Email Clients

Notes on my search for an email client

I’m a happy Gmail user, but my university email address cannot be accessed from Gmail (I cannot create an application specific password and Gmail does not support OAuth2). I found the browser UI for Outlook frustrating, so I went in search of another email client.

I looked at and tried a wide range of clients. Below are my notes about what I liked / did not like about each one. Of course, these reflect my preferences. The apps have other features and flaws that were not as important to me (but might be to you).

iPhone Apps

Immediate disqualifying factors:

  • Did not support an Office365 account with Oauth2: Gmail, Hey, Superhuman
  • I had issues connecting to Office365: PolyMail, Unibox, Zoho
  • No snoozing: Apple Mail
  • Don’t like the approach to email (group by sender or make it look like chat): Spike, Unibox
  • Too expensive: Missive, PolyMail

For those that remained, there are tradeoffs. The table below show factors I considered (more significant factors in bold). One common issue was the way conversations were displayed. The screenshots show how each app displays a new conversation with three unread messages when the conversation is opened for the first time.

App Positive Negative Conversation Screenshot
Airmail - Can show the entire subject of an email in the message list.
- 4+ swipe actions.
- Remind if no response.
- Does not open all new messages in a conversation.
- Opening previous messages in a conversation inline involves tapping a little arrow (tapping elsewhere opens the email on its own in a new view).
Airmail Open Conversation
Bluemail - Does not open all new messages in a conversation.
- Swipe actions require a tap as well.
- No large templates.
bluemail Open Conversation
Canary Mail - Great privacy and security.
- Minimise a draft message.
- Does not open all new messages in a conversation.
- Once a conversation thread is expanded there is no way to contract it again.
canary Open Conversation
Edison Mail - Four swipe actions.
- Template messages with to-be-filled slots.
- Conversations require opening each message separately..
- Reads email to inform trading (opt-out exists, but its unclear how it interacts with the privacy policy).
- Didn’t import my email correctly.
Edison Open Conversation
Newton - Four swipe actions.
- Remind if no response.
- Adjusting font size only changes the sender, not the subject of the email.
- Does not load all of the conversation, even if the whole thing is new, requiring a tap and waiting.
- Does not have a sideways view.
newton Open Conversation
Outlook - Appears to ensure a minimum font size in messages.
- Nice availability sharing.
- Select a set of messages and delete / archive them all.
- No template messages. outlook Open Conversation
Spark - Template messages with pre-filled or to-be-filled slots.
- Four swipe actions.
- Remind if no response.
- Minimise a draft message.
spark Open Conversation
TwoBird - Notes integrated with email.
- Select a set of messages and delete / archive them all.
- Only one swipe action.
- No template messages.
- Does not have a sideways view.
twobird Open Conversation
TypeApp - Does not open all new messages in a conversation.
- Swipe actions require a tap as well.
- No large templates.
typeapp Open Conversation

There is also variation in the message list view, but it is less significant (note, these screenshots are all after I modified the settings for each app to suit my preferences):

Airmail
Airmail Message List
BlueMail
Bluemail Message List
Canary Mail
Canary Message List
Edison Mail
Edison Message List
Newton
Newton Message List
Outlook
Outlook Message List
Spark
Spark Message List
TwoBird
Twobird Message List
TypeApp
typeapp Message List

Desktop App

Immediate disqualifying factors:

  • Did not support an Office365 account with Oauth2: Boxy, Geary, Gmail, Hey, Kiwi, MailPlane, Mailtab, Mailspring, Mimestream, Postbox, Superhuman
  • I had issues connecting to Office365: Zoho
  • Don’t like the approach: Mail Pilot, MailMate, Shift, Spike, Unibox
  • Does not support any / enough gmail shortcuts: Apple Mail, Bluemail, Hiri, MailTrim, Outlook (desktop app), Thunderbird, TwoBird, TypeApp, eM Client
  • Too expensive: InTheLoop, Missive, PolyMail
  • Doesn’t have a way to show the message list with one line per message: Spark, Canary Mail, Airmail (only has it as a legacy theme with font that is too small for me)

Only three remain:

App Positive Negative
Edison Mail - Templates messages with to-be-filled slots.
- Has an option for larger text.
- Clean UI.
- No snooze.
- Reads email to inform trading (opt-out exists, but its unclear how it interacts with the privacy policy).
Newton - Templates.
- Entire interface scales nicely to have bigger text.
- Clean UI.
- Remind if no response.
- When moving up/down in the message list, if you go off the screen it doesn’t scroll.
Outlook (web) - Templates.
- Create a quick poll, including one for meeting scheduling.
- Entire interface scales nicely to have bigger text.
- Does not support ‘x’ to select messages in the inbox.
- Can only snooze messages in the inbox.

Conclusion

After all this exploration, I plan to use the Outlook phone app and Outlook web app - not the outcome I expected! I still find the Outlook web app frustrating at times (e.g., if you create a folder it cannot be made a favourite without reloading the page), but by carefully going through the settings I was able to resolve many of the things that originally frustrated me.

It’s slightly disappointing as the other apps did have many neat features that I can see myself using. At some point I’ll revisit Airmail, Canary Mail, Edison Mail, Newton, Spark, and TwoBird.