If you’ve waited an entire minute for Outlook to open, or fought with Mail’s screen-spanning interface, you might have longed for a better way. Light, flexible Sparrow could be your answer. Its interface looks sparse, with a Twitter-esque inbox window where you can double-click messages to open them in their own windows, or in a drawer that slides out to the right. And that’s just the beginning of Sparrow’s flexibility.
Since this app started as a native Mac client for Gmail, it supports that service’s labels feature, colours and all, and you can add new labels from within the app. A recent update added support for other IMAP accounts too, including MobileMe, Yahoo, Aol, and custom IMAP accounts like your work email. While the latest update adds Unified Inbox, Facebook support and rich text signatures.
Sparrow makes everything easy. Want to attach something? Drag it in. Attachments you’re sent can be Quick Looked. Three-finger gestures let you navigate your inbox with a swipe of your trackpad. Growl notifications and a menu bar icon can alert you to new messages, or not. Your inbox can show two-line previews, or not. You can even ditch the Dock icon.
But while those features are great, the experience of using Sparrow is what’s so striking. After a very light learning curve, checking my email felt less like a chore than a fun diversion. The streamlined interface gets out of your way, with Reply, Forward, and formatting options appearing when you need them and fading away when you’re in the inbox. It even adds an Archive folder to your non-Gmail accounts (like Yahoo) so you can use the Archive button in the handy toolbar of icons at the top of your inbox.
The bottom line. For your personal email, this bird has wings. There were a few features missing from the Gmail web interface but I can over look most of them. However I still find myself opening Gmail on the web when I turn my computer on.
If you already have Gmail pull all your email into one account via POP, like I do, this app doesn’t offer much above Gmail itself. Where Sparrow really shines is with it’s way of handling multiple email accounts and its that, that makes the £5.99 price tag worth it.