Airmail for Mac review: Sparrow lamenters rejoice, an even better solution is here!

Airmail for Mac is a new third party mail client that not only supports a plethora of account types, but is also one of the most visually appealing email apps for Mac I've ever used. For users who are still clutching onto Sparrow while waiting for a viable alternative, you may just find your solution in Airmail.

Upon first launching Airmail, you'll be asked to start configuring accounts. It's easy enough and for most accounts, Airmail can automatically import settings. I have several Google apps accounts with custom domains and Airmail had no problem figuring that out on its own without me having to enter Gmail settings manually. From what I remember, Sparrow and Mac Mail wanted me to manually enter some stuff.

The only kind of account I had an issue linking was a few Rackspace hosted emails. It appears that Airmail has an issue with SSL on Rackspace so if you're using one of those accounts, you'll just need to set up IMAP or POP support without authentication for now. All the other kinds of accounts, including iCloud, imported settings automagically without any manual inputs.

After you've got your accounts set up, you'll be taken to the main view of Airmail. Your account navigation will be off to the left with a message column to the right of that and your reading pane to the far right. For users who have used Sparrow over the years, you'll feel right at home. Airmail has a slightly more pleasing interface in my opinion but most of that will be subjective. Airmail offers a good amount of minimal themes to choose between in settings if you don't like the default one.

As far as settings, Airmail supports Gmail shortcuts just like Sparrow does for those who have been accustomed to using those. You can enable them by just checking a box within settings. Everything else you'd expect to find in settings is there from per account signatures, aliases, folder mapping, and more. Dropbox is also supported for uploading email attachments, if you choose to utilize it. Set it up once, and Airmail, just like Sparrow, will auto-upload your attachments.

Odds and ends settings such as custom notification sounds and message sort order are also present. Airmail also lets you choose how much of your Mac's resources you want it to use. This basically means you can choose Airmail to be a bit slower to spare some system resources or you can allot it more in order to speed up the application.

The good

  • Great interface that manages to be rich and colorful but not over the top
  • Custom image support for each account makes it easy to pick out accounts in the side bar and toggle between them quickly
  • Most account types, including Google apps, automatically detect which means no entering manual mail server info
  • Pretty good folder mapping options on a per-account basis

The bad

  • A few crashes here and there but I'd expect those to be fixed in an upcoming release
  • Rackspace emails require a little bit of tweaking to get them to work correctly, the authentication issue needs to be addressed
  • Just like Sparrow, you can't save messages from one mail account to another and it's the one feature I still miss in Mac Mail, but can do without

The bottom line

For Sparrow users who are clinging on to an unsupported client, Airmail is the best alternative out there. I have eight mailboxes and Mac Mail always lagged to the point of being painful. Sparrow did a great job of handling many boxes and Airmail does just as good of a job. Sending mail is quick, even with larger attachments.

If you're looking for a supported alternative to Sparrow or just want to shy away from Mac Mail, Airmail is quite possibly the best choice available. And at only $1.99, you really can't ask for more.

Allyson Kazmucha

iMore senior editor from 2011 to 2015.

