First look: Mailbox for Mac

A new email client that prides itself on speed

As someone who emails regularly, having a working email client is essential. Over the years I have tried multiple mail clients, from Sparrow on Mac, through a myriad on Windows 8 to Yahoo's mail app on Android.

All have offered solid experiences – the ability to reply, search, place into a folder, and so forth – but none have offered the ability to properly categorise email messages based on one important factor: time.

Time is of the essence

An email assignment from TechRadar may need to be dealt with in a week, by which time the message has disappeared fifty emails down my inbox and requires searching to find, or in the worst case scenario, has been deleted.

An email from a friend received during a working day may need to be replied to in the evening, by which time I have forgotten and have moved onto other matters.

Promotional emails from online stores offering discounts need to be brought back after payday, by which time they have been mercilessly buried. Luckily, Mailbox provides a solution.

First appearing on the iPhone, Mailbox offered an easy way to dismiss emails and have them return at a later date. By swiping one way or another on an email, a message could be hidden until an hour's time, a day's time, a week's time and so on, upon which point it would return to the top of the inbox ready for action.

mailbox for mac sign in

Mailbox currently supports iCloud or Gmail

Dropbox backing

Mailbox, the company, was then snapped up by Dropbox for around $100 million (around £61 million, AU$113 million), offering greater resources but keeping the service separate. Under Dropbox's ownership, Mailbox expanded to include an iPad client, and now, a Mac client which is currently in beta.

The actual visual experience with the Mac software is incredibly close to the Windows 8 mail app, with a clean white interface and sliding effects when anything happens. Unlike the mail app on OS X, which can appear cluttered and busy, Mailbox always looks serene even when emails are pouring in.

When you first sign in – Mailbox only supports iCloud or Google emails, with Yahoo mail support being removed due to a technical issue – all of your emails appear instantly. Sent items synced to the cloud (I signed in with my iCloud email account) swiftly and correctly, as did deleted and archived items.

As I mentioned, the app is still in beta, and has all of the associated instabilities, including refusing to write a new message on multiple occasions. These issues will likely be ironed out in the final release and can be solved by deleting and then reinstalling the app (a process I undertook several times).

Zero priority

Recently, there has been a large movement towards "inbox zero", the idea that people who use email heavily want to reduce their unread email count to zero. Mailbox helps with this goal greatly.

By filing emails away, the number of emails that are left unread reduces rapidly. In the past, I've left emails unread in order to find them again quickly. This solution is far from perfect and is negated by Mailbox.

Now, I simply tell Mailbox to remind me of the email in a few days when I am ready to act upon it. Workflow-wise, Mailbox quickly becomes an essential element and you'll actively start noticing yourself chiding other email apps for not including Mailbox-like features.

To actually get hold of the app, a "beta coin" must be used. Signing up for a beta coin on the Mailbox website took about three or four days to generate one, but a quick search of Twitter offered more results with people actively giving away unused beta coins. The system is novel and prevents novice users from downloading and using Mailbox in its current state.