Choosing an email client app

I used to really like Apple’s Mail until the search function quit working after installing Catalina. Apple may have fixed it by now, but I’ve been using Airmail since. I’m a sucker for a pretty, colorful screen and Airmail fits the bill. (It won the Apple Design Award in 2017.)

I’ve read your links, Enrico. Thank you for providing links with your comment.

If you are okay with a Ukrainian private company storing your email credentials on their servers, good for you. I’m not. I would think long and hard about allowing any company to store my email credentials. If it’s an American company, as reputable and of high character as the founders may be, they are vulnerable under the Patriot Act which requires them to hand over your credentials and not tell you or anyone else.

If it’s a foreign company, it depends on three variables:

  • the country
  • the founders
  • the built-in security (if the company loses your credentials to a disgruntled employee or a hacker, their good ethics don’t count)

Readdle fails on location (Ukraine ranks right up at the top in terms of corruption and per-capita hacking/criminal activity). I haven’t looked into the fouders of Readdle but I have seen dealt with their now-you-see-it, now-you-don’t weird pricing model on PDF Expert which is now subscription only on iOS.

So I wouldn’t have an issue with Spark if Readdle didn’t force you to hand over your email credentials, i.e. if it was all local. But they do. People should go in to Spark with their eyes very wide open.

Alec, in a post-Snowden world your comments do not make sense. But please let’s stop the discussion here and agree on the fact that we disagree.

Why don’t they make sense? An American company cannot be trusted (by law, they are unable to protect their customers’ privacy as they are compelled to do what secret courts tell them to do without disclosing the requests to the client or the public). There are other jurisdictions where people and organizations historically have been untrustworthy.

And then there are organizations and countries with a long history of rule of law, prudence and privacy. Countries like Switzerland or Canada have such a history. Even then I would look closely at who the founders are, their level of technical expertise and experience and their past track record. ProtonMail would be an example of a company in the email space with such a secure track record.

I would not store my primary email credentials with a Ukrainian or a Nigerian company (to give two examples), unless I had done deep research on that company and it had a long track record of good security and ethical behaviour.

What’s particularly pernicious here is that there’s no need to store one’s email credential on anyone else’s server. You could just use an email application which doesn’t require storing your credentials with them.

Good point about the size of database which Apple Mail can handle. Literally Apple Mail can handle hundreds of thousands or millions of emails, including search, without breaking much of a sweat. None of the competition scale like this.

For this reason, Apple Mail remains my archive email client, having tried archiving in MailSteward Pro and EagleFiler. While both are good programs, with EagleFiler getting the nod for simplicity, versatility and fair pricing (built by same developer as SpamSieve, Michael Tsai), neither offer the same kind of immediate access to archives to be able to reply to an old email like Apple Mail.

My deep recommendation is for a lighter front end IMAP client in front of Apple Mail as the archival system. When Apple Mail is only used occasionally (several time per week), its faults don’t grate and its qualities shine. Its familiarity, drag and drop interface make Apple Mail easy to pick up and put down.

In terms of versions, my main archive is still on an El Capitan machine so it is with trepidation that I learn of mail loss in Catalina. I choose to keep my email archival machine a couple of OS X iterations behind to make sure that there’s no instability in Mail.

This discussion about Spark and the past controversy over whether or not they were reselling data or had security issues on their servers came back to me when I saw this week’s Vice article that detailed how the Edison email app and Rakuten’s Slice app scrapes email from their users for profit and it reminded me of this discussion.

I do think that it’s one thing to sell aggregated data, or anonymized data, to clients like this vs. selling actual personal email details, which it doesn’t appear that Edison was doing. Still, I think that people should at least be aware that their data is being used for profit by the app. If you are ok with it, great. And I know that I start with doubts about whether a free third party app isn’t profiting off data about me and look for evidence that they are not rather than assume that they are not and then look for proof that they are.

I just put up a new Web site. Apple’s Mail under Catalina has a nasty bug that causes it to lose data. Some users have been looking for an alternative. I created a page listing all of the available Macintosh e-mail programs!

