Dispatch has long been one of the most powerful email clients for iPhone. Originally released by Clean Shaven Apps in 2013, Dispatch took a unique approach at managing email by relying on integrations with third-party apps, online services, and text snippets. In a pre-extensibility world, Dispatch was the only email client for iOS that could work alongside your todo or calendar app of choice, turning messages into actionable items that could talk to other apps on your device.
As more and more “modern” email clients started using proprietary server-side features for smart processing and limited external integrations, Dispatch augmented email on iPhone with the power of third-party apps. Even after iOS 8 and extensions, the team at Clean Shaven Apps didn’t lose its focus: in addition to custom integrations, Dispatch was quickly updated to support the native share sheet so you’d have the best of both worlds.
Dispatch for iPhone had app integrations, advanced reply options, and little touches that made it a superior option for power users who wanted more than Apple Mail. With one major caveat: Dispatch didn’t have an iPad app.
This is changing today with version 3.0 of Dispatch, released on the App Store as a Universal update that adds a proper iPad counterpart designed to take advantage of the bigger screen for even faster email management and triaging.
On the iPad, Dispatch adopts a Mail-inspired layout with a list of messages on the left and the selected message on the right. Unlike Mail, the inbox is always shown in Dispatch: there’s no way to focus on individual messages in full-screen, and, like the iPhone app, the message list is used to expose controls to switch between unread, starred, and all messages, as well as additional options to archive, move, and delete. I’ve mostly been okay with the decision to always show the inbox alongside messages, but I’ve missed the simplicity and elegance of Mail’s full-screen mode when reading newsletters and long messages that required my attention.
Furthermore, unlike Mail, Dispatch employs a three-pane layout to display mailboxes and shortcuts next to the inbox. Dispatch has long offered a unified inbox for all accounts added to the app, but the ability to pin specific folders truly shines on the iPad. Over the past year, I’ve developed the habit of moving messages related to articles I’m working in standalone folders; Dispatch’s sidebar allows me to easily move between my inbox and a folder without having to navigate away from my list of messages (as Mail does). This is a clever way to use the iPad’s screen to reduce navigation and increase the amount of information available to the user, and it’s particularly useful in landscape mode.
Another option that is uniquely suited for Dispatch on the iPad (and, again, freely borrowed from Apple Mail) is a gesture to dock the message composer to the side so you can do something else in your inbox without losing a draft. On the iPad, Dispatch uses a bigger composer window with an additional panel for the To, Cc, and Bcc fields. The gesture isn’t hinted by anything in the UI, but you can swipe to the right to dismiss the composer and dock it on the right edge of the screen, so you can go back to the inbox to look at another message before resuming what you were doing. I’m a fan of the concept of using big screens and gestures to manage multiple states of app activity – the aforementioned Mail is an example; Fantastical is another one – and the implementation in Dispatch is solid.
The other new features in version 3.0 of Dispatch are nice-to-have additions that, once again, show the care put by Clean Shaven Apps into the product. Messages can now display profile pictures that use Contacts, Gravatar, a website favicon, or that generate an icon from a favicon’s main color. I like it when email clients use profile pictures in the inbox as I can parse the list more quickly, and I wish that Apple considered a similar design as well. Also, snippets appear automatically at the bottom of the composer when typing and actions can be reordered with drag & drop – both enhancements make sense as they reduce the taps required to manage these features.
But perhaps more importantly, the best part about Dispatch launching on iPad is that no other email client offers the same integrations and power-user options. Dispatch is still the email client to have if you want to make messages actionable and leverage other apps you may already use – such as OmniFocus, 2Do, Todoist, Fantastical, and dozens of others – to make email part of your existing iOS workflow. Dispatch is a versatile email client that understands the convenience of app integrations and shortcuts, and that fully embraces extensibility to make triaging email faster and more efficient.
I’ve been using Dispatch on my iPad lately, and while I miss features exclusive to Mail and push notifications from apps such as Inbox and Outlook, I’m also faster at managing email in Dispatch than any other app because it adapts to how I work on iOS. Clean Shaven Apps has done a good job at porting Dispatch to the bigger screen, and I can’t wait to see what they do with iOS 9.
Dispatch 3.0 is available on the App Store.