Technology I Like – Sparrow 3/23/12

I’m a Google Mail user. I have a Gmail account and four other Google Apps accounts that I use for e-mail. I’m also a Mac and iPhone user. If you use Apple for phone or computer to access Google Mail like me, then I’d highly recommend trying Sparrow. Sparrow doesn’t just support Google Mail — it also works with iCloud, MobileMe, AOL, Yahoo, or custom IMAP.

I’ve been using Sparrow on my Mac Book Pro for probably a year now and I love it. It creates a unified inbox of all of my accounts so I don’t have to have separate Google Mail windows or tabs open (or switch between accounts within the same window/tab). It also can be customized with three-finger swipes to show as much or as little of your mail system (folders, accounts, messages, previews) as you want to see.

Conversation style reading is slick. It pulls in all of your labels and priorities from Google. You can link Sparrow to Dropbox or CloudApp so larger attachments are not actually e-mailed, but uploaded, with only links sent to download the file. It connects to Facebook too if you want to pull in photos of people. All that for $10. I probably use it more than any other program on my computer.

A few weeks ago Sparrow released an iPhone app that I was excited to try. The price is lower at $2.99, but still slightly more than the free Mail app from Apple that I’ve been using for the past several years.

If you want to Push updates for e-mail so you can respond instantly to all incoming messages, Sparrow for iPhone isn’t for you because it doesn’t do Push. I stopped using Push and all other notifications (badges, lock screen) for e-mail a while ago because I thought it was a) not necessary, b) stressing me out, and c) a drain on my productivity. I think responding the same day should be acceptable and it gives me the very rewarding experience of deleting tons of junk mail at one time with on button. So I don’t have a problem with Sparrow not doing Push, but I imagine others might.

Just like Sparrow for Mac, Sparrow for iPhone is a great way to access e-mail, especially if you have multiple accounts. Some of the features that beat the Apple mail app are:

  • Custom signatures for each account. I love this.
  • Swiping between messages in a thread or conversation. Instead of going back to and opening up the other messages in a conversation, you swipe up or down to move between them. Very Clear-esque.
  • Attachments from within the compose window of a message.
  • Floating buttons. Sparrow uses one for composing a new message and one for message options when in a message.
  • Swipe left and right everywhere. Sparrow takes advantage of touch. Swipe one way to access a list of accounts and settings (it keeps slivers of the frames you are swiping between, like the Facebook and Path app do). Swipe another way and open up a list of individual message options (delete, stay, label, etc.) without opening the message.
  • Swipe (or tap) the top bar to go filter between Inbox, Unread, Starred, or Priority messages. Also, if you dig into a specific folder, just tapping the top bar once takes you back to the Inbox.

For all these reasons, I’m a big fan of Sparrow. It makes good products that I use literally all the time. There are still some quirks with Sparrow for iPhone, like not properly formatting messages to window size all the time, but this isn’t a deal breaker for me.

Travis Good is an MD/MBA involved with health IT startups. More about me.

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