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The 7 best email clients for Mac in 2021

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The 7 best email clients for Mac in 2021

By Tim Brookes · April 22, 2021
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Email is part of every workday—that isn't going to change anytime soon. And if you use a Mac, one of the best things you can do to make email better is to use a proper Mac email client. Native apps just feel better on a Mac, and there are so many choices when it comes to email. 

The email app you choose can change how you read incoming mail, browse your inbox, organize messages, and craft your responses. We've dug deep into the pool of email clients for Mac, and here we'll give you our picks for the best in breed.

What makes a great email client for Mac?

We reviewed dozens of Mac email clients. In our opinion, the best Mac email apps offer: 

  • A full range of email features. You need to be able to read, compose, search, and organize your mail. This means tools that serve one purpose, like notifications or a menu bar icon, weren't included—we're looking for complete email tools. 

  • Support for a wide range of services. Some apps are built with specific services in mind (like Gmail or Office 365), while others offer support for a range of providers, as well as open protocols. We tried to focus on apps that support as many services as possible. 

  • A focus on user experience. We heavily favored native applications, as opposed to wrappers for web apps. 

  • Advanced features. From email filtering to search, from automation to custom notifications, the best email apps let you fine-tune how everything works. 

  • Quality of life improvements. Whether it's read receipts, the ability to snooze emails, or reminders about follow-ups, some clients offer features that make work easier. The best clients offer features like this. 

No single email app will tick all of the boxes, so it's up to you to decide what you're willing to pay, which app feels most comfortable, and which features you can't live without.

The 7 best email clients for Mac

  • Apple Mail for a basic, free client

  • Airmail for a feature-rich alternative to Apple Mail

  • Spark for collaboration on emails

  • Canary Mail for a security-focused email client

  • Microsoft Outlook for people who value features over simplicity

  • MailMate for writing plaintext and Markdown-compliant emails

  • Mailspring for a fast, free, and featured-filled Mac email client

Best Mac email client for a basic, free solution

Apple Mail

Apple Mail screenshot

Apple Mail is already on your Mac—that in itself makes it a solid default choice. The app got a visual overhaul for Big Sur and feels a lot more modern because of it. If you've ignored this one for a while, it might be time to look again. 

Apple Mail is quick to set up. It's a basic email client with support for a range of services, including the company's own iCloud Mail, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, Exchange, and AOL Mail. It also allows you to connect your own IMAP and POP3 accounts, with S/MIME support for end-to-end encryption.

The user interface is clean, with mailboxes, folders, and accounts accessed via the sidebar. Messages are presented as threaded conversations that are separated by subject. Unified mailboxes let you see all of your incoming, sent, and draft mail in a single list by default, or you can pick specific mailboxes if you prefer.

One standout feature is the inclusion of smart mailboxes that filter your mail based on rules of your choosing. Head to Mailbox > New Smart Mailbox to define the criteria by which you want to filter your messages (e.g., unread messages, mail with attachments, or messages you never responded to). You can then quickly access your filters via the sidebar beneath the Smart Mailboxes heading.

There are plenty of other bells and whistles too. Handoff with iOS allows you to seamlessly pick up where you left off on your mobile device, and Mail Drop uploads large attachments to iCloud for easier sharing. This is a solid email client, and you already have it. Most users should check it out first. 

Apple Mail Pricing: Free

For another free option, consider Mozilla Thunderbird, an email client from the developers of Firefox. Thunderbird is a free and highly extensible email client that feels like a classic version of Outlook. Some of the more useful features include tabbed email, sending of large attachments using cloud storage, and the ability to greatly change the look and feel of the app.

Best Mac email client for a feature-rich alternative to Apple Mail

Airmail

Airmail screenshot

Airmail takes the basic premise of an email client like Apple Mail and builds on it with more modern features and an emphasis on speed. There's robust support for all major email services, including Gmail, Outlook, Exchange, and IMAP or POP3 mailboxes. You can browse and reply to all of your mail from a single unified inbox, which brings all of your accounts together in one place. When you compose a new message, you'll use a dropdown to select which of your connected accounts and personas you want to send from.

Airmail is a fast and clean email client that doesn't bog you down with features you don't need. If you're familiar with Gmail's keyboard shortcuts, you're in luck—Airmail uses them by default. You can also set your own custom shortcuts. Swipe left or right with two fingers on your trackpad to archive or bin a message, or set your own custom swipe actions (like snoozing a message or marking as read/unread) from within Airmail's preferences.

