I’ve been a hardcore Gmail user since the early days, when beta really meant the email service was in its infancy. It’s perfect for managing my email but there are two big things Gmail can’t do that seriously hinder my daily workflow: There’s no easy way to switch between Gmail accounts, and no way to drag and drop a attachments into emails.
To get around these two issues, I use Mailplane. It’s a fantastic application that replicates the Gmail interface right on your desktop and integrates so well with your Mac that you’ll never want to access Gmail from the web again.
Mailplane runs on Mac OS X 10.4 or higher, and requires 15 MB of hard disk space. It takes all of about two minutes to install and configure, depending on how many Gmail accounts you’d like it to access. Once you provide your Gmail login information — it’s stored locally, and safely, on your machine — a screen opens that looks exactly like the Gmail interface you’re used to, but with an additional toolbar at the top to let you access Mac-specific functions.
Keyboard shortcuts still work, as do the Gmail option buttons (Archive, Report Spam, Delete, etc.).
Mailplane’s toolbar adds additional, if redundant, New, Reply, Forward, Send, and Discard buttons. I don’t use those, but the five other buttons on this toolbar make Mailplane worth every MB of disk space it uses.
Screenshot – While composing an email, click Screenshot and choose which onscreen image you want to capture: a window, a particular screen, or a specific selection. You can also opt to hide Mailplane while capturing your screenshot. Once snapped, the .png will be automatically attached to your email.
Email – This button accesses your Mac’s Address Book so you can easily look up contacts while crafting an email. Or, simply click Email, choose a contact, and begin typing a new message.
Media – This is my favorite feature of Mailplane. Click this button to access all media files stored on your computer. Find files by name, or by their thumbnail image. Select your file, decide what size you want it to be (small for a faster download, medium, or large for better quality), and the file is automatically attached to your outgoing email.
Download – Click on Download to reveal in Finder any attachments you’ve received via email. Any photos or .zip files you receive are automatically opened in iPhoto.
Accounts – Use this button to access all of your Gmail or Google Apps for domain accounts via fast-switching. Since Mailplane keeps you logged in to all of your Gmail accounts until you say otherwise, simply click the button to open a drawer on right side of the window for a list of all accounts and how many unread emails are in each inbox.
If Mailplane’s extended Gmail functionality ended there, it would still be well worth the download. It still has a whole lot more to offer, though. If you leave Mailplane in your dock, you can just drag and drop any file right onto the icon and a blank email opens with the file already attached. You can also get notified of new mail via a sound, a numeric display on the dock’s icon, or directly through the Growl notification system.
There’s even a really cool plugin that lets you email pictures right from iPhoto with a single click, and OmniFocus users will love the plugin that integrates Mailplane with the popular task manager.
I’ve been an avid user of Mailplane for a long time and have had no serious issues with stability, hanging, or freezing. The app does hang on occasion, but it typically occurs when I’m asking it to do too much — like compose a new email while attaching a large file to another.
Mailplane’s developer is very responsive and usually answers emails within a day or so. For a really rapid response for support or questions, the forums are an excellent place to start.
Gmail is nearly perfect these days, especially with all the tweaks and new features they’ve been rolling out lately. I used to use Gmail via Mail.app and POP because I wanted to access my mail offline and have an email client that’s tightly integrated with my OS. Now that Gmail is available offline, Mailplane is a perfect way for me to access my accounts any time I want without jumping through POP mail hoops or giving up Mac integration.
Mailplane has a 30-day trial period before registration is required. A single license costs $24.95, but you can license up to 5 additional Macs with the Family Option for $15 more. Quantity and educational discounts are also available.