Apple Mail 7.2 review

Mail is Apple's stock Mac OS X app for dealing with email. With Mail you can read, and reply to email messages. With Mail 7, Apple had to deal with a range of unwanted bugs, not least of which was troublesome beaviour between Mail and Gmail. These are all fixed now, and our Mail 7.2 review can focus on the program itself.

It's worth noting that Mail 7 has barely any changes over Mail 6, which itself had no changes from Mail 5, all of this is a bit disappointing. After more than two years after Mail's last significant overhaul, the extremely incremental upgrades are getting annoying.

Apple Mac Mail 7.2

What are the new features in Mail 7

Though 'What's New in Mail' gets its own entry under the program's Help menu, there are only four items on the resulting list. They're all minor additions to previous revisions, and some are more useful than others.

Here are the new features in Apple Mail 7:

  • Search for attachments. Adding attachments to the list of ways you can search your mail messages marks Mail 7's one genuinely welcome improvement. The program is smart enough to have categories for many common file types, including Word, PDF, iWork documents, and MP3 audio. My sample searches turned up comprehensive, accurate results from the depths of my many years' worth of email in a flash.

  • Reply from Notification. Building on Mail 6.1's Notifications support, version 7 lets you reply to a message directly from a notification if you're in another program. That's a great idea in theory, but in practice I had trouble spotting the notification and clicking on it in the fleeting seconds before it vanished.

  • Passbook support. Mail now supports Passbook passes as an attachment (and makes them searchable). You can view a pass right from your email, and add it to your Passbook via iCloud with a click. I'm just having trouble envisioning a real-world scenario that would demand this feature. If you're emailing someone a Passbook ticket or gift card, wouldn't they be far more likely to receive that email on their iPhone?

  • Smart Mailboxes have a new criterion that allows you to filter messages by the account they belong to.

Apple Mac Mail Smart Mailbox Accounts

Has Apple fixed Mail so it works with Gmail?

As Joe Kissell has reported, at launch Mail and Gmail didn’t play nicely together when IMAP's involved but Mac OS X 10.9.1 and the Mail 7.2 update fixed many of the issues. Among a host of other flaws, Kissell noted that a change to the way Mail and Gmail interact via IMAP can either render some messages invisible or require hours of needless duplicate downloads. He also reported long, intermittent stretches in which Mail wouldn't update its Gmail contents at all, and said readers had sent him tales of other IMAP services working poorly.

Kissel has tested most of the features found in Mac Mail 7.2 against his original fault list, and found a number of fixes for Unified mailbox behaviour, Gmail special mailboxes, Gmail mailbox order, Gmail AppleScript problems, Exchange reliability and Smart Groups. “This is the first version of Mail in Mavericks that feels reasonably reliable, and it’s about time!” notes Kissel.

Alternatives to Mac Mail

Now that Apple has fixed the fundamental problems with Mail, we can cast our eye on the more pressing issue of how it works as an email client. While there’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Mail, it’s has a reasonably slick interface and good search and Smart Mailbox functionality.

But there seems to be a new breed of email client appearing, like Inky and Airmail that takes cues from social media apps (the Twitter client in particular). While Inky and Airmail also have flaws, they seem to have a modern take on what an email client should be. Apple’s Mail app (coming up to its third year without a major facelift) is starting to feel left behind.

See also: What Mac OS X Mail clients are available on the App Store?

Find out how Mail on iOS compares to Outlook on iOS here.

OUR VERDICT

Among email clients, Apple Mail was always the equivalent of white bread: a little bland, but friendly and comforting. However, it's gotten a little stale over the years, if not slightly moldy. If Apple wants to keep up with the host of impressive, innovative email clients cropping up for the Mac, it will need to spend more time baking up something fresh.

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