Windows users pining for a mail client similar to Sparrow for OS X have had their wishes granted courtesy of Mailbird, a new email client for the Windows desktop.
Mailbird is a speedy, no-nonsense client that offers basic email functionality without all the clutter that power-user programs such as Outlook or Thunderbird can offer. In fact, Mailbird's so no-nonsense that the version available now only supports a single user account at a time, and that account has to be a Gmail or Google apps account. Support for additional services and multiple accounts are planned for further down the road, however.
The app entered its public beta phase on Monday and is currently available as a free download. It's not clear how long Mailbird will be available as a beta product, but the company behind the app--also called Mailbird--is already offering preorders for Pro version subscriptions. Right now, you can purchase a year of Mailbird Pro for $9, with the regular price set to jump to $12 after the beta phase.
Mailbird will also be available as a free, ad-supported version following the beta period. A Mailbird representative was unavailable for comment at this writing, so it's not clear whether there will be any functional difference between the paid and free versions, other than the removal of ads. Free (and beta) users will also have a "sent from Mailbird" signature automatically attached to all their messages that cannot be removed.
Signing in to Mailbird is as simple as setting up Gmail access on a mobile device. You just enter your name, e-mail address, and password, then Mailbird starts working--no need to mess around with server settings, ports, or any other typical desktop mail client technicalities. Mailbird doesn't support Google's two-factor authentication method, so anyone using Google's added security feature will have to use an app-specific password instead of their regular credentials.
Mailbird will also ask you to connect the app with your Facebook account. In my tests, doing this just displayed the Facebook profile pictures of all your correspondents. Outlook 2013, by comparison, also lets you see Facebook status updates and recent activity from your friends.
Mailbird's main view
Taking its design cues from Sparrow, which was acquired by Google last July, Mailbird presents a stripped down, basic interface. In the top left corner is a pencil icon for composing new mail, and to the right of that is a search icon. Clicking on the "Mailbird" title in the upper-left corner reveals a basic menu where you can set the app's options, find a keyboard shortcut cheat sheet, open the help menu, or send feedback.
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