Macintosh Email Software

Please let me know what you think!


Very informative. Thank you, Randy.

My pleasure!

A bit of exciting news in this regard…it’s been pointed out to me that Thunderbird (a free, open source product that is quite good, but which has been mostly moribund for years), suddenly is showing a burst of renewed enthusiasm from it’s “project”. There is a new Web site for it at:

and more information about the project at:

Since it is a good, mature, and free product, that now will have renewed enthusiastic development, I suspect that it will become the first product that many Mac users will look to as an alternative to

On the negative side, while there is also a Windows and Linux version of Thunderbird, there is no iOS version of Thunderbird and apparently no plans for one. So if you want an e-mail client that runs on all of your devices, Thunderbird isn’t the answer.

I will just note that on another Discourse forum I run, one user uses Thunderbird and when she sends email into Discourse, it comes through with horrible line wrapping and some lines indented with multiple spaces such that they format as code text. I’m still trying to figure out how to configure Thunderbird for her so it works acceptably.

Okay, time perhaps for a poll? Mac only. What’s your primary Mac email client?

  • Apple Mail
  • Mailmate
  • Spark
  • Airmail
  • Canary
  • Mailplane
  • Postbox
  • Outlook
  • Thunderbird

0 voters

I primarily use web-mail interfaces via Firefox. But that’s not an option on the poll. When I do use a mail app, I use Thunderbird.

My vote went with Apple Mail although it should be noted that the ability to add plug-ins has been a significant factor in my staying with Apple Mail. I have taken a few from the poll list for test drives - Mailmate, Postbox, Airmail and Spark and always return to Apple Mail.

I have Spam Sieve and Mailbutler which, for me, enhance Apple Mail enough to keep me with it.

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one user uses Thunderbird and when she sends email into Discourse

I’ve only ever seen that happen once before (and not with Thunderbird) and it turned out that it was a problem with the poster’s ISP, not with their e-mail client. So you might want to ask around and see if anyone else is having the same problem using Thunderbird before endlessly playing with it’s settings to potentially no avail.

An interesting possibility, and one I can test in person if need be, since the person in question is a friend and a neighbor.

I’m with Apple Mail, which I’ve been using for decades ever since Eudora kicked the bucket. Now however I am absolutely not going to upgrade to Catalina until I know the Mail bug has been completely fixed. If I buy a new iMac (possible, this year) then I will have to have Catalina, won’t I? What will happen when I migrate my enormous email system to it. It is all very disturbing.

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If I buy a new iMac (possible, this year) then I will have to have Catalina, won’t I? What will happen when I migrate my enormous email system to it. It is all very disturbing.

When I faced the same situation I archived all my email with EagleFiler.

I was glad I did so, since I lost a lot of mail in the transition from my previous computer running Mojave to the new one running Catalina.

The new archive is very easy to search whenever I need to.

I used MailArchiverX before I upgraded but lost no mail at all. From my admittedly less than full research into the situation…it appears that gmail accounts were the primary culprit, presumably because their implementation of IMAP is a little strange so they can do their filter things.

I’m in the Apple Mail camp as well. For most of my purposes it works well. If only find could be better manipulated using only the keyboard.

I’m not planning on upgrading to Catalina until I hear all the mail shenanigans have been sorted out. For now, not much of a problem. However, if the new 14" MBP is released soon, I’d probably want to upgrade. And if my current 13" MBP dies I’d have to buy a new one and that would likely force me to go Catalina. Scary thought. :wink:

Using Migration Assistant I recently migrated a very large Mail collection from a desktop running El Capitan to a new MacBook Pro 16 (Catalina 10.15.3).

Every single email on the MacBook ended up empty/blank and with no header information.

Although I had archived all email in DevonThink Pro first, I found that I could simply copy the entire Mail mailboxes folder over to the MacBook, and then use Mail’s “import” feature, and that worked fine.

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