Trying to review the new Spark email app for Macintosh is a bit daunting, it does so much stuff. I am always on the lookout for a ‘new improved’ email app. Spark seems to fit that description wonderfully. Let’s do an overview, then I will get into more detail in subsequent articles.
The Spark email app by Readdle software is a really great idea in email design. Readdle has had Spark on iOS for a while now, but just recently brought it to the Mac platform. I am glad they did. Keep in mind, I am reviewing a 1.0 version of the app. I am sure there will be new features added in the future. When you open Spark, it asks you to install at least one email account. It offers all the usual big boy accounts like iCloud, Yahoo, Gmail, etc. Let’s take a look at the main interface:
Here is the most important thing to know about Spark. It uses a “Smart Inbox” system. I run 10 email accounts, including iCloud. Spark runs with a “unified” inbox. You can access individual accounts if you wish, but the “Smart Inbox” system is more user friendly and efficient. The “Smart Inbox” sorts your email into several categories like so:
It refers to them as “Cards.” So when your emails arrive, Spark puts them into these categories. It puts Personal on top and then places the remaining emails in the other categories like Newsletters, Notifications, etc.. The idea is to try to prioritize your email and help you get the most important stuff done first. It is a really neat setup that tries to adhere to the Getting Things Done system. Instead of focusing on emails in a specific account, you center your attention on types of email, trying to get to a zero inbox (a lofty goal). If you do not think Spark is categorizing emails correctly you change the category to whatever fits.
Interacting With Emails
Spark has a very iOS like interface for interacting with emails. It really does lend itself to a trackpad. So, if you have a Magic Trackpad or use a laptop you will love how this works (you can right-click with a mouse and get the same menus. It is not as intuitive). In the following example, I used a two-finger drag from right to left to expose the “Delete” button, just like on an iPad:
It also exposes the “Pin” button, more on that in a minute. If I want to “Move” an email to a folder or send it to “Spam” I just two-finger drag from left to right and select the appropriate command:
You can rearrange these commands in Preferences, add and remove other ones as well.
Let’s say one of your emails is going to require more interaction than usual. You can “Pin” it to the top of the list and then continue managing the rest of the emails:
Spark pins the email in place until you can get back to it.
You can” Snooze” an email as well. If you have an email that you want to work on later in the day, tomorrow or next week you can “Snooze” it:
Select the email you wish to Snooze, click on the clock symbol at the top of the window and select your “Snooze” duration. When the chosen time has elapsed, Spark brings the email to your attention.
I really like the way Spark has Quick Reply features at the bottom of the email:
You can see the “Reply” and “Forward” symbols in this screenshot, but what is really cool is the “Quick Reply”. It drops down a list of very quick replies to an email. Quick Reply is only available in the mail category “Personal”. You don’t usually reply to a notification or a newsletter right. I use this feature from time to time. It is a real time saver for sure.
One more thing and I will call it quits. Spark has it’s own Spam system. If you click on “Spam” in the left sidebar, all of what Spark thinks is spam from all your accounts will be listed. All you have to do is click on “Empty Spam” and it is removed:
There is a mechanism for telling Spark that an email is not spam as well. I don’t think Spark has it’s own algorithms for spam detection. I think it uses whatever is on your ISP’s server. At any rate, it works very nicely and is easy to train.
Here is the bottomline with Spark. It is a very well thought out email application. It is extremely intuitive to use and just plain fun really. However, I have not gotten to the best part yet. At this time, Spark is FREE! Just go to the App Store and download it. The Mac version of Spark is very similar to the iPad version. You can sync up both versions so they are the same if you wish.
Don’t panic folks. I will cover the “Preferences” area of Spark in a separate article. I am sure I am not doing this app justice. For having such a streamlined interface, it really is sophisticated. For free, I think you cannot lose by downloading and trying it out with at least one email account. I have moved all my email accounts over to it and am not looking back.