Four years ago, we reviewed Mailplane 2, the first dedicated Gmail client that avoided traditional IMAP and POP approaches to Gmail, opting instead for standard browser technology under the hood. The result was an app that gave you the benefits of "real" Gmail with the advantages of a native Mac app.
Like that version, Mailplane 3 beautifully transforms Google's webmail service into a full-fledged desktop app, with an impressive interface and well-thought-out features. But it's not the only game in town these days--and many traditional email clients now handle Gmail better--so whether you're willing to spend $25 for slightly more functionality than what is already offered through your Web browser may depend on just how much you love Gmail.
I briefly used Mailplane 2.5 a few months back, and Mailplane 3 represents a huge, applause-worthy improvement. Not only does it work flawlessly with Gmail's recent interface updates, but it's also considerably more polished in its look and feel than previous Mailplane versions. Big, friendly icons highlight the program's sleek, silver look, and Mailplane 3 boasts numerous improvements beyond its surface appeal.
Like its predecessor, Mailplane ties Gmail neatly into the rest of the Mac OS. You can import up to ten different accounts, use Mac-friendly keyboard shortcuts, and add recipients to a new message by picking from your contacts.
Mailplane 3's refinements on that feature set include a tabbed interface: Instead of switching clunkily between one account and the next, you can work with as many Gmail accounts as you like simultaneously, each in its own tab within the Mailplane window. Mailplane 3 adds support for Google Calendar in those tabs, as well, so that you can view your appointments as easily as your inbox. However, though it works well on its own, Google Calendar in Mailplane 3 doesn't seem to be as closely tied to the rest of your Mac as Gmail is. For example, I searched in vain for a way to send calendar items to and from iCal.
A Safari-style Downloads window lets you keep track of attached files you've retrieved from your mail. You can use QuickLook to preview files right in this window, or click the "view" link next to an attachment someone's sent you.
When you need to upload an attachment, Mailplane offers to resize images from your Mac in small, medium, or large formats before you send them.
Setup is quick and fairly painless: You just enter the username and password for each account. If you're using Google's two-factor authentication, you won't have to create an aggravating application-specific password, but you will have to enter a code that Google sends to your smartphone. That applies both to activating a given account, and to turning on Mailplane's feature for notifying you of new messages.
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