Conversations are threaded by subject, with a Quick Reply button for replying to a message in-line. Click the small speech bubble icon, and a reply field will pop out, which makes it easy to respond to a specific message in a thread without losing your place. Composing a new message or "full" reply takes place in a separate window, much like Apple Mail. You can drag and drop your attachments into this window, with full support for iCloud's Mail Drop link sharing.

Snooze email directly from your inbox so that it appears at a more relevant time, which you can define within Airmail's preferences. Turn your messages into to-dos or memos using Airmail's built-in organizer in two clicks or using a keyboard shortcut. The organizer lives at the bottom of the sidebar and looks and feels just like an inbox for your schedule. You can even access your Google Contacts directly in the app using Google's search-as-you-type functionality.

It's a fast, clean, feature-filled app.

Airmail Pricing: Free for many features; paid plans from $2.99/month.

Best Mac email client for collaboration on emails

Spark

Spark screenshot

Spark is a desktop email client that brings Gmail-like features to Outlook, iCloud, Yahoo! Mail, Exchange, and IMAP email accounts (with support for Gmail too, of course). It includes a smorgasbord of conveniences, like the ability to snooze an email for later with a click and smart sorting of your inbox into categories like "Personal," "Notifications," and "Newsletters." Get follow-up reminders for emails you've sent, and organize your life using the built-in Calendar tool.

Spark for Teams is where the mail app takes on a whole new life. The team behind Spark hasn't just built a convincing email app—they've developed a collaborative email platform. This includes unique features like the ability to comment privately with team members on email in a small chat box to the right of the message. Collaborative composing allows you to invite other team members to collaborate and proofread your email in real time (just like Google Docs). Create secure links that point to specific threads or messages, and share them with your team. With these features, Spark could even function as a lightweight CRM solution.

Spark Pricing: Free for 5GB storage, two active collaborators per team, and five email templates; from $7.99/user/month for the Premium plan that includes 10GB storage per team member, unlimited collaborators, and unlimited email templates.

Best Mac email client for a focus on security

Canary Mail

Canary Mail screenshot

Canary Mail is an email client for the security-conscious individual due to its support for end-to-end encryption using PGP. You can choose to use Canary's own PGP-based encryption (which requires the recipient to also be using Canary) or private PGP keys for advanced users. With encryption enabled, nobody aside from the intended recipient is able to read your message—not even your email provider. Encryption can be enabled with a single click while composing your message.

In addition to privacy features, Canary offers a range of tools to improve your productivity. There's support for Categories, which automatically sorts messages into Social, Updates, Forums, Promotions, and actual email from humans you know. You can also set different notification sounds for different email accounts.

There are a host of other useful features that elevate Canary beyond its security-focused roots. You can track your emails to find out if they've been read, snooze incoming messages for later perusal, and unsubscribe from newsletters by clicking the thumbs down icon at the top of the message. There are also profiles for all of your contacts, in some cases including social media links, and a built-in calendar. Canary works with Gmail, iCloud, Office 365, Yahoo! Mail, and IMAP accounts.

Canary Mail Pricing: $19.99, with a 30-day free trial. Also available on Setapp.

Best Mac email client for people who value features over simplicity

Microsoft Outlook

Microsoft Outlook screenshot

If you have an Office 365 subscription, you're already paying for Microsoft Outlook—including the Mac version. That should be reason enough to give Microsoft's full-fat email client a go, since it works with Microsoft accounts, Gmail, iCloud, and Yahoo! Mail, as well as standard IMAP and POP3 email addresses. Outlook recently launched a "New Outlook," which feels much more modern than you might remember. They also still offer the familiar design you remember from years past, if that's what you prefer. 

Outlook's added some new features over the years. Focused Inbox is one such trick: it separates your inbox into two tabs, placing all the email that Outlook perceives as important on the Focused tab. Twitter-like @mentions let you tag people, with Outlook automatically adding their email addresses in the To: field, which can come in handy if you're often adding coworkers to emails halfway through writing them. You can even use customizable two-finger swipes to do things like archive or delete messages.

