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Kool Tools: MailPlane

Volume Number: 26
Issue Number: 09
Column Tag: Kool Tools

Kool Tools: MailPlane

aking GMail Mac-friendly

by Dennis Sellers

If you use GMail, you'll certainly find Mailplane from Uncomplex GMBH useful. It puts a wrapper around GMail's web interface, but keeps it in a separate application. There are times that it will serve you better than some of the email clients like Mail or Outlook.

If you've used Apple Mail and Gmail, you probably notice that web-browser-based email (like the latter) simply doesn't work the same as the standard email apps (the former) that most folks are accustomed to using. For example, you can't just drag a document to an icon in the Dock to attach it to a new message. Also, Gmail lets you use either POP or IMAP to access your mail using an e-mail client such as Apple Mail, but Gmail's approach to message organization doesn't always play nice with Mail (or other) e-mail clients.

Enter MailPlane, which uses WebKit to provide a native Gmail interface in a standalone program. (WebKit is an open source web browser engine. It's also the name of the Mac OS X system framework version of the engine that's used by Safari, Dashboard, Mail, and many other Mac OS X applications to render web content).

Acting as a site-specific web browser for Google's Gmail, Mailplane is a full-fledged Mail client for the Desktop. It integrates the Gmail web interface into the Mac experience. It supports multiple Gmail and Google Apps accounts and lets you switch between accounts without the need to sign in/sign out from the Gmail accounts.

MailPlane is also very Mac friendly. With iLife integration, you can browse and attach files from your iPhoto and iTunes libraries. Downloads can be directly imported into iPhoto, as well. The integrated screenshot tool lets you take and attach a window, screen or region. What's more, you can link Gmail conversations with Mac documents. You can drag and drop files and images on the dock application icon, or any Mailplane window to create and upload attachments. With automatic photo optimization, image attachments can be converted and resized to make the message even smaller.

Mailplane can play a user defined sound, as well as show the number of unread messages in the application icon, account drawer and status menu item. As Mailplane monitors all Gmail accounts, unread message counters and message subjects are displayed for each account.

You can personalize your messages with formatted signatures. You can even make MailPlane your default email client if you wish.

Recently, Mailplane was updated. The upgrade sees the return of Spanish and Chinese translations and updated Simplified and Traditional Chinese translations. With MailPlane, Gmail continues to work much as it does in a web browser, but MailPlane provides a toolbar that looks more like that of a traditional e-mail client. For example, it sports buttons for Refresh, New, Reply, Forward, and more. The toolbar is also customizable so you can tweak it to fit your preferences.

You can set up multiple Gmail accounts in Mailplane. To do so, choose one in the Accounts drawer and click on Switch To, and Mailplane logs you out of your current account and into the new one. However, you can't be logged into two accounts simultaneously.

Another nice touch is the Screenshot button. Click it and it opens the Mac OS X app, Grab, and lets you take a snapshot of an area of Mac's screen that you determine. The screen grab is immediately attached to an email.

Mailplane is a Universal Binary so it runs natively on both PPC and Intel Macs. It requires Mac OS X 10.4.11 or higher. A demo is available at the Uncomplex web site (http://mailplaneapp.com/download/).

A single user license costs US$24.95 and may be used by a single person on two Macs. A family option (five users in same household) is $8. Educational discounts are available.


Dennis Sellers is a long time journalist. He started in the newspaper business, but has been in the online journalism business for the past 15 years. He's the editor/publisher of Macsimum News (http://www.macsimumnews.com)

 
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