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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Building the Perfect Email Client


Ok, so I use email all day, everyday. As a Customer Support Specialist for my day job I am constantly sending, receiving, reading, writing, and generally living in my email client. My company originally used our its own hosted Exchange server, thus I used Outlook to manage my email and calendar.  However, we have since moved to Google Apps, so I am using the web client.  I like the web client and it does just about everything I want, but it's just not quite there for me and the way I like to work.  Therefore, I have started a search for the perfect email client.  I have a lot of requirements, and I'm sure I'll never find the one that meets all of my needs, but I can hope.
Requirements for the perfect email client:
  1. Speed.  In order for an email client to be considered even useful, much less perfect, it must be fast.  One of the fastest clients that I have used recently is Sparrow.  This is a Mac only app that is light, useful, and fast.  The engine in this app is great and, in my limited use and comparison, much faster than any other client that I have ever used.  Unfortunately, Google swooped in and bought them and I suspect that it will be the death of Sparrow.
  2. Great Calendar Integration. I use my calendar to manage my schedule, as many of you do.  I have my work calendar with meetings, my personal calendar with all of the stuff I have to do outside of work, and I link to my wife's calendar so I can see what she has coming up.  All-in-all, my calendar is pretty important to me.  For my money, Outlook has been the leader in this area for a long time.  The ease with which I can move meetings, create invites, and generally manage everything is wonderful.  I like the Google calendar, but there's just always been something that has made me less that happy with it.  I can't quite put my finger on it, but there's just something missing.
  3. Social Integration. I'm not the type of person that is constantly on Twitter or Facebook sharing every detail of my life.  However, I do read it often for news.  My Twitter stream is full of breaking news, geeky commentary, and other fun stuff to get me through the day and keep me informed.  I want to be able to easily integrate this into my email client so that I don't have to go to my browser or other application to get this.  One of the clients that gets this right is Inbox2.  The integration of Twitter and Facebook is simple and fast, and it is easy to hide if I want to ignore it and just get some work done.
  4. Ease of Setup.  One of the things I hate about setting up an email client is the process of choosing the service, choosing the port to enter, trying to remember if it is POP3 or IMAP, etc.  I just want to choose the service, enter my userid and password, and be done.  The easiest client that I have found for setting up new accounts is eM Client.  To setup your GMail, Yahoo, Hotmail, or many other accounts you simply select the service, add in your userid and password and it does the rest.  It really is that simple, as it should be.  eM Client is not the only client to make it this simple.  The setup for Thunderbird is just as simple, so it deserves a mention here as well.
  5. RSS Integration.  I follow lots of blogs via RSS and I currently use Google Reader to gather these all together for me.  It's the best RSS reader that I have found since it is simple, easy, and it just plain works for me.  I would love to have this in my email client to further my desire to have everything in one complete application.  Outlook has an RSS tool in it, but quite frankly, it's horrible.  Thunderbird has an add-on for RSS, but it's not much better than the one in Outlook.
  6. Google Options. I use a lot of the extra options in the Google web client that make my job easier.  One of my favorites is the stars.  This option allows for the use of stars beyond the basic yellow.  I use different colored stars and the exclamation points to mark messages that require different actions.  If I just need to reply I use the blue start.  If it needs some research I may use a question mark.  I have yet to find a single email client that supports these stars.  Outlook will let you use different colored flags, but they are harder to implement than the simple mouse clicks that you can use in the GMail web client.  I also like the options of being able to customize my keyboard shortcuts, and the threaded conversations.  So many of the other clients fail miserably in this area.
  7. Markdown Support.  While I'm not completely sold on Markdown, I would really like to be able to use it much more simply when creating emails.  None of the other email clients that I have tried fully support this.
  8. Multi-platform.  I use a Mac at home and a PC at work.  I want my perfect email client to work in both places, with no exceptions.
  9. Cost.  Free would be the best, but if you could give me the perfect client with all of the options above then I would pay $50-100 for it.  It would make that much of a difference in my life.
So, if you are a software developer looking for a new challenge, this is it.  Build the perfect email client for the pickiest email user you will ever meet and I'm sure that you will satisfy just about every user out there and be in line to make a pile of cash.  So, quit reading and get coding.
If you have found an email client that will do all, or even most, of the things above, please let me know.  If you have an email client that you love, let me know why in the comments.