Looking for a way to access your Gmail acount from your Mac’s menu bar? Zentertain’s Mailbox is a lightweight app that does just that, adding an envelope icon to your menu bar that, when clicked, pops open a window containing your Gmail inbox. You can read emails, reply to conversations and compose new emails from within that window, all without having to open up your browser.
The first time you click the icon, you’ll be asked for your login details before being taken to your inbox. Eagle-eyed users of the mobile-optimized version of Gmail for the iPhone will probably be very familiar with the version of the web app that pops up; it looks like Mailbox is effectively just a browser window, and the app is tricking Google into thinking that it is serving the site to a mobile device. That’s not necessarily a bad thing: the iPhone-optimized version of Gmail is nicely-designed, provides access to Gmail’s more advanced features (Priority Inbox, Google Buzz, labels, stars, etc.) and works well on smaller displays — like the window that Mailbox uses to display your inbox on your desktop.
As a very simple, lightweight app that provides speedy desktop access to your Gmail account via your menu bar, it works pretty well. However, if you’re a Google Apps for Domains Gmail user, you’re out of luck: unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work properly with those accounts. Additionally, there are a couple of extra (albeit probably technically hard to implement) features that would turn it from merely being a convenient way to access the Gmail website into a much more useful application. Robust offline access would be really handy, and make the app more of an equivalent to full-featured desktop email clients like Outlook and Apple Mail. Some kind of notifications system for new and unread emails would also be useful — perhaps having a count of unread emails next to the app’s icon in the menu bar, and also having the option of Growl notifications for new emails.
Mailbox can be downloaded from the App Store. It’s free, and requires Mac OS X 10.6 or later