I have two loves, Mail and Mailsmith

by Francois Joseph de Kermadec

Related link: http://barebones.com/products/mailsmith/




For a long time, like most users, I have been waiting for the perfect e-mail client. I played with Mail, Thunderbird, Mailsmith and a couple others that shall remain nameless. Of course, that perfect client never arrived and, like everyone, I was forced to curse at my application on a regular basis, no matter what that application was or how much AppleScripting I was willing to perform to add the few features I was the only one on this planet to deem essential.

Yesterday however came the time to take the plunge and invest in a second e-mail client. Why a second might you ask? Because I wanted to keep personal and professional matters strictly separate and thought this was the only true way.

After many months of looking applications up, I had finally declared Mailsmith the best runner-up client, tied in with Mail.app, for very different reasons. So today, I finally downloaded Mailsmith and paid my license fee, silently hoping I was not purchasing an end-of-lifed application — we shall see but I have a bad feeling about that one.

While setting the preferences, I couldn’t help but think at the price tag that so many users find unjustified, especially for a client that does not do IMAP. Well, after checking and unchecking boxes for a good 10 minutes, I now fully understand where that comes from: Mailsmith is, by far, the only e-mail application I know that thinks of a user’s both online and offline workflow. How much work that must have required I can’t imagine.

Want to print and bind your mails, as so many offices still do (yuck!)? Well, you can setup a special “binder” margin. You like to read your e-mails in ProFont but know your boss insists on the Company Font whenever you print them? That can be arranged as well. You yearn to watermark your mails with a custom header? Easy as pie. Plus, Mailsmith integrates beautifully with Address Book and other Apple niceties.

Mailsmith is not perfect but neither is any other e-mail client. It lacks some features that now make Mail.app very powerful such as Spotlight search — which, considering it already has its own searching system, I entirely understand but will without doubt discourage some users. It could use a few optional visual effects, just for Aqua’s sake and it could use, without a single doubt, some IMAP goodiness.

All these little faults however do not prevent Mailsmith from being one of the best clients I have met so far. I’m just crossing my fingers, hoping BareBones thinks the same! There is plenty of life left in Mailsmith, that's for sure.

[Update 2006-02-24] I have posted some more in-depth thoughts on the topic on the Soup, for those of you who inquired.

18 Comments

ncmphoto
2005-11-22 09:53:33
Mailsmith, Yeh!
I found Mailsmith when looking for an OSX native replacement for my dearly beloved Claris Emailer (which continued to soldier on in Classic mode way into OSX - kudos to its programmers). I was told Mailsmith was the closest thing available - though with the enhanced features that a company like BareBones could put into place. I've been a happy Mailsmith user ever since.


I don't want imap - don't want stuff automatically opening into my email space. Maybe I'm a control freak, but I prefer attachments to stay that way and only open when I tell them to. Mailsmith has lots of goodies for power users who don't need fluff. I wish it a long life.

cug
2005-11-22 11:32:51
Mailsmith - unbelievable features but slooooooow
I have used Mailsmith for well over a year and finally I wasn't able to use it anymore. It is just way too slow.



If you have more than a few thousand emails in one box, Mailsmith becomes absolutely unusable on my Powerbook (G4, 1.25GHz, 1GB RAM).



Well, you can organize your mailboxes in a way, that you have only up to max 2000 or 3000 mails in one box, but this is more then inconvenient when you well over 100000 mails at all.



So, I want to use it - but it's not possible. And I think the product is dead. There was no major improvement since 2.0 came out and this is now a few years ago ...
p.k.
2005-11-22 13:31:48
Mailsmith, Yeh!
I don't want imap - don't want stuff automatically opening into my email space.


Do you even know what IMAP is? It has nothing to do with "stuff" automatically opening into your email space.


It's a protocol for transferring email from the server to your client. It keeps the mail on the server so it's possible to use your mail box with many different clients without having to import/export email.


Personally, I like to keep my email on the server, where it's safe.

ianduncan1
2005-11-22 16:51:38
how much email?
One thing I find really odd about email is the way people hoard it.


What on earth is "this is more then inconvenient when you well over 100000 mails" about?


Do you keep every letter ever sent to you? Including all the junk mail? How bizarre.


Maybe I've missed some reason to keep everything.

mnystedt
2005-11-22 22:33:37
how much email?
I save nearly every email I send or receive apart from junk mail, and I don't understand why it's "bizarre". I cannot recall all the times I've had to locate an old email (sent or received) for some piece of information. I could probably delete most of the emails I've saved and never miss them, but then if I do, I'm sure I'll be looking for something that I've just deleted. But perhaps I'm just a hoarder ;-)
mnystedt
2005-11-22 22:35:19
Without IMAP...
... using Mailsmith is a non-starter for me, it's just not going to happen. I've tried Mailsmith and I like the interface, filtering, and other stuff, but they need IMAP support before I'll use it.
skot.nelson
2005-11-22 23:36:26
too expensive
Mailsmit is the only email app other than Apple's Mail that I've liked for OS X. It works well - fast and zippy.


And I've never used it on OS X.


I considered purchasing it for 9, but at US$99.99 it's simply too expensive. There are too many free options.


CDN$50 I might spend. I still don't think it's worth it compared to Mail, but it seems clear to me that the current price point is not sustainable.


Maybe somebody at BBEdit knows better; maybe it's flying off the virtual shelves. Who knows.

