Mimestream review: This is the Mac app Gmail users need

The most important thing I can tell you about Mimestream, the email app for Mac that just came out of a year-long beta, is that I eventually gave up on it and went to Gmail.com.

I’ve tried many email apps over the years and they all have at least one fatal flaw. (Some have several.) Search is the most common culprit: Very few apps can search messages as quickly or as well as Gmail, which is why I’ve ditched everything from Spark to Edison to Apple Mail to Newton over the years. But some apps have a hard time finding contacts, others do weird things with inbox organization, and don’t even get me started on the ones that somehow can’t stay online and actually deliver all my messages. For years I downloaded apps hoping for better, more native email tools than Gmail’s cluttered interface, and for years I reluctantly returned to the cluttered mess.

Mimestream is different. Created by a small team led by Neil Jhaveri, the app does almost everything Gmail does, at least as well as Gmail. (Jhaveri is a former Apple engineer who spent several years working on Mail and Notes. Guy knows his apps.) In many cases, that’s because it does precisely the way Gmail does it — Mimestream makes heavy use of Gmail’s proprietary API for everything from e-mail retrieval to searching.

In a way, Mimestream isn’t really an email app because it doesn’t support IMAP and POP3 and all the basic email app stuff. It is a Gmail app. It doesn’t even support Outlook or other email providers yet because Jhaveri and his team were so focused on building a better way to use Gmail. (He says they’re working on Outlook support, though.) Instead of all the sidebars and tabs and ads and autoreply suggestions, Mimestream just gives you your email. Your inbox on the left, your open message on the right. It’s more like Apple Mail than Gmail. It’s fast, it’s clean, it’s not very visually exciting – but that’s probably for the best when it comes to email.

I’ve been testing the app for over a year and there’s nothing about Gmail that I miss. Mimestream inherits the same keyboard shortcuts, the same labels and filters, the same everything. The search function is fast and excellent – because it’s just Gmail’s own search function presented in a new way. Mimestream has the undo send feature that has saved me countless times, it supports all my email aliases, it lets me respond to calendar invites. In almost every way, Gmail fares much better than Gmail.

Mimestream’s search is fast and excellent – because it’s just Gmail’s own search presented in a new way

That said, there are plenty of things I’d like to see Mimestream add, starting with Windows and mobile apps. I also wish Mimestream made it easier to link to an email – right now you can copy the link to any message, but that link will just open Gmail when it should actually open Mimestream. It should also support Outlook and other providers, especially if it wants to be people’s main email client. And Mimestream will eventually need a way to replicate Gmail’s plugin structure, as there are many power users out there who don’t want to drop Boomerang or Mailtrack.

Jhaveri says Mimestream is working on a lot of stuff like that. Ultimately, one of his goals is to sell Mimestream licenses to businesses, which makes plug-in and Outlook support all the more important. He also believes that Mimestream Mobile can be great.

Meanwhile, Jhaveri thinks the first best use case for Mimestream is people who have multiple Gmail accounts. You can add all your accounts to Mimestream and browse your individual inboxes or view them all in a unified list. Mimestream also supports Gmail’s inbox categories, so you can see your Promotions and Updates separately if you want.

Mimestream offers most Gmail features, such as labels and inbox categories.
Image: Mimestream

You can manage it even further, too: If you have a bunch of work addresses or a few different emails that you use for personal business, you can group them under what Mimestream calls “Profiles” and view all of your related messages together.

Mimestream also does some nifty Mac-specific stuff that you can’t get from the Gmail web app, like integration with Focus Filters and the native notification system, so you can have one profile send alerts during the workday and another on the weekend.

Mimestream has a clear appeal to everyday people, but the price seems a lot like a tool for businesses and power users. It’s a subscription app and costs $50 a year or $5 a month, though you can get your first year for $30 at launch. That’s a lot to pay for a better looking Gmail! However, it’s nowhere near the $30 a month cost of a service like Superhuman, and it matches other productivity apps like Fantastical or Todoist. Other email apps, such as Spark Premium, are also about the same price. A few dollars a month, Jhaveri believes, is a fair price for a better email life. But in the end, Mimestream competes with free for many users. And free is hard to beat.

Personally, I pay for the annual subscription without much thought. I spend hours a day in my email, and it is the source of so much information I need minute by minute and day by day. Since Gmail is still inundated with ads, Meet icons, and feature creep, I’m happy to pay a few bucks a month for a better answer. Mimestream is the best of Gmail, minus the worst of Gmail. That’s the app I was looking for.

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