Like any other tech guy, i’ve tried all kinds of different mail clients. Apple Mail does the job, but doesn’t give me all the features I’d like (such as a simple archive button) and it doesn’t look as nice as some of the other stuff out there. I’m always on the lookout for it’s replacement.
When I first heard about Mail Pilot I thought i’d found it. I thought i’d finally found the one mail client to rule them all. Their website was crisp and clean. Their demo videos displayed what I would be able to do with Mail Pilot quickly and effectively, and they were getting really good reviews on the Mac App store.
So I went ahead and bought both the Mac client and the iOS version. I set up most my accounts (I still can’t get Exchange to work) and tried out some of its features. I found it refreshing to check off email, or to put a reminder on an email that I wanted to get out of my inbox for the moment, but still needed on another day. It was also nice to have more choices with what I did with my email (because the only options for your regular mail aren’t only to “keep in the mailbox” or “throw away”, right?).
What Makes it Different
Mail Pilot’s theory is based on a system called GTD (Getting Things Done) by David Allen. Basically, the idea is that everything in our lives is an actionable item and that getting all of those items out of our head and into a planner (of whatever variety you like) frees up your mind to do the creative thinking and take action on those items instead of wasting energy trying to recall them.
This is implemented very nicely in the Mail Pilot interface, with each email received being viewed as an item to take action on. Each email comes into the inbox where it is viewed and then sent somewhere else depending on what it’s task is.
For example, say you receive an email from your boss reminding you about an important meeting coming up in a few days and the agenda for that meeting is attached. You could just let it sit in your inbox for a few days until the meeting, but by that time you’ll probably have a large pile of other emails sitting on top of that email to sift through. The reminders feature of Mail Pilot lets you put a date on that email for when you’ll actually need it. Just put the date on it and Mail Pilot will put it at the top of your inbox on the specified date. If you didn’t need an email on a specific date, but still wanted to keep it handy, you could also select “set aside” to store it in another bin to come back to when you’re ready.
Another key feature of Mail Pilot is the ability for you to create lists from your email. By creating lists and adding mail to them, you’re able to easily see related emails in one place. For example, you can create a list for a project you’re working on or to collect receipts for an expense report. Lists make it easy to see when actions have taken place and where you’re at on any given project. Mail Pilot doesn’t have a rules engine like Apple Mail or Outlook, but lists are still a great way to organize your email.
I also really like the different views that Mail Pilot includes. It lets you narrow your scope of actionable mail by “Today”, “Upcoming”, “Set Aside”, and just your normal inbox. This gives you a “To-do” list like approach to your email.
Back to Apple
After about 2 months of fiddling around with settings, trying to find lost emails, and begging it to “just please work!”, I’ve left yet another mail client and returned to Apple Mail. Not because I wanted to, mind you, but because I simply had too.
The biggest problem with Mail Pilot isn’t in their OSX program, but in their iOS app. OSX works just fine (with a couple manageable bugs), but without an equally capable iOS counterpart, it just doesn’t fit into my workflow.
The current version of Mail Pilot for iOS is quite frankly a sad excuse for a mail application (just check out it’s reviews) with the biggest disappointment being that my “reply” button doesn’t ever work. I use reply a lot, so it’s a pretty big deal if that button isn’t working in my mail application. Some other bugs include crashes, deleting mail without sending it (which often makes for awkward phone calls about email the recipient never received), and the lack of Exchange support.
For now, Mail Pilot sits quietly in a corner of my harddrive, waiting for the day when an iOS update finally hits the app store. At that point, i’ll give it another try with the hope that the problems will be fixed and I can finally have my Apple Mail replacement in all it’s glory. I love the approach to mail that Mail Pilot takes, but if the secretary can’t take care of the mail, then it’s simply time to hire a new one. So for now, Apple Mail takes it’s place as my mail client of choice as I optimistically hope for a better tomorrow for Mail Pilot.