universal solution. For example, I can install the Google Notifier which in turn makes Gmail my default mail client, but in order to send images directly from iPhoto, I will need to install iPhoto2Gmail. In order to achieve the feeling of having completely integrated Gmail into your daily work flow, chances are high that you will need to make use of at least two options from the list above.

Mailplane – one application, a handful of answers

Mailplane main Gmail view screenshot

Mailplane – A special Gmail “browser” which integrates Gmail into your daily OS X work flow & applications

Ruben is hard at work creating what looks to be the solution to answer every Gmail users needs. The solution is a single application known as Mailplane. As of this posting, Mailplane is in a private beta with current users providing developer feedback to ensure that the final release is as polished as can be. To be honest, it’s practically there. Here’s an early beta look at the application which will blur the line between web based and desktop email.

Your initial reaction(s) may be that Mailplane is nothing more than a dedicated “browser” to access Gmail. In its simplest form, that is exactly what it is. The real beauty and usefulness of the application happens behind the scenes. Once installed, the 5MB application provides many of the same features provided by Apple’s Mail + your own POP3 account.

Customize how Gmail & Mailplane interact locally

Mailplane general settings Mailplane general settings Mailplane general settings Mailplane general settings Mailplane general settings

Screenshots of the current Prefence Pane application options (these may change once the application goes public)

Beyond the standard Gmail Account settings accessible directly from within your Gmail account, Mailplane provides a number of additional preference options which tie the application into your operating system and improve your overall user experience.

A whole new Gmail experience with Mailplane

Mail menu shortcuts screenshotGmail users who access their accounts from Safari, Firefox, Camino, or any other browser may be turned off by the fact that Mailplane overrides the default keyboard shortcuts. I was a little disoriented by the change, but like any application, finding shortcuts is a quick process simply by browsing through the available menus (see the Mail related menu to the left). After 5-10 minutes of use, I was well on may way – fully adjusted to the new keyboard shortcuts.

Anyone who uses screenshots to supplement their emails will enjoy the convenience of the ‘Screenshot’ functionality built right into Mailplane. ‘Screenshot’ will automatically open Apple’s Grab utility. Once you’ve made your selection, Mailplane automatically attaches the image to your current email.

The simplicity of sending attachments does not stop there. Attach images, archives, or other files simply by dragging the item directly into an open Mailplane window. If you you are not composing a message, Maiplane will begin one for you. If you have an existing email open, the file is immediately added as an attachment. See the added benefits of accessing Gmail through Mailplane below.

What’s integrated, and how will I benefit?

Screenshot of a short demo of Mailplane. Click through to see the actual video (Quicktime required)

Click above for a 5 min. (29MB) live demo of the application as I showcase some of the benefits of accessing and managing your Gmail account through Mailplane. Quicktime is required. Alternatively, view the low quality YouTube version.

  • Address Book – Use Apple’s Address Book to manage your contacts? Because of Mailplane’s integration, sending email to contacts is as simple as locating an email address and toggling the drop down menu next to each. Selecting ‘Send Email’ will open a new Gmail compose screen so you can begin your message right away.
  • Safari – Enjoy sending archived views or URLs to contacts via email? Mailplane lets you do just that. If you’re viewing a website that you want to share via email, simply select ‘Mail Contents of This Page’ or CMD+I to download an archived view which is attached to a new email. Your other option is to select ‘Mail Link of This Page’ or Shift+CMD+I to send the title of the page as the Subject line and the URL as the body.
  • iPhoto – Want to send photographs to family and friends from within iPhoto? Simply highlight the photographs of your choice and select the ‘Email’ icon at the bottom of the window. Photos are automatically resized (based on your Mailplane preference settings) and attached to a new email. Realize that you forgot to add some images? Simply drag images directly into your current compose window to have them automatically attached.
  • Firefox – Similar to the send link as email integration with Safari, Mailplane will also detect and compose a new email for any pages you designate to be sent [via email]. The page title is added as the Subject Line and the URL as the body content.
  • Global mailto: – Any applications with email requirements are handled by Mailplane.

For a better idea of how integrated Gmail becomes when accessed with Gmail, make sure to check out the 5 min. video demo (29MB – Quicktime required).

Whether or not your current work flow would benefit from a dedicated Gmail application is something you will need to experiment with when the private beta is released to the public. Feel free to address any questions or concerns in the comments below or visit the Mailplane website for more information. Now that you are aware of the added benefits of using Mailplane with Gmail, are you more inclined to make the transition to Gmail as your main email solution? Or, are you going to stick with your existing email solution? If this was helpful, consider a digg!

Business Email Solutions

If you need to set up small business email accounts you know just how hard it can be to get good email hosting. Many small businesses use outlook exchange to get their essential email responsibilities taken care of, but there are many other email options out there as well.

Discuss - 58 Comments

  1. [...] can replace your desktop email client Filed under: Uncategorized — recar @ 9:19 pm Thanks to Mailplane, Gmail can replace your desktop email client Mailplane integrates your Gmail account with a handful of applications including iPhoto, Firefox, [...]

  2. [...] client + POP3 account is no longer a requirement for enjoying a seamless email experience on OS X.read more | digg [...]

