The need for a new email client

It’s really stunning to me – a plethora of people I know use Gmail and have for years.  Most do so not for the user interface – it’s pretty God-awful, but for the user experience.  (I had high hopes for themes, but alas.)  Specifically, threaded messaging, which I simply cannot do without.

With the totality with which people rely on Gmail’s threaded messaging interface, it’s incredible to me that there are a total of ZERO email clients – Windows or Mac – that include the same functionality.  It’s high time for a new email client.  But who will build it??

Well, not me obviously.  Not yet anyway – and that’s not necessarily a good thing.  I really shouldn’t be throwing stones at the development community for not doing a hard task that I’m not willing to take on myself.  Still, there is a gaping hole in the market.

Unfortunately, writing an email client program is no easy feat.  It’s incredibly difficult, actually, which is why Outlook is so heavily relied upon, Entourage is warned away from, and Apple’s is universally love-hated – but the alternatives are almost non-existant.  The simple problem of handling massive gigabytes of data – and doing it in a fast, intelligent way – is something that would need to be solved even before one could start thinking of writing a client app.  Want to know why Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft do it so well?  Massive servers that crunch data all day, every day.  So imagine taking your outdated computer and asking it to crunch the same data.  Those are some difficult algorithms.

Still, there is a glaring omission in email clients.  Threaded conversations in Gmail have all but proven that much email – that we care about anyway – is conversational.  It doesn’t make sense to not have the entire conversation at your fingertips.  Some clients attempt to thread incoming emails, but they leave out your outgoing emails – that’s insane!  Conversations are rarely held on your email client without your voice – it’s so massively important that it be part of the thread!

The client that I currently have the most hope for is Postbox. It’s threaded conversations are almost impossible to get at, but once you do – YES! – there they are.  Postbox has done a fantastic job of indexing email, and obviously has the ability to understand a conversation thread.  Why is the thread not managed immediately?  Why does it take twelve clicks to get to it?  Why is it only available when I search!?

One of the beautiful things of threaded conversations is that I may have a single line item with a (12) next to it.  12 new emails – all contextually related – in a single thread.  It unclutters my inbox!  It makes things readable!  And best of all, it allows me to read – all at once – all responses to a single thought.

Postbox – if you’re listening – THREAD ME PLEASE!  Until then, I’ll continue to use Mailplane – a great app, but a fake desktop client.

Man, it’s time for a new email client.

  • Park

    I found your blog post during my search for the same thing. I can’t believe an email client with threaded messages still doesn’t exist, but what I’d really like would be for GMail to allow me to check other mail accounts (specifically my MobileMe mail) using IMAP instead of POP3. That way I could just use gmail’s web interface for other email addresses. Any idea why they haven’t implemented such a thing yet?