Fine-Tune Your E-Mail Account

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Like magicians with their props, you can rely on a handy set of secret tools for making your work easier. E-mails have invaded everyone's life and work since they were invented and, let's face it: it is not easy to keep track of all the messages you receive in both your personal and business accounts on a daily basis. This, it becomes more difficult each day to answer thoroughly all the e-mails you get, so that you can make your Inbox clean and empty again by the end of the day.

But relax, if you haven't found yet a method to centralize and easily categorize or answer your e-mails, I have a solution for you: Mailplane. It is a smart tool that will help you sync your accounts in order to have a better control of what and how you are writing.

The Looks

By default, in the toolbar, you will have three groups of buttons. The first includes the functional controls as Overview, Open or Refresh. The second includes buttons for the most utilized actions: New, Reply, Forward, Send and Delete. The third group includes some buttons that are specific to Mailplane: Applications, Screenshot, Email, Media, Downloads and Accounts.

Besides the toolbar and the main menu, you will also find in the main window the classic Gmail elements: the folder's lists in the sidebar, the e-mail's list in the central area (if you are in the Inbox, Drafts, Spam or Sent Mail mode), plus a New Window and a Print button together with a bunch of links to some related articles on the right side of the window. As expected, if you click the New button on the top of the main window, you will see in the middle panel the standard window for composing new e-mails.

But now, let's come back to the main menu of Mailplane, because I am sure anyone who is interested in optimizing their way of sending and managing e-mails has used at least once an application such as Gmail. For this reason, the aim of describing Gmail's main controls, features or GUI is beyond my goals.

So, let's focus on what Mailplane has to offer.

The File menu provides you with an option for opening a New window for writing a fresh message but also a so-called New separate option, which means it lets you compose more e-mails at a time. The coolest option is the Print one, which lets you easily convert any e-mail to a PDF file, so that your recipient can visualize your message exactly in the form you wanted to send it.

The Edit menu, besides the classic editing and printing options, invites you to Copy as Mailplane URL or Copy as Gmail URL, everything that you compose or you want to save for later use.

The most appealing and useful command in the View menu is by far the Customize Toolbar command, which allows you to add further controls on the top of the main window and, as a result, to speed up work.

The Mail menu delivers quick access to the main folders, placed by default by Gmail in the sidebar (Inbox, Drafts, Sent Mail) but also to the newly created ones (Starred, or any other new labeled folder) or to the Contacts area.

Finally, the Downloads menu enables you to access options like Reveal Download Folder in Finder or Import last Download to iPhoto.

The options related to the minimizing and customizing of photos and attachments are very appealing and useful too but they will be discussed in more detail below.

The Works

The nice thing about Mailplane is that it offers you a plus of flexibility by allowing you to joggle with controls and shortcuts. For instance, the Customize Toolbar option provided in the View menu lets you introduce a whole bunch of new buttons. In the screenshots, you can see that I have added the Newer and the Older buttons (the ones marked with green arrows) plus the Star and the Archive button, as I consider these are pretty useful when you want to switch the view, mark important e-mails or compress older ones.

The Report Spam is also useful if you receive a lot of unsolicited messages from some of the mail services where you have subscribed, or even worse, from the advertisers that grabbed your e-mail by any other obscure method.

If you are a big fan of talking with your friends online, you can also place the Google Talk button in the foreground.

Finally, the most interesting buttons are displayed on the right side of the toolbar: Screenshot, Media and Accounts. These buttons will make the difference in the way you use your e-mail account. The first two help you easily attach exquisite files as pictures and videos to your messages, which is both fun and useful.

But this is not all: Mailplane allows you to add these types of multimedia files with a simple drag-and-drop set of actions from your disk. You can use pictures you have saved from your camera, USB stick or any other storage medium or quickly take a screenshot of a webpage and automatically attach it to one of your messages. The Photos tab in the Preferences menu provides you with a series of tools for optimizing the quality of the pictures you want to send as attachments.

The Contacts area lets you easily control multiple accounts. This is how it works: from the Preferences menu, you can add the credentials for every e-mail account and with a hit on the Contacts menu, you can open a list with all your accounts in the sidebar. The connected account features the number of unread messages displayed on the right. The Sign out button, placed on the bottom of the sidebar, will help you easily and securely navigate through your accounts.

To improve, personalize and automatize some actions, it is recommended to use the Preferences menu again. The Options tab in the Preferences menu lets you choose the notification sound when new e-mails arrive in one of your accounts. When such an event occurs, you will also get notified by the menulet icon installed on your screen and by a Growl message. Furthermore, the Preferences menu lets you define signatures and text snippets.

For assigning new shortcuts or for editing the existing ones, you have to use the System Preferences. More exactly, for adding a new mapping to the list of predefined keyboard shortcuts, you have to memorize a menu caption, click the Keyboard & Mouse icon in the System Preferences, hit the plus button, select the Mailplane program from the drop-down list on the top of the page, enter the menu caption you want to edit and enter the desired shortcut in the special provided field, on the bottom of the page.

Finally, for all those changes to take effect, you have to restart Mailplane.

The Good

Mailplane is a friendly piece of software that aims to enhance and optimize the way you write and manage e-mails. It lets you add new buttons in the Toolbar and play with the shortcuts, so that you can switch views, convert attachments or minimize pictures within a click. Mailplane provides you with a different approach for labeling more e-mails at a time and a good search method.

The Bad

Some of the commands might seem redundant, since you are offered the option of opening a new window for writing a fresh mail, for instance, once in the File menu, twice as a button in the toolbar and third as a Compose option provided by default in the sidebar by Gmail. But this is not a weak point in itself, as the main aim of the application is to deliver intuitive alternatives to the most frequently used commands, so that you can save some time and find a way to enjoy writing e-mails even if you are not such a big fan.

The Truth

Mailplane can be pretty useful, especially if you have to deal with tons of e-mails on a daily basis and you always fear forgetting to answer or even not noticing an important one. It is not a real e-mail manager in the sense that it doesn't do the job for you but it provides you with some tools and good ideas of how you can manage multiple accounts, for instance, and of how you can efficiently label, highlight or mark important messages for later use.

Here are some snapshots of the application in action:

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user interface 4
features 4
ease of use 5
pricing / value 3

final rating 4
Editor's review
very good
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