It has been around for a few decades now. And for many people, it still remains one of the most important reasons for accessing the Internet. Indeed, for several people, it is the Internet—email. That said, there has not been much change in email in general— fonts might have got makeovers and interfaces are a bit more minimalist, but by and large, if you used email in the ‘90s, you know there hasn’t been a sea change in the area. In some ways, email has been the holy cow, an integral part of tech life that no one wants to disturb, fearing that the unfamiliar would alienate people.
There are, however, signs that winds of change might soon hit this integral part of our lives, thanks to a number of apps that have thrown an interesting spin on what had until now been a largely uniform email experience. No, we do not expect them to overturn the standard email experience just yet, but they are harbingers of what email could become, and are definitely worth a try if you want to break away from the usual email routine.
Birdseye Mail - Mail with Eye-Candy
Available for: iPad
Get it from: iTunes App Store
Birdseye Mail does to email what Flipboard did for RSS feeds, making it a far more visually appealing experience. Instead of plain old text, what you get to see are different coloured folders, each representing a specific mail folder. And it does not end there. Tapping on a folder shows mails like a row of cards, with a brief preview of each on the top in a beautifully designed template. So you can actually get a sense of what a mail contains, and even respond to it without opening it. Yes, it can be a bit of a bandwidth guzzler and currently works only on iPads and with Gmail, but we have never seen mail look better.
Sparrow—Google’s new baby
Available for: iPhone
Price: Rs 170
Get it from: iTunes App Store
Google’s Gmail service is considered by many to have added a new dimension to mail with its uncluttered interface and Gigabytes of storage, so you can imagine how good an app would have to be to be acquired by Google. What worked for Sparrow was its incredibly simple interface, speed of operation and the fact that it added gestures to the mailing experience. The initial screen shows the mails in the inbox but a swipe to the right, gives you a view of the folders, while holding a mail and swiping to the left shows options like archiving, delete and star. Similarly tapping the top bar of a mail conversation can expand or contract it. It might not be as spectacular as some of the other worthies mentioned in this list, but rules in terms of elegant simplicity.
Incredimail—Sheer interface magic
Available for: iPad, PC.
Get it from:http://www.incredimail.com/
Incredimail has been making waves for a while with its very innovative interface for desktops, complete with butlers bearing notifications and brilliantly colourful templates. While that part of the app remains unchanged, what is new is the twist it adds to e-mail on the iPad. Different mails are arranged on the display like notes on a board, with brief previews of the contents of each message and you can tap on them to open it. Messages are presented in landscape and you can swipe across to see more of them.There is also a special Photo Inbox which will display images of friends and relatives (right now, it only supports Facebook but other social networks are expected to be added in the coming days). You can add as many accounts as you wish and check them from a unified inbox. No, it is not the fastest mail app we have seen, but it is amongst the more spectacular.
Outlook.com—Hotmail @ 2013
Available for: PC/Mac, Android
Get it from: www.outlook.com, Google Play
Microsoft recently converted all its Hotmail accounts to Outlook.com ones and we could not hear too many people complaining. For Outlook.com brings a number of new touches to the traditional e-mail experience. Not only is it an incredibly clean interface with no lines or ads to come between you and your mail, but there are also a number of handy additions, such as the ability to connect to your social networks (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn) from within the service and also chat with Facebook friends—in short, bringing your social networks and email together, sharing information and contacts, even while setting you free from storage space concerns. Mind you, it works a whole lot better on computers than on phones.
Alto Mail—Adding Stacks to Mail
Available for: PC/Mac
Get it from: www.altomail.com
The company that played such a major role in making email the rage it is today, AOL, is now trying to improve our experience of mail with its web-based mail client, Alto. It currently supports AOL, Gmail, Yahoo! and iCloud, and presents your mail unusually. Yes, you get the standard sender-subject-brief preview review on the left hand side of the app, but the real magic is on the right which presents all the attachments, social media notifications, photographs and the like, in the form of stacks of cards. So you can actually scan all your pictures or Facebook alerts in one place instead of going about searching for them. You can also create stacks, but it is the readymade ones and how well they work that make this app magic!
Mailbox—Mail in to-do mode
Available for: iOS
Get it from: iTunes App Store
Perhaps one of the most talked about new e-mail apps, Mailbox made waves with its long mailing list which ran into hundreds of thousands of users wanting a taste of the app that claimed to put “mail in its place.” While its interface is nothing unusual, what Maibox adds to the usual mix is the option to mark to read a mail later (down to a specific date and sometimes, even time) and a stack of gestures. So you can delete a mail by just placing a thumb over it and sliding it to the far right, mark it for later reading by doing the same, only to the left. The app claims to help you trim your inbox all the way down to zero (you can archive everything at one go if you wish), and also lets you slot mails into to-do lists (To Watch, To Read, To Buy), which are a whole lot better than the usual folders. Ideal for the super organised, although it is currently available only on the iPhone and only for Gmail.