I never used a mail client other than Mail.app on Mac OS for my IMAP account. Thunderbird is slow and buggy and Postbox feels too much like a Windows app, though it could be nice if just the devs would refine the UI. On the other hand, Mail.app is powerful. From mailboxes to rules and plugins (just to name a few, Letterbox, Mail Act-on and MailTags) Mail gets its job done with a huge set of awesome features, speed and stability. But there's another market on Mac OS X, that of mail notifiers: they usually sit up in the menubar and provide an easy and minimal to way to instantly check for new mails. Now, what if we merge these two kinds of applications, creating both a minimal, lightweight mail notifier and client?That's exactly what Notify 2 is.
Notify 1 was released this year and it's been a huge success: thanks to a sexy, crisp interface and a good stability, it was the new & best way to get notified of incoming messages in your Gmail inbox. That's right, it only supported Gmail accounts. But my friend Kyle van Essen, lead developer of Notify from Vibealicious, knew all along that Notify could have been so much more than a simple (yet useful and sexy) Gmail notifier, so he started working on a complete rewrite of the application, which is finally out and called "Notify 2". I've been in the beta testing group since the first builds, I saw the app growing and crashing (yeah, God knows how many crash reports I sent Kyle during the beta) and as it hit the public release some weeks ago I felt you know, proud of it. Like I've been contributing to something great. And Notify is really that great, actually. If you tell me to list the best new Mac applications of 2009, I'd surely include Notify 2 in that list.
But let's move on to the application and see what it does, what doesn't, and why you should go purchase it right after reading this post (and nope, I ain't got an affiliate link, you seriously have to).
Once you've downloaded and installed the app, run it and you'll be guided through the necessary steps to set up a new mail account. Notify 2 supports Gmail, Google Apps, MobileMe, Rackspace Cloud emails and generic IMAP. These are a few of the major improvements of the 2.0 version, just to let you know. I've configured MacStories' IMAP account, which means filling out some fields like username, password and servers. Way easier than Mail.app's process, if you ask me.
Now, wait a few seconds for the app to authorize with the server and here you go: Notify will start fetching your mails and the menubar icon will eventually turn blue if you have new unread messages. There's also a badge showing how many messages you have. You can scroll through mails with a right scrollbar very similar to Tweetie's one: wonder if Kyle took inspiration from Loren. Anyway, though it's presented as a lightweight mail notifier, this Notify 2 is actually pretty powerful: you can mark messages as read, delete them, Quicklook and reply to them. The Quicklook function is extremely useful here, allowing you to simply hit the spacebar to get a quick preview of the incoming mail. Too bad the preview window doesn't have the action buttons of the main window, but I believe Kyle is working on this.
Please also notice that: double clicking on a Gmail message opens the web interface and you can resize the Notify window with the bottom right thing, just like in Mac OS X. Many users just didn't know that.
If you don't want to leave the application, you can do most everything inline: you can compose a new message and reply. The compose menu will come down form the top in a uber-gorgeous animation. As my friend @nico402 suggests though, it would be nice to have Address Book integration, and he's right. (oh, and go follow him if you want to stay updated with every 1Password release: he's the biggest 1Password fan I've ever met)
Another thing I really can't stand is that you can't delete multiple emails at once: you have to select a message everytime. Also, if you select a message and hit delete, the next message won't be automatically selected. This is one of the fixes I'm seriously looking forward for the next update.
You can add as many mail accounts as you wish and Notify will create tabs for them. Switching back and forth between tabs is quick and painless, no matter how many accounts you add.
Now, you should know that many of the features I mentioned in this review are exclusive of the Pro version of Notify. As from Vibealicious website:
"Notify unlocks several features not available in the free version. These include Quick Look-style message previews, compose and reply functionality, as well as the ability to mark messages read and delete them right within Notify"
Should you purchase the pro version at $10?
Notify 2 is one of the best application of this late 2009, allowing you to keep track of your mail accounts and manage your mail messages from the menubar, which is just great. The interface is clever and well designed, the animations smooth and,overall, the application is stable. But the coolest thing is that now I can finally keep Mail.app closed, leave Notify running and open Mail.app only if really needed. This - is just great.