I wanted to feature Polymail in last week’s roundup, but they’d just come out of beta and were having some technical issues on their end such that I couldn’t recommend it at the time. However, I emailed a lovely Polymail representative and they got it up and running again. I’ve been using it since, determined to give it a fair chance after my initial frustration. Boy, am I glad I did.
I’ve been looking for a suitable replacement for Mailbox ever since they went belly up. I even wrote about some alternatives, but each of them had pretty major drawbacks. Some couldn’t handle aliases, others were practically perfect but were only for mobile platforms. Well now, if you’re an iOS and/or Mac user, you’ve got one of the best alternatives. In fact, I pronounce Polymail EVEN BETTER than Mailbox. In fact, Polymail is officially the best mail app I’ve ever used. I’ll soon be deleting the others I’ve been using. It deals with aliases, it hasn’t quit by itself yet. Ugh, I’m so in love with it.
If you’ve read my app reviews before, you know design is huge for me. Something could be the best in the world, and if it looks cluttered or cheesy or isn’t retina ready, I will stop using it. Poor design just sets my teeth on edge. Luckily what we’ve got here is an intuitive interface with bright colors and easy-to-read icons. It’s not too squished together (especially important for reading emails) and it just. feels. clean. It capitalizes on the swipe capabilities of both touchscreen and trackpad: short swipe right for archive, long swing right for deletion, opposite directions for snoozing and organizing mail into lists. If you’re not into swiping, there are also buttons across the top that perform those same functions. In this way, it behaves almost exactly like Mailbox. However, this app has some pretty cool tricks up its sleeve that take it from replacement to upgrade.
There’s an optional sidebar to view mail by contact, which is especially important when your work relies on following up with certain people. When you’re viewing an email, simply click the contact card in the top right corner and you can see all the times you’ve interacted with a specific person AND every attachment they’ve sent you. What this means for me: editing Saturday Morning Cartoons is so much easier! It’s a whole new way to find things in my inbox. Plus this sidebar pulls in social media information about the sender (I’ve seen Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn all in there). This is especially helpful for me when I receive pitches from people I’ve never met in person before, and I imagine it’ll be really useful to some of you as well. Just off the top of my head, I think having this when beginning school or a new semester would be really nice.
In composition mode, there are three HUGE features that deserve some spotlight. You can schedule emails to send later, which isn’t super practical for me, but seems like a big win for others who are far more scheduled than I. You can also set a reminder to follow up with someone on an email you’ve sent them. I have a memory like a whiffle ball. This is massive for me. Now if I could just remember to set the reminder, I’d get a lot better at email. A friendly little box pops up that says “remind me if no one replies” and gives you a bunch of time frames to choose from, or the ability to pick your own date. Ugh, amazing. But the big, BIG thing that Polymail does for me is track my messages. It’s like receiving read receipts on iMessage. By turning on the track function before I send email, I can see who’s read an email message, when and how many times. It. Is. Revolutionary. I am so happy for this feature — no more wondering if someone’s gotten my message. And get this — if everyone had a track feature, there would be no need to send back confirmations that you’ve read something. That’d take down so much of my email clutter. Gosh, what a wonderful thing.
The big con, of course, is that Polymail is currently only available on Mac and iOS. Before you scroll down and tell me that I’m favoring Apple here, let me remind everyone that developing an Android app takes, on average, 40% more code and 30% more time. Part of covering new apps as they come out means that generally, as in this instance, it’ll be iOS-only for a while. But Polymail has said they’re hoping to expand to Android, and that you should follow them on Twitter for more updates.
In conclusion, email is the thing I hate the worst about working remotely, about any of my jobs, and about the internet in general. I hate it because I’m bad at it. Because it gives me anxiety. But Polymail makes that better. The interface means I don’t get overwhelmed; the receipts mean I know things are getting where they’re supposed to get; the reminders mean I drop the ball less than I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still drop it. I’m human and I’m bad at email. But I’ll be better, and less afraid to check my email. Polymail will help me get there.