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Women in Tech

Mailplane Gives Gmail a Nice Lift

By John P. Mello Jr. MacNewsWorld ECT News Network
Dec 3, 2013 5:00 AM PT

Mailplane by Uncomplex is available for US$24.95 (Personal License), $39.95 (Family License) or $24.95 (Site License for 5 Users). Volume pricing is available for 5 or more users. You can test drive the app for 15 days for free.

Mailplane Gives Gmail a Nice Lift

Mailplane notifications

Gmail may not be the prettiest email program in the world. Yahoo Mail is easier on the eye. Microsoft's Outlook online has a clean and modern appeal.

Nevertheless, many of us use Gmail -- warts and all -- so any app that adds utility to the Google offering can be worthwhile. Mailplane 3 is such an app.

The software has been around for six years, but its developers have given it a makeover in this latest edition.

That's not to say they've drifted away from the program's essential mission: enabling you to access your Gmail accounts without opening your Web browser.

With your browser closed, you can access Mailplane from the OS X dock or from an icon on the Apple toolbar. Clicking that icon displays a drop-down menu with the subject lines from your most recent Gmail messages.

In addition, Mailplane will automatically notify you when a new message arrives in your Gmail box.

Simple Authentication

When setting up Mailplane, the app asks you to give your Gmail account a local name, then fill in the address for the account and your Google password.

Since I use Google two-factor authentication, I expected Mailplane to choke when connecting to my Gmail account. When that happens, it means I have to go through the hassle of creating a new application password for whatever program I'm trying to use with Google.

To my surprise, that didn't happen with Mailplane. Instead, I received an access code on my mobile phone that I could plug into the app to connect to my Gmail account -- a much more convenient method of program activation.

Mailplane can handle multiple Gmail accounts, as well as any Google calendars associated with them. Each account and calendar appears as a tab on the app's interface.

When I tried to add a corporate account to Mailplane, however, it couldn't make the connection. It appears the program supports only consumer accounts.

Calendar Integration

The calendar feature is new and a welcome addition to the app. Moving from Gmail to Google Calendar by clicking tabs is very convenient. You could, of course, open Gmail in one tab and Calendar in another in a browser, but I've found Calendar's performance less than ideal in a browser -- even in Google's own Chrome browser. Calendar's performance in Mailplane is tip-top.

When you open Mailplane, it should look familiar to you. That's because its mail window mirrors your Gmail account, right down to your background photo.

Where Mailplane departs from Gmail is at the top of the app's interface. There it contains the tabs for your accounts and calendars, as well as tools for going to and refreshing your in-box, common email functions -- new, reply, forward, send and trash, and icons for contacts and checking recent downloads.

Mailplane account tabs

Some of the tools' functionality leaves something to be desired. For example, the contact button is confusing. When it's clicked, a new message window appears, instead of a window into my address book, which seems like the intuitive choice to me.

The reply and forward tools don't seem to do anything. If you want to use those functions, you need to use the menu options provided by Gmail. Likewise, the trash button is a dud.

Plugin Power

Mailplane also now supports a number of Gmail plug-ins. For scheduling when email is sent and reminding you when email has been ignored by its target, there are Boomerang and Right Inbox.

Other supported plug-ins include Rapportive, which replaces the ads in the right sidebar with rich information about a contact you're writing to; Taskforce, for converting emails into tasks so you can move them out of your inbox; and AwayFind, which will send an SMS message to you when you receive an important message in your Gmail account.

With this latest version of Mailplane, its developers have improved the program, and in doing so made Gmail and Google Calendar more attractive to use. The app has its flaws, but they don't overwhelm the inherent utility of the program.

Freeware Spotlight

Parcel - Delivery tracking by Ivan Pavlov is available at the Mac App Store for free.

parcel delivery tracking
No doubt this holiday season you'll be fulfilling some of your gift-giving obligations by mail order. As anyone who has used this form of fulfillment knows, waiting for packages to arrive can be agonizing, especially if you're a last-minute shopper.

You can have any number of packages with tracking numbers that you dutifully check continuously as they creep through the arteries of the nation's transportation system. That task can be tedious, but it becomes less so with Parcel.

Parcel will display tracking information in a single place. That voids the need to go hunting through emails every time you want to check on a package's tracking number. It will also update a package's progress so you don't have to.

The app works for some 200 delivery services and with the app's ability to automatically recognize carriers, adding packages is a cinch.

In this free version, only three shipments can be tracked simultaneously. If you need more shipments tracked and want push notifications when there's a change in shipping status, you'll need to pony up $1.99 for an annual subscription for the premium version of the program.

John Mello is a freelance technology writer and former special correspondent for Government Security News.

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