  • I used this in beta form when I used my Gmail account.. Best client for Gmail users hands down for the Mac. I have sinced changed to @me account, so I used Apple´s Mac Mail client. Works even better...
  • Does @me have reliable push email. Looking for push email that syncs well on the Mac and OS
  • Seems to work rather well for me on both the Mac and my iPhone. I have since disabled push on my phone though in a quest to find the perfect combination of events for long battery life.
  • Ps why would to save Emails from one account to another. You can make filter for this I think or manually copy the image to the other account. But I don't think this will be in sync with the online account.
  • From what I've read, Airmail can't import existing emails from Apple's Mail. This is deal-breaker for me (and I suspect many, many others). Until I see proof that it can import existing mail, I can't justify even $2 for it. If that feature is added, I would buy this in a heartbeat.
  • Not sure what you mean, but I had mail in my iCloud inbox when I set it up. They are there in Airmail, as are the folders I created.
  • That's because iCloud (and every email and folder you create in the account) is stored in the cloud via IMAP. If you happen to have a ton of email sorted and stored in the "On My Mac" section of Mail, that means it doesn't live in the cloud any longer. I could get around it by re-uploading it all to my IMAP server, but I would rather not spend the time (or waste the space on my server).
  • It is so good, I've been using it for a few days now and I won't ever go back to sparrow. Good review.
  • I've been using it since Ally told me about it earlier today, and I'm with you, Sparrow has gone!
  • I don't suppose Exchange is supported with this client, is it?
  • sure does :)
  • Oooo! Definitely checking this out!
  • > you can't save messages from one mail account to another I have a rule in Mac Mail that copies all the Exchange mail I get from work to my personal iCloud account. This because at work mail tends to vanish, sometimes one or two, sometimes all. If that works in Airmail also, I'd be willing to try.
  • Any word on whether they'll be releasing an iOS verson of this app?
  • Does it automatically save attachments to a library folder like Mac mail does? I hate that!
  • I'm using PostBox and liking it, but will check out Airmail.
  • Its very pretty but I much prefer how handles threading. I dont want to look at >>>> in threaded replies. So I think I will play with Air Mail but probably not use it much until that is fixed.
  • Re: not being able to save mail messages between accounts. I'm not entirely sure what you mean by that - do you want some sort of filter/rule that does so automatically, or are you asking for the ability to manually move/copy messages? If the latter, just right-click on a message in AirMail and choose "Folder". From there select "Transfer to" and then pick the destination email account/folder that you want to xfer the msg to. Also, regarding the issues with SSL on Rackspace - you can't set it up "without authentication", because authentication is how Rackspace knows which email account you're trying to access. So you probably meant "without SSL/TLS", aka "disable encryption". That'll work, but people should keep in mind that doing so means that their email passwords will be flying across the internet in plaintext - definitely not something I'd want to do on a shared network like at a coffee shop.
  • I thought this didn't support POP yet or am I missing something?
  • ditto. still waiting for the support of POP to happen...
  • Yup - absolutely digging AirMail. I've used since it was on NeXTSTEP. It was really time to move on. I gave up on Apple's dated when Sparrow came out. I was majorly bummed when Google bought them. Was still using Sparrow until a few days ago. Soooo glad AirMail debuted! It's great! I'd like to see a small button to open and close the folder view. The hot key is OK, but I'd like to see a clickable toggle or something. Also hoping for AirMail for iOS!! Very happy with this app! Thank you Bloop!
  • Amazing. It is usually difficult to win me over immediately but the UI is so natural and simple. Im sure someone snarky might dig into the coding and talk about what a hog it may or may not be or find ridiculous enterprise limitations etc. For me for now I can not praise this email client enough. Kudos.
  • nice app, but utterly useless until I can search my gmail using the search window. Searching in airmail only searches the currently downloaded content, whereas in Sparrow, I can search across all my mail.
  • How can it be better than Sparrow if it doesn’t even support find and replace in text? Without this simple feature (part of every text editor and desktop email app I know), it’s virtually useless to me. Let’s say you are writing a dozen email job applications a day. You copy your prepared text, ready to have the recipient’s name, the company and a few more parts replaced. You cannot do that in Airmail.
  • Perhaps if you weren't using boilerplate emails to get a job you'd have one. Nothing turns off a hiring manager more than finding someone who obviously applies to a dozen companies a day with a few "personalizations".
  • Trolling with a comment that adds nothing to the conversation may bring you satisfaction, but it doesn't do anything to address the actual question: Why is there no search and replace, like there is in almost every other Mac text processing application? From TextEdit to TextWrangler, Pages, Word to Sparrow and Mail, everywhere you write there is a search and replace function. For good reasons. By the way: if you ask HR consultants and managers, they will confirm to you that using a refined cover letter that highlights the best features of your resume is not only common practice, it is actually increasing your chance of success when applying for a job. There is absolutely nothing wrong with preparing paragraphs and bullet points in a letter and replacing the company name and the position title. Such a letter is not a boilerplate, it is a customized letter targeted to a specific audience. But like I said, there are a thousand other good reasons why search and replace is a common text editing feature.
  • Thanks for the review.
  • When are they going to support S/MIME encryption?
  • I like it so far.. literally JUST downloaded it. Macmail is my usual app. Can ANYTHING be imported from macmail? I have a very large collection of signatures. I dont really want to rebuild those...and even as I wrote this.. I discovered I cant rotate my signatures.. something I did with the random setting on macmail... well.. thats disappointing...