Your email app can save time

Tomas Ahlbeck
6 min readMay 16, 2022

In my earlier article “Time blocking made my life calmer” I wrote about how I with the help of ideas from among others Carl Pullein managed to get a structure for my calendar and task manager in iOS and MacOS.

This has helped me in finding a way to get more time to be creative: to work on my novels, to write material for my standup and whatever creative ideas I have.

After deciding to go all in on the time blocking ideas, I started to focus on the tools I use in my work, and how to optimise my choise of tools in order to work more effectively.

I start the day with taking my dog for a walk, a good time to wake my brain and let the ideas flow, and after giving dog and cat breakfast I start to work. I have one hour set to check out my mail and my todo-list.

And that is where my tools come in. As for todo-app/task manager, I wrote an article “How to pick a task manager for the Apple OS-family” where I commented on different task managers and which one I chose. This I based on the way I now work with time blocking in my calendar: easy to work with and no extras that makes me loose focus on what is important, namely creativity time.

When it comes to email apps I earlier wrote an article “Lost in a jungle of email apps”, where I the landed in recommending an app called Spark. Spark is still a very good email app, but with my new view on apps and time management I now have moved away to something much easier, an app without bells and whistles. It just works. Which gives me time to write and be creative instead of getting stuck in checking out yet another function that looks cool but I really don’t need. More on how I now work with my email in another article (keep your eyes open, folks).

But first: Which email apps have I tried, and which is my verdict on them? When it comes to Airmail, I paid full price in the old version, and left Airmail when it went subscription. However I understand that it was a way to get economy in the development and survival of the app. I have no problem with subscriptions. Ulysses is subscription, Fantastical aswell. Evernote. And a lot of email apps. The list goes on. And if you can live with the subscription solution, Airmail is one of the best email apps out there for Mac, iOS and iPadOS.

But for those who want something else than Airmail, here comes some alternatives:

Canary Mail. I tried an earlier version, and found it rather good. It also focuses on privacy, and has good integration with other apps (so they say). Only available on Mac,iOS and iPadOS. It has received some bad reviews regarding their support, but the app itself is mostly rated very high. Rather expensive though.

They had beta versions earlier so you could try the app. They are now gone, and instead they offer a trial period. But if you have tried an earlier version and didn’t like it, there is no way for you to try the latest version. You are stuck with the free but stripped version. So there is no way for you actually to see if version 3 (as of tody) is an improvement on the older v 2 or not. You just have to trust them, and cough up with the money. Which makes Canary a no go for me.

Spark. Commenters state that the privacy in Spark is no different to Airmail, Canary and others. Well: One thing that I saw different privacy-wise towards Airmail and other third part apps when I started checking out the different email apps back in 2021 was that you couldn’t turn off push and choose fetch instead. Spark wrote in 2015 that they would implement fetch, but even 2020 they didn’t seem to provide that option. If you use fetch instead of push then nothing gets saved on their (Airmail, Canary etc) servers. Spark does not have their own servers, but they use Google Cloud service. If you have concerns with Google privacy, then this might be an issue for you. All your email pass Google servers, wether you like it or not. Also, Spark shares your credentials with Facebook and Amplitude ( a service to among other things analyse customer behaviour). I for one can’t really understand in what way I benefit from someone analysing my emailing-behaviour. But then free apps need to be financed. So-if you have no problem with privacy issues then Spark is a good choise. As for integration: Spark integrates well with other apps and services in the iOS version, the Mac-version is however not even close to the integrations in Airmail and Canary mail.

AltaMail. Extremey cluttered and not the nicest UI. See it as “Mailmate for iOS”. If you want the most settings and really good privacy (if you manage to understand how to do the settings righ) and can live with a UI that is not too inviting, then this might be a choice for you. AltaMail now also has a MacOS-version.

AppStore is full of alternatives, with their own takes on emailing. Spike (free/subscription), Newton (subscription), Edison (free)… just to mention a few. Edison says “No ads, just mail”. However they also explain how they use your data.

Myself I have tried Airmail, Spark, Edison, Newton, Canary, AltaMail, and on Mac also MailMate. But I tend to return to Apple Mail every time. It is the safest, cheapest (comes free with MacOS,iOS and iPadOS) and it does what I want it to do. It is also translated to many different languages, which is good if English isn’t your main language. This is not the case with many of the third party email apps. Airmail is one of the few with Swedish localisation.

However: I would list on a piece of paper what is essential to you in an email app. After doing so, I landed in choosing Apple Mail as my main email app. Apple mail has none of the bells and whistles that most others have, but I have learned to live without them. Snooze? Nope, snoozing isn’t actually to act on a mail, you just postpone it. I have a folder I call “urgent” where I put the emails I don’t send to Things3 or Calendar, emails I can’t answer right now but don’t want to throw away. I also use the different flags to mark emails and I use smart folders and flags. And those I need to act on I send to Things3 or Calendar.

I try to maintain a similar structure in Mail as I have in Things3. That way I easily can see what emails I need to act on today and which I can just dump in the bin. I can even send my emails from Apple mail to Things3. This is also possible in Airmail, Canary, Spark and other third party apps, but the fact that I can do it with Apple mail makes it even less important to me to use any other mail app. I even found a way to file emails in Apple Notes without having to fiddle around too much. I just choose the Print-icon and there I add Notes with the + icon. If you use KeepIt from Reinvented Software you can do the same there.

So, there you have it, my unprofessional look on email apps for Mac and iOS. I am certain that many of you disagree and think my choice is totally wrong. And that is OK, since we are all individuals with different needs. To me the important thing was to find a timesaving solution that integrates well with my take on time blocking. I’ve done that now. Since I realized I spent TOO much time trying out all email apps I could find, I now have landed on Apple Mail, a solution that lacks a lot of bells and whistles, but at least gives me time to actually act on my emails and not get lost in a jungle of email apps.

/Tomas A



Tomas Ahlbeck

Swedish Standup comedian, writer & diabetic. Published a few books, done a few gigs. ‘Sweden’s own dirty uncle, brilliant writing and some very dark humour.”