As a professional tech writer, I've been trying to make email better—both for me personally and so I could have something to write about—for almost a decade. I've spent countless hours setting up automated rules, rigging up nested accounts, and generally exploring the outer edges of what's possible with email. My conclusion? Email is always going to be kind of terrible.
But if you use a Mac, there's hope. There are some great native Mac email apps that make the whole experience much better and more Mac-like. They can make reading incoming mail, browsing your inbox, sorting your messages, and crafting your responses an almost pleasant experience (it is still email, mind you).
I dug deep through the pool of email clients for macOS, spent time testing each contender, and landed on these six apps as the best email clients for Mac.
The 6 best email clients for Mac
Apple Mail for a basic, free Mac mail app
Airmail for a feature-rich alternative to Apple Mail
Spark for collaboration on emails
Canary Mail for a security-focused Mac email client
Microsoft Outlook for people who value features over simplicity
Mailspring for a fast, free, and featured-filled Mac email client
What makes for the best email client for Mac?
How we evaluate and test apps
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To put together this list, I reviewed dozens of Mac email clients (and skinned web apps purporting to be Mac email clients). Here's what I was looking for:
The full email experience. You need to be able to read, write, search, and sort your mail. Apps that just added Gmail notifications to your menu bar and other similar features weren't included.
Support for most popular email services. Email apps should, where possible, be service agnostic. I was looking for apps that supported major services, like Gmail and Office 365, as well as the IMAP and POP3 protocols so you could use most other options.
A great user experience. The Gmail and Outlook web apps aren't dire. If you're going to use an actual app, it had better be nice. For Mac apps, this means they have to run natively, take advantage of macOS-specific features like the menubar and notifications, and respect things like default keyboard shortcuts.
Advanced features and integrations. One of the advantages of having a dedicated email app is that you get access to more advanced features and integrations with other apps. While this wasn't strictly required, some kind of email automation, filtering, and customization was considered a big plus.
Quality of life improvements. There are simple tweaks, like being able to snooze emails so they reappear in your inbox later or built-in reminders to follow up with someone you haven't replied to, that make using an email app just, well, nicer.
I tested any mail client for Mac that seemed like it met most of these criteria. In practice, this meant logging in with one of my (sadly, many) email addresses and using it. In the past decade, I've picked up an absurd amount of experience with email apps, so it was often clear pretty quickly which were great options and which ones had the potential to make the email experience even worse (yes, it's possible).
Any apps that passed the initial sniff test I then used for a few days for normal email-y things. For the more advanced options, I dug through the settings and preferences and played around with things to see how they were to use.
No single app ticked all the boxes, at least not in the same ways. Some free apps were almost as good as the most expensive options for most things—but if you want, say, the most advanced customization options, then you'd have to pay. Which is better? That's up to you to decide.
With that in mind, here are the best Mac email apps.
Best Mac email client for a basic, free solution
Apple Mail is already on your Mac—that in itself makes it a solid default choice and the option to beat. The app got a visual overhaul a year or two back 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, mail from a specific person, messages you never responded to, or some combination of all of the above). 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, unless you know for sure that you need some other specific features.
Apple Mail pricing: Free
Best Mac email client for a feature-rich alternative to Apple Mail
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 actually the app I used for almost five years. I only stopped because I moved my email to HEY, which requires you to use its (honestly, inferior) app.
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 looping arrow 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.
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 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 loads of convenience features, 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. You can even get follow-up reminders for emails you've sent, and check when you're free with the built-in calendar tool.
Spark is a decent email app that's worth a look if, for some reason, Mail or Airmail don't take your fancy, but Spark for Teams is where the mail app takes on a whole new life. The team behind Spark hasn't just built a solid email app—they've developed a collaborative email platform (should that be what you're looking for).
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 for some startups and small teams.
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 is an email client for the security-conscious. It supports end-to-end encryption using PGP, as well as its custom SecureSend feature that allows you to send encrypted messages to anyone, regardless of what email service they use.
For PGP, you can choose to use Canary's own PGP-based encryption (which requires the recipient to also be using Canary), or advanced users can roll their own private PGP keys. SecureSend, on the other hand, is as simple as flicking a switch when you compose a new email—if the recipient doesn't have Canary, they'll be required to log in to a secure site to see the message. Whatever way you have encryption enabled, nobody aside from the intended recipient is able to read your message—not even your email provider.
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.
Best Mac email client for people who value features over simplicity
If you have a personal Microsoft 365 subscription or use it for work, you already have 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's added some new features over the years. Focused Inbox is one such trick: it separates your inbox into two tabs, placing all the emails 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 Microsoft 365 groups right in Outlook. If you take an "everything including the kitchen sink" approach to email (or are just obliged to use it professionally), Outlook is the client for you.
Outlook pricing: From $6.99/month for Microsoft 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 emails, 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 fast, free, and featured-filled email
Mailspring is the only open source app to make this list, which for some 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 I tested that searches anything near 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 filtering based on keywords.
There's a lot to like here, especially with the free version. Paying users get some quality of life improvements, read receipts, a sidebar with contact information and social media links, and even link tracking, but at $8/month, it's a steep ask. Check out the free version first, 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.
Alternative approaches to email
I was on the search for the best email app for Mac, but all the apps I landed on do take a pretty vanilla approach to email. You have an inbox, you reply to people—it's a step up from the app you used in the early-'00s, but it's not radically different. If you want a tool that tries something new with email, you could consider one of the following instead:
HEY is the email service I use. It aims to replace Gmail and Outlook, rather than build on top of them. I love it, though the apps are kind of terrible and it's expensive. But if you're overwhelmed by email and want some serious quality of life improvements, give it a look.
Most people use their email inbox as an ad hoc to-do list. Twobird makes the relationship more official. It's an interesting take and certainly not for everyone, but if you work out of your inbox a lot, check it out.
Boxy Suite is a wrapper around Google's suite of apps. At $39/year, it's pricey, but if you like Gmail's web app and just wish it were a bit more Mac-native, it's also worth considering.
Which is the best mail app for Mac?
Which email app you use largely comes down to personal preference. There isn't a huge amount of difference between most of the top picks—they all send and receive email. It all comes down to which particular look and workflow you like. For many of us, Apple Mail does the job. It's pre-installed and hits almost all the right boxes. If it doesn't go far enough in terms of features, however, I recommend you download and try a few different apps. They all have either free trials or free tiers.
This article was originally published in March 2019 by Tim Brookes and has since had contributions from Justin Pot.