Like most Microsoft Office-branded products, Outlook includes excellent support for mail templates. Use Microsoft's included templates or design your own so you can roll them out time and time again. And many of the modern email features that have emerged over the past few years haven't escaped Microsoft's gaze either: follow-up reminders, delayed sending, email scheduling, and support for SVG graphics, to name a few.

Outlook delivers all of these mail features, plus a calendar, chat, task manager, and note-taking. You can even create Office 365 groups right in Outlook. If you take an "everything including the kitchen sink" approach to email, Outlook is the client for you.

Outlook Pricing: From $5.99/month for Office 365 Personal.

Another feature-rich option to consider is Postbox, a powerful mail app at a sensible price point ($40). It includes the ability to group accounts together into custom unified inboxes, tabbed email, a focus mode for hiding unimportant email, and the ability to quickly post mail content directly to other services like Dropbox, Trello, and Instagram. It's a good alternative to Outlook in that it takes a full-featured approach to email management, with plenty of bells, whistles, and filters to boot.

Best Mac email client for writing plaintext and Markdown-compliant emails

MailMate

MailMate screenshot

MailMate isn't like any of the other apps on this list. It's a niche product aimed at users who want things done their way. The big difference is that MailMate loses the rich text editors seen in competing apps, opting instead for a plaintext composer for crafting your messages in Markdown, HTML, or plaintext instead.

But the differences don't stop there. For one, MailMate excels in its keyboard-friendliness, allowing users to navigate virtually the entire app without taking their fingers off the keyboard. It also offers "bundles," extensions that allow you to expand the app's functionality via the Command menu, even adding support for using external editors when composing messages. Download bundles to add support for other apps like Evernote and Reminders, then head to Command > Evernote or Command > Reminders to quickly save messages as notes or reminders in the respective app.

If you want to compose email in your text editor of choice (like Atom, BBEdit, or Sublime Text), MailMate lets you do that too. First, enable the appropriate bundle, then compose a new mail message and head to, e.g., Command > Atom > Edit, and your draft will open in Atom. When you save the file in Atom, the contents will appear in the compose window of MailMate.

Beyond these quirky niche features, MailMate is an aggressively simple mail application. Its three-pane view is reminiscent of Outlook or Thunderbird, with mailboxes on the left, messages up top, and message body down below. It has smart mailboxes but lacks modern comforts like the ability to snooze mail, natural language processing, or threaded conversations.

MailMate is a very specific tool, for a very specific audience. If you prefer a roll-your-own approach to email, MailMate might be it.

MailMate Pricing: $49.99.

Best Mac email client for fast, free, and featured-filled email

Mailspring

Mailspring screenshot

Mailspring is the only open source app to make this list, which for many people, is reason enough to look into it—but that's far from the only thing to like here. This is a fast and functional email client that makes it easy to set up multiple accounts. There's support for Gmail, Office 365, Yahoo! Mail, iCloud, Fastmail, and more—Mailspring supports just about any email service you can imagine. 

Set up your accounts, and you'll be able to quickly browse and search your email backlog, thanks to a local cache of messages. The search feature is robust, with support for filtering by sender and date. It's honestly the only client we tested that searches as quickly as Gmail. There are also plenty of opportunities for customization, from custom themes to plugins. You can choose between Gmail, Apple Mail, or Outlook keyboard shortcuts, or set up your own. And there's even a simple automation system, allowing you to set up rules to do things like sending emails from particular senders straight to a folder or filter based on keywords. 

There's a lot here, even in the free version, and paying users get read receipts, a sidebar with contact information and social media links, and even link tracking. Check it out, especially if you were once a fan of Nylas Mail—this is the reincarnation of that product. 

Mailspring Pricing: Free. $8/month for Pro, which adds contact profiles, follow-up reminders, read receipts, and more. 

Which Mac email client should I choose?

Which email client you choose will be largely driven by personal reasons. For many of us, Apple Mail does the job. It combines an uncomplicated interface with a slightly dated look and feel that's suitable for beginners and advanced users alike. But for many, it doesn't go far enough in terms of features. Our advice: don't be afraid to download and try out a few different clients. Most offer free trials, and you'll find one you like.

This article was originally published in March 2019, and has since been updated by Justin Pot.

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Tim Brookes

Tim Brookes is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. When he's not writing he's being distracted by cats, riding bikes, or cooking something delicious. Follow him at @timbrookes.

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