Apple Mail provides the simplest, most unobtrusive, yet integrated approach to email on macOS.
Email is just one of many communication channels I use frequently on my Mac, so I personally need something that won’t try and take center stage, or won’t try to do more than just what it needs to do. Other apps like Slack, Messages, Tweetbot, and even general notifications take up enough of my attention. And email itself has taken a back seat to more urgent communication styles.
Apple Mail enticed me early on when adopting macOS over Windows because of its simplicity, much like Safari. The chrome of the application is almost boring; it’s very minimal and relies heavily on the vanilla UI of macOS only, and less upon branding or other flashy elements. There’s a sidebar for folders and a main pane for reading, and that’s basically it. And that’s ok, because that’s what I need for email.
The feature set of Apple Mail matches its UI: barebones, for the most part. There’s no snooze function, no fancy add-ons or other things you’ll find in Gmail or third-party email apps. And this has been the case for so long (these newer features have been around and have been fairly popular) that it must be by design. Where Mail does excel however, is in its Rule creation and manipulation. Especially when working with iCloud email accounts, the macOS implementation is comprehensive and allows for a great level of customization and filtering.
As far as drawbacks go, the aforementioned lack of additional features is a letdown at times. I occasionally miss being able to snooze a message at times, though its really not a critical feature. Mail does support plugins, so some things can be added on, like tracking blockers, for example.
For most personal, home users, I’d recommend using Apple Mail, as it offers the simplest, most integrated, and less-obtrusive solution for email.
For power users, or those that aren’t as keen on the simple look and feel of Apple Mail, I’d recommend either Gmail or Microsoft’s Outlook.
Gmail is web-based, and can be access via any online browser or device. Obviously Gmail works best with their own Gmail accounts, but you can also set them up to receive email from other providers as well. Gmail offers a lot of newer features and integration with Google services such as Google Calendar and their suite of productivity apps like Docs and Sheets.
Outlook from Microsoft is one of the sleekest and well-built email apps for any platform. Mainly a professional application, Outlook is a nice alternative to Apple mail in that it can be as simple as you’d like it to be, if you are ok with the Microsoft Office-type interface. It is a paid application, however, and will run you $139.99 to buy outright, or $6.99/month as part of Microsoft 365 (along with all of the other Office apps).
Why should you trust what I have to say?
I've been using Mac apps since 2001, and my first Mac was a 2006 Intel-based Mac Mini that used macOS 10.4 Tiger. Since then I've used every iteration of Mac OS X and macOS, all versions of the iPhone and iPhone OS and iOS since the iPhone 3G, as well as a Windows-based PC for work and personal use.
I have used desktop computers, laptops, tablet, and phones for both personal and work applications since 1998.
My passions are design (industrial, product, and visual design), Apple products, and basic computer use and efficiency.
If you find I made an omission or mistake in my reviews, please contact me!