F.J.
2005-11-23 01:28:25
Too expensive
Hi!


I confess I do not know anything about Bare Bone's sales or business plan. I do have to acknowledge however that, after having thought the current price tag was on the high side, it appeared entirely justified within a few weeks of use. Of course, every user has different needs and Mailsmith may not bring enough to your workflow to justify its current price.


Considering scarcity as a justification for a price point, though, the features available in Mailsmith do, in some aspects, make it one of a kind.


Thank you for taking the time to post and share your ideas with us!


FJ

F.J.
2005-11-23 01:30:47
Without IMAP...
Hi!


I do agree that the absence of IMAP capabilities has held me back for a while. Somehow however, POP has always seemed much more reliable for me which is probably more due to poor implementations of IMAP than to the IMAP protocol itself and, after a couple years of IMAP-only use, has found its way back onto my computer.


Of course, users synchronizing mail between machines will certainly feel differently, as IMAP does bring a new world of convenience to these setups.


FJ

F.J.
2005-11-23 01:33:13
How much email?
Hi!


In today's corporate world it is true that keeping mail for reference is often a welcome precaution even if only because, in the event of a litigation, this usually brings a huge advantage over the other party.


Of course, bloated inboxes are as useful as no inboxes at all and can rapidly become a bore. To avoid this, I usually archive my mail by the month and, every few months have all messages transfered to a secure off-site location. That way, should something Very Bad happen, I would be able to retrieve the messages but do not have to keep them all on my hard drive.


FJ

F.J.
2005-11-23 01:37:31
Unbelievable features but slow
Hi!


You certainly do raise a very valid point with regards to the upgrade cycles. The last maintenance release to Mailsmith seems to have been in March of this year actually which, considering the task an e-mail client handles, does not seem unreasonable. Only the people at Bare Bones of course know about potential upcoming major releases


As far as speed goes, I cannot say much, for not yet having so many messages stored into my database. I do remember however using Mailsmith punctually for cleaning mailboxes at a client's a while ago and was impressed by the robustness with which it downloaded the contents of overstuffed POP3 accounts, while Thunderbird and Mail were both choking under the load.


Of course, that mail was immediately deleted and neither kept nor managed so I can't speak for what would have happened next.


FJ

F.J.
2005-11-23 01:39:38
How much email?
Hi!


Your post just reminded me of a great quote along the lines of "Junk is what becomes useful a few minutes after you throw it away" Very wise words! ;^)


FJ

F.J.
2005-11-23 01:44:23
Mailsmith, Yeh!
Hi!


You raise two very important points with regards to synchronizing and message safety.


As far as synchronizing goes, I do agree that IMAP is hard, if not impossible to beat, as it allows for relatively smooth transfers between machines.


I wish I would say my mail were safe on the server as well but am afraid glitches happen a lot more often than we think. Thanks to backups at large hosts they do tend to go unnoticed but I have heard of many people and worked with many clients whose mail went Poof! from one day to the next due to maintenance, some forgotten company rule or sheer negligence on the administrative side.


Keeping a copy of email both on the server side and on the client side seems to be the only way to go for important messages but this introduces some real administrative overload namely mailbox quota management.


FJ

fugaz
2005-11-23 14:48:40
mutt?
I found the mutt/mail combination unbeatable.
mutt is simply the best in handling any kind of header/setting/account/whatever requirement, while mail wins with spotlight.
So, my setup is mutt as long as messages are on server and mail when they are downloaded. And, of course, I use IMAP.
And, of course, mutt is free.
jdb8167
2005-11-27 17:34:12
Used to use Mailsmith
The reason I don't use Mailsmith any longer is that my ISP (comcast) has very good spam filtering on the server so I no longer need the spam filters that I created long ago using Applescript and Mailsmith. Mailsmith doesn't use the built-in OS X dictionary that shows spelling errors on the fly. And the biggest reason is that Mailsmith doesn't integrate with Spotlight. It stores all of your email in big files so it isn't likely to ever support it so I wasn't willing to wait for an upgrade.


Since Mail.app does integrate well with OS X 10.4 and is free and seems to work pretty well with its filters, I really have no need for Mailsmith any longer.

jdb8167
2005-11-27 17:43:25
how much email?
I don't keep everything but I see no reason not to keep all of my personal email correspondence. I have email going back to 1991. I have over 60,000 emails. Some are so old they don't use modern email address with the @ sign but have old fashioned ! addresses. I doubt many people here even know what a bang address is.


But even with all that, it only takes up less than 510 MB. So I don't really see any reason not to have it all online. Spotlight makes it pretty easy to find anything I want.

F.J.
2005-11-28 00:54:20
Used to use Mailsmith
Hi!


You are very right in pointing out Mailsmith's two limitations as of date: lack of Spotlight integration and its inability to integrate with the Mac OS X dictionary. Its excellent searching capabilities do make Spotlight search less of an issue, though, especially since pulling messages out of Mail from the general Spotlight menu can be a slow process.


FJ

F.J.
2005-11-28 00:56:20
mutt?
Hi!


I did look at Mutt, yes, and the MacDevCenter has published an excellent Mutt article in the past. This proves there are many ways to do one thing when it comes to computers and using our technology of choice.


The reason I did not go the Mutt route is that I did not feel the configuration and maintenance required by the putting together of various elements was consistent with my desire for a stable and simple email solution.


FJ