Mailplane: Gmail out of the Browser

by Kelle on April 11, 2009

Mailplane Logo

I decided to make my first post about something new and fresh and not already listed on my Tips and Tricks website.

First off, I’m a huge fan of Gmail. As far as I can tell, there are no reasons left not to switch entirely to Gmail for all your email needs. You can backup, read messages offline, access multiple accounts, setup sophisticated filters, use keyboard shortcuts and more. The one reason Gmail might not be for you is if you don’t like threaded messages. (Another would be if you spend a lot of time without internet access, but who doesn’t have internet everywhere anymore?) But this post is not about switching to Gmail, it’s about a new way to read Gmail if you already use it.

I’ve recently abondened reading my Gmail in Firefox and started using a nifty little app called Mailplane. Mailplane is basically a web browser optimized just for Gmail. Instead of using various bug-prone extensions (Better Gmail) and notifiers (Google Notifier) to do all the things an email app should do, Mailplane does it all. Everything works as it normally does in the web browser except smoother and faster.

The feature that won me over is the ability to read and write emails without opening Firefox. Firefox slows me and my machine down. Many times, I want to write a short note without being tempted to take a quick look at that Facebook tab or indulge in some other surfing distraction. Mailplane also gives Gmail the respect it deserves with a dedicated dock icon.

Mailplane has pretty much all the features we’ve come to know and love with the Better Gmail extension:

  • Drag and Drop attachments
  • Keyboard shortcuts for navigation and applying labels
  • Apply/remove label auto completion
  • Hide Spam counter, hide invitation box, highlight row in overview

Plus lots of other useful things:

  • Permanent links to messages via mailplane:// URLs
  • Growl notifications, including a Do Not Disturb mode
  • Account switching

Also, one ubergeek thing that I love about Mailplane: Ctrl-K and Ctrl-Y work as expected by *nix users. That is, Ctrl-K cuts the current line (or multiple lines) and copies the text block to the clipboard and Ctrl-Y pastes it back, just like in emacs and other text editors. Ctrl-K works in Firefox, but Ctrl-Y does not.

The only downside to Mailplane I’ve identified so far is that downloaded attachments are not automatically opened. Instead, you click on the Growl notifications to reveal the downloaded file in Finder. Hopefully this will be addressed in a new version. (Offline Gmail is not yet fully implemented, but it is in the current Beta release.)

Like most good things, Mailplane is not free. There is a free 30-day fully functional trial period. The retail price is $25 but a .edu email address will get you a 30% educational discount which brings it down to $17.45. For an app that I use everyday, all day, it’s a small price to pay.

What do you love/hate about Gmail?  Has anybody else tried out Mailplane?

Mailplane

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

1 bjswift April 12, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Man, I was hooked until I saw that it wasn’t free, but since I can try it out for free for a month…I guess I’ll give it a shot! Will report back in a month!

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2 bjswift April 26, 2009 at 1:00 pm

Okay, 18 days left on my trial period. I’m enjoying it so far, but it’s been hard to kick the habit of having a browser window open all the time for this and that.

My main complaint so far it that I can’t interact with *anything* in Mailplane when the network is down. If the wireless cuts out in the middle of composing a message, then I can’t type in the textbox any more. I’d like to be able to draft offline as well, but I’m sure those sorts of things will be worked out as it’s more developed.

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3 M-MML April 28, 2009 at 6:06 am

OK, why do I need this, instead of just using an IMAP feed to Thunderbird, where I can also access my institutional email account at the same time?

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4 kelle April 30, 2009 at 9:09 am

@M-MML, your comment raises several issues:

The first is that if you’re happy with your current email workflow, by all means, stick with it! Don’t fix it if it ain’t broke.

Second, in my mind, the fundamental difference between Thunderbird (or Mac Mail) and Gmail is web-based email vs. desktop based. I personally access my email from a gazillion (okay, 3) different computers and find the web-based option to work best for me. I’ve also worked out how to get all my mail transferred weekly to my laptop and then backed up via Time Machine so I’m in possession of my email archive in case Google disappears.

Finally, Gmail supports IMAP. There’s no reason you can’t manage both your institutional and personal email from one Gmail account.

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5 KT May 25, 2012 at 3:59 pm

Any updates on how mailplane is working for you? Can it be used fully when offline (on an airplane) – composing messages, reading old messages, opening attachments?

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