  3. jet says:

    I’m attempting to set up my google hosted account, but I’ve run into a tiny problem where it comes to updating my MX records.
    my domains are hosted by 123-reg.co.uk
    my hosting is by lunarpages
    Where do I change the records? I’m confused.

  4. Derek says:

    Jet. I’m not familiar with Lunar Pages, but I did a quick Google search and found this – how to change your MX records.

  5. Nick says:

    ChristianK: I’ve just moved all my emails from my IMAP account hosted on my own mail server to GMail. Personally, I feel there’s more to GMail than several accounts and ajaxification (!). Gmails Tags are, in my opinion, far superior to storing emails in folders. They operate in a similar way, but you can add as many tags as you wish to an email in GMail, whereas you can’t store an email in two folders (unless you copy the email, which just makes the clutter worse). I’m sure MailTags is a great plugin, I used it for a while, but it didn’t seem to work as well for me across several machines.

    Additionally, while Mail.app offers thread view, I much prefer the idea of ‘conversations’ in GMail, it seems to work much better than threading by including all the sent messages in a thread. It makes it so much easier to read the one ‘conversation’ and get the complete thread without having to duck off to the sent box etc.

    They’d be the main two advantages for me at the moment, aside from the ‘access mail from everywhere’ aspect. I have a .Mac account too, but I find the new web based Mail so slow and cumbersome, I haven’t used it since the change.

    With regards to the train trip across Scotland, and no WiFi… is there any mobile phone coverage? Because Google provide an app for the mobile phone that is quick and easy to use, and you’d soon have that address ;^)

  6. christianK says:

    @Nick: For the Conversation view: That’s also included in several mailclients like thunderbird. But for the tags: that’s really a point. When I was using gmail i never really used the tags – I never got used to them. Perhaps I should give gmail another try …

    Actually the only reason for me to quit gmail was just the fact, that I don’t like their data privacy guidelines (Do you call it like this in english?). Call me paranoid, but I’m not very comfortable with the idea, that they are storing and “analyzing” my private mails …

    And that’s maybe the reason why I won’t use gmail, even if I start to like the tags.

  7. Nick says:

    I was very dubious about the privacy too. I wasn’t going to risk it at all. But I got thinking, I use 4 different computers, and therefore want to access my mail everywhere, I had an IMAP account, and also a .Mac account. .Mac is a shocker if you want to retain a non-.mac email address, you just can’t. Emails have to be sent with your @mac.com address. You could use reply-to’s, but you have to fill it in every time you use it. Is the privacy with GMail any different to .Mac? Surely they are at a similar level of risk? And IMAP still has limitations. Upon further checking into the privacy topics on the Google site, it does appear that the only time Google acceses our data is in order to provide tailored google ads to gmail. Google are in a great position at the moment, they own the Search Engine world, and are doing some great things. The moment there is any kind of breach of privacy, it’ll get out and the Google world will collapse. I don’t think they’d risk that. Besides… what the hell would they want from my data… there isn’t anything I have to hide! :^)

    I don’t recall seeing anything in Thunderbird about conversations. That’s not to say it doesn’t exist, I may not have dug deep enough, it just seemed to work the same as threads in Mail.app. Besides, Thunderbird is not an option for me. I would need Address Book integration before I ever started using it.

  8. This looks great. I’m waiting for my beta invite like an excited nerd.

  9. This looks amazing! I want to try it on our google-hosted-solution immediately. Is there anyway we kan get to try out the beta?

    really great work. i wanna buy it now =)

  10. [...] a more in-depth review, check out this post from the always informative Derek Punsalan. At the time of this post, I have 5 invites [...]

  11. [...] Mailplane, Gmail will replace your desktop email client Mailplane, Gmail will replace your desktop email client (tags: gmail email mailplane os-x) (pas “encore” de tags) [...]

  12. Abbe says:

    I have been using gmail for about 9 months, and am very frustrated that a few basic functions are not provided. In all the other email clients I have used, going back about 9 years, I have always been able to reorder my inbox by sender or by subject (alpha), and in the best of them one can search for a particular message of thread by using and/or. E.G. “email containing jbrown and afinklestein in recipients, but not holiday in the text” . Gmail seems only to list chronologically – huge pain, in my opinion.

    Also – messages in conversations show up stacked maybe deep – I have come back for a day away and failed to see a message buried in the list of senders, which can get embarrassing if you think you were not notified of something. Seems to me that should be an option, nit the only way to display a series of messages that share a subject.

    How hard could it be to fix these, and why doesn’t Google care?

    Back to Thunderbird, I guess…

  13. moserw says:

    Thanks for sharing. Something I am going to bookmark when I get my Mac a little later. The reviews for Mailplane are all singularly good.

    moserw
    http://www.nela.in

  14. [...] this evening while kicking back to a movie (thanks to John P. for helping me figure out my audio), Mailplane + Growl notified me of a new message with a Subject line to difficult to ignore. George from the [...]

  15. Shell says:

    The only thing I truly dislike about gmail is not being able to create my own folders to organize my mail.. true gmail has tags, but tags do not replace folders.. I have accidentally deleted important account information mails due to everything being tossed in my inbox.. yes you can archive, but then you must select all mail, which throws the archive mail in with everything else.. Thus that feature is not so great either. It sounds like Mailplane will be good, but I am so hoping that it will have folder features.