I am one particular somabitch when it comes to working on my computer. My computer is my home and I want everything to be perfect. As a matter of fact, I’m likely to spend hours making my computer “perfectly nestable” while spending much less time on actually fixing things around my house (I’m way better with technology than a drill… insert joke here).
That being said, I *have* to believe that there are other people out there who are in my same particular predicament with Google Mail. I use Google Hosted Applications, which means that I’m using GMail from Google running on the backend of my own private domains. For example, this domain that my blog is on right now, southsideflash.net, has dozens of email addresses running on it, all utilizing GMail provided by Google. If you love GMail but don’t want a generic @gmail.com address, this is the way to go for sure (it’s free and takes literally minutes to set up).
The problem is, I’m also a “sophisticated user” (yeah, that’s what we call ourselves anyway). I have several accounts on this domain that I need to check constantly, in addition to other domains, accounts, and aliases across the internet (luckily, *all* of them use Google Hosted Applications’ GMail).
Here’s the problem: Google provides such a powerful suite of applications (mail, calendar, tasks, contacts, voice) but almost nothing except their own web clients actually provide the full service. Yes, I use Chrome-As-Applications, but it’s just not the same. As of this writing, *nothing* provides *full* service for Google’s Hosted Applications suite (to some degree, even Google’s own interaction with itself fails a little at times, but it’s gotten so much better lately with the unified login, combined TOS and services, and multiple signon implementations — these have really allowed it to become a much more unified experience).
So what I’ve never been able to find is a desktop suite that really lends itself to the power of the Google Hosted Applications. Sure there’s Outlook, but man we could go on and on and on (please don’t blow up the comment thread with *just* comments about Outlook flamewars) about it’s features and shortcomings. If you purchase the Enterprise version of Google Hosted Apps, you of course can connect Outlook to Google’s application servers as if it was Exchange, and therefore make it much more native. That’s a great idea, unless you have a ton of email accounts and don’t want to pay for each across multiple domains (imagine if you were paying $300/mo for your email — might as well get a Hosted Exchange implementation from GuaranteedVPS [yes, I'm unabashedly touting my own company in an unrelated blogpost] for that price!). There are excellent programs out there that work almost flawlessly — gSyncIt is one of them I’ve used quite a bit and it’s worth every penny. But then you get into using new versions of Outlook (Outlook 2010, for example) for neat Google-esque properties such as message grouping, but Outlook tends to fail if your IMAP store gets huge.
ARGH! See? We could go on for pages and pages and pages about problems, their solutions, and the nested problems those solutions cause.
So here’s what I’d like:
- A desktop application that
- Connects with Google Hosted Applications, at least from the email side of things
- Allows basic Google functionality, such as the ability to “archive” messages
- Syncs without a lot of fuss
Before I get started on Sparrow and you get the wrong idea, Sparrow only does one thing: email. And you know what? That’s just great and is no problem at all, because it does it *awesomely*. It’s a super-lightweight appliance that is literally just a small vertical pane of your email list… and that’s it. While you can optionally add a preview pane like most other email clients, without it (actually even with it, but moreso without it) it stays super clean and doesn’t junk up your experience at all.
With Sparrow, email on GMail “Just Works (TM)” without even thinking about it. And the best feature, in my opinion, is the integrated “Archive” button. I’m a huge believer in organizing my inbox into three categories: Important, Needs to be Done, and Done. I do this by making messages either Inbox/Unread, Inbox/Read, or Archived. No other email client lets me use the GMail Archive button like Sparrow does (at least, not that I’m aware — if you have an email client that utilizes GMail’s Archive button, please leave it in the comments!).
Lastly, there’s one more feature that I *love*, and that is the use of email aliases. See, what I haven’t mentioned until now is the email client I check is a “master account” that also checks all other email accounts I have in GMail. So, when I use a client to access my email, I am frequently at a loss to reply from the account the email was originally sent to. firstname.lastname@example.org is also checking email@example.com, but can’t reply from firstname.lastname@example.org without either the inherent ability to add an alias, or without a *lot* of hoops to jump through (yes, I know there are ways to do it, and I even did it in Outlook, but *man* talk about a giant ass-pain).
eM Client, on the other hand, does just about darn close to everything else on my list. eM Client syncs perfectly with my Google Mail, Calendar, Contacts, even Tasks and Chat. Everything except Voice, for that matter. I don’t have to worry about third party syncing utilities (sorry gSyncIt, I love you very much but this is probably a deal-breaker it’s so good), and it’s super fast and lightweight. The only thing it doesn’t have is the Archive button. It even lets me (sort-of) use aliases so I can reply from the email address that I’m actually trying to reply from. It’s just all-around great, except for the archive button. And you know what? I can live without it, provided that every other feature is there, which it is.
I’m not going to post a screenshot of eM Client, but I am *strongly* going to advise that, if you are a Windows user, you visit their website to check out their product. They have no screenshots at their website, and I’m not going to steal someone else’s screenshot. The problem is, if I post a screenshot of mine, no matter what screen I’m on, it syncs so seamlessly with Google that I’d have to blur nearly 90% of it, and I’m not going to post a giant mess like that. Go visit their website. Go on, go!
What’s my biggest complaint? Well, it’s the same for both: neither of these clients has a linux platform. My actual primary computer is linux, it just runs VirtualBox instances of MacOSX and Windows (*sigh*, yes it’s true, I have WinXP, Win7, and Win8). So basically, I’m always utilizing an email application in a virtual OS and never in my host OS. Ubuntu has so many great features, and I’m even getting to love Gnome3 (yes, again with the flamewars in the comments) especially with Cairo Dock installed (it’s the best of both worlds). But I cannot find a good desktop client that interfaces relatively seamlessly with Google for linux, try as I might, nor can I get eM Client to run in Wine for linux, so I’m kinda out of luck. Oh well, it runs fine in my XP instance, so since that’s the smallest footprint client in the smallest footprint OS, I pretty much just leave it running for now.
My goal is to soon be able to say that someone has finally come up with the linux equivalent to either Sparrow or eM Client! Coders/Porters, help me out!