My Experience with MailSpring on Linux

Email was a significant improvement over its predecessors. Instead of physical messages passing hands several times, a message could be sent at the speed of light as a series of packets to anyone attached to the same network. Email changed the world.

Now email is old tech. But things that are old have a way of becoming new again. IRC is pretty old tech, but its latest evolution via Slack, RocketChat, and Discord seem to have given new life to the ideas behind IRC.

In the space of email, many companies have put effort into creating a clean interface to help people manage their inboxes. My least favorite of all of these is Microsoft Outlook, which I’m required to use at work. Between its lack of theming and limited functionality (work turned off the RSS feed reader) it epitomizes critical mass stagnation.

Microsoft isn’t the only one who’s tried to solve the email problem. Google entered the space with Gmail, which has gone through a couple of interface redesigns. Mobile reduced our inboxes to tiny screens, where each pixel represented a valuable piece of real estate. This pixel scarcity furthered the design of email interfaces. Google now has an app called Gmail and another called Inbox. The latter enables snoozing of messages to be rescheduled at later times.

On the Linux Desktop, there are quite a few choices for email applications. Each of these has their own pros and cons which should be weighed depending on one’s needs. Some clients will have MS Exchange support. Others do not. In general, because email is reasonably close to free (and yes, we can thank Hotmail for that) it has been a difficult place to make money. Without a cash flow to encourage developers, development has trickled at best.

Thunderbird and Nylas Mail have both been discontinued by their original sponsors. Thunderbird still works, comes preinstalled in many distributions, and has an interface reminiscent of earlier days. For all intents and purposes, Nylas solved the interface problem and open sourced the code they did it with. So last summer when development was suspended the project got forked.

Welcome to MailSpring!

MailSpring offers the clean interface of Nylas and an easy install via a snap. Unlike its predecessor MailSpring will let you adjust the text size to accommodate screen scaling and the age of one’s eyes. There’s a limited theming function. Snoozing emails appears to be part of the original design and it’s a well done feature of the app. The app handles signatures quite well. It uses industry standards for URL tracking with your email. And you can’t help but feel like the whole app is designed to encourage you to use the paid version of their service. They do keep these opportunities to remind you pretty low key, but they’re still baked into the app.

I’ve been successfully running MailSpring on Ubuntu 16.04 for a month now and have enjoyed the experience. Notifications are working well and the app looks like it belongs in this era.

What else can I say? Email clients aren’t exactly new territory. There’s not much in the space to get excited about. It works. It’s clean. And email is still a necessary evil. If you’re going to have to use it, it might as well be using an app that lets you use it on your own terms. MailSpring hits the mark for me.

Jacob Roecker on Linkedin
Jacob Roecker
Jacob Roecker is an addictive hobbyist and Linux user, father of four, veteran, college student who self published three books and dabbles with media production, management, photography, videography, and long distance running.  Jacob's love for Linux comes from its versatility as a tinkering operating system.  Jacob has often found the only elegant solutions to some of his tinkering problems have come from the community behind the penguin.  

Jacob's practical about what he uses and when.  He often composes on his MacBook Pro because if he was using his Linux desktop machine full time he'd probably never get any work done because he'd be trying out one of the many cool new projects someone just published and shared with the community.  Sometimes it's good to use an OS that doesn't have as much freedom. LinkedIn

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