Talking tech since 2003

When I first opened my MacBook Pro back in March, one of the first things that I asked was “What email client are all the cool kids using?”  At the time, a new email client named Sparrow had been getting quite a bit of attention because of its new layout that mimicked that which we see in many social networking applications such as Twitter for Mac.  While I considered using Sparrow, I ultimately ended up using OS X’s built-in Apple Mail application and after a month and a half of use I hadn’t a single complaint.

After all, I typically tend to make use of classic and elegant designs; something that I found in Apple Mail.  Simply put, the layout of Sparrow didn’t seem to offer anything to me that Apple Mail didn’t.  More recently though my curiosity got the best of me and on Saturday night I decided to purchase Sparrow and give it a go.

One of the first things that I noticed about Sparrow was that setting up new email accounts was dead simple.  Because I use Google Apps to host email for my personal domain I have often-times had to struggle with email clients in order to connect and log into Gmail’s IMAP server.  Sure, this isn’t that challenging of a task by any scale, but when you start adding multiple email accounts to an application it can become quite tedious.  Having set up email clients many times, I started Sparrow fully intent on providing server, port, and authentication for Google servers.  So imagine my surprise when I fed Sparrow my first set of login credentials, clicked the “Create” button, and had my account fully configured without any additional effort.  Then two accounts.  Then three accounts.  Then four and five accounts in just as many minutes.  The fact that it took me longer to dig out my credentials than it did to configure them honestly speaks for itself.

With my accounts all setup I was finally able to begin using Sparrow full-on.  As with any email client, this started with the inbox.  Having heard (and seen) a bit about Sparrow the layout didn’t surprise me at all.  Initially I liked the use of icons instead of text to designate specific folders for drafts, sent messages, trash, etc.  And in all honesty I still do.  But I quickly came to find out that the use of such a layout took up significantly more space on my screen than Apple Mail did using regular old text labels.  Now, this isn’t a huge issue if you only have one email account, but in order to see unread counts for all of my five emails I found that I had to have the application open to a height higher than what I felt look right.

Other than that, though, I felt that the overall layout of the application – including the icons – was incredibly clean and implemented minimalist-like attributes that blended well into OS X.

Going hand-in-hand with many common OS X attributes, I was really impressed with how Sparrow quickly opened a message with just the press of the space bar; allowing me to quickly read a message and then close it instantly by hitting the space bar again.  Moreover, being on a MacBook with a trackpad I really liked how the application took advantage of gestures in order to make navigating my inbox a snap.  For example, swiping left to right opened a reading pane on the right-hand side of the client (it can also be opened by using a button at the bottom right-hand side), which could be closed just as easily by reversing the gesture.  Combine this with common scrolling capabilities and Sparrow makes reading email really easy.

Asides from the layout, I really wasn’t all that impressed with Sparrow.  That’s not to say that there’s anything wrong with it, but when it boils down to it there really isn’t much that can be improved upon in an email client.  It sends and receives email, it integrates well with the OS X address book, and it does just about everything you’d expect a modern-day email client to do.  It just has a different appearance.

So it Sparrow worth it?  Really, I can’t say that it is.  Conceptually speaking I think the Sparrow team had good ideas, and I think that there are a lot of “power users” who can take advantage of a streamlined email client to be more productive.  But having used Sparrow for a couple of days myself now, I just don’t see where it’s any different from your run of the mill email client, less the childish bar on the left-hand side.

Have you tried Sparrow?  Share your thoughts in the comments!

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