Although I am not a big fan of Google as such, I really do like their e-mail service, and the Gmail web-interface in particular. I have been using Gmail for my personal e-mail ever since it was still in beta and over time it has become my central e-mail hub. I am using it to manage several accounts so that I only have 1 place to handle e-mail.
When my company asked me to move to India to set up a local office, they also told me that I could run the local IT stuff from there. Meaning it would be easier for me to set up a new e-mail and calendaring solution for our team here than it would be to manage it from Holland. Since we had already secured our Indian domain name, and the team would be relatively small, I decided that Google Apps would be the way to go. Be gone Exchange server!
I started using the Gmail web interface for my work e-mail just as I had used it for my personal life. Using a 'normal' e-mail client would have been an option but then I would miss out on all of the good stuff that Gmail has to offer, like superb search, labels and conversation view. However, I soon felt that in our business setting I needed more control over my e-mail, especially handling attachments. Introduce Mailplane. Mailplane let's you use the familiar Gmail web interface (with all its goodies) and basically wraps a 'shell' around it so that it acts as a stand-alone app for your Mac.
Best of both worlds?
Handling e-mail in an application, as opposed to using the web, provides a few benefits that I found particularly useful. You can set Mailplane as the default mail app in OS X. So the next time you click an e-mail address on a webpage, Mailplane will open. It also let's you use Command+i in Safari and create a new e-mail with the url of the page that your visiting. But perhaps the best part is the ease with which it handles attachments. You can drag and drop a set of files onto Mailplane and it will create a new e-mail with the attachments. For pictures it will also ask you if you want to optimize their size.
Personally I got sold on the attachment handling and standa-lone character alone. However, Mailplane has a few more tricks up its sleeve. I'll point out a few below:
- Integration with Address Book - let's you select an e-mail address from Contacts.app and create a new mail instantly.
- Screenshot - capture screenshots from within the app and automatically attach them to a new mail.
- Media browser - use the familiar OS X media browser so you can pick and choose pictures from your iPhoto library.
- Evernote - save e-mails directly to Evernote.
- Multiple accounts - lets you switch between two or more Gmail accounts right within the app.
I do recommend that you check out the app's preferences, there are many little goodies and tweaks to be found in there.
Mailplane is currently running a beta program for version 3. I've downloaded it but haven't spend too much time with it yet. One noticeable feature is the introduction of tabs (for multiple accounts). I am also happy to read that Mailplane 3 will handle Google Calendar within the app, something that I really miss in the current version. The interface also looks a bit more polished. The app has been built from the ground up. You can find all the information about the beta here. The full list of features can be found here.
I have grown quite fond of the app. To me it provides a nice crossover between having the benefits of a stand-alone mail application and being able to use all (most) of Gmail's awesome features. Mailplane is probably not for everyone, but if you are a big time Gmail user I definitely recommend it.