A minimal email client

In a world filled with chats and forums and apps, emails are still one of the most useful tools to communicate with people. I’m not an email power user by any means. My volume of emails is very low so this blog post may not be for you if you’re one of those people who receives hundreds of emails every day and uses dozens of smart folders and filters. If instead you’re looking for a simple way to handle emails this post could be a useful one.

Few premises: I’m on Mac and this post is Mac oriented. So if you’re on Windows or Linux, sorry. You could maybe achieve something similar using a different email clients though. Also, both my emails are hosted by Google. I have one traditional Gmail account for personal stuff and one GSuite account for work related things. Which means the two inboxes are 15 and 30GB respectively and I don’t have to worry about space. With that in mind let’s get started.

My history with email clients

I tried a bunch of different clients during the years. I went through Sparrow before it was bought and killed by Google, I tried AirMail, Polymail, Unibox and Spark. To be honest with you, I wasn’t happy with any of those clients. Don’t get me wrong, they were ok and did the job but I’m a weird person and I like simplicity. Sometimes I want a tool that does one thing and nothing more. Smart inbox is nice, filters are great but I don’t want to use them. I want to get my emails, read them, reply to them and archive them. And that’s it.

My current setup

My current inbox looks like this

Yes, it’s quite minimal. I want my inbox empty. If there’s something in there, it means I have to do something about it. And that something is either archive it or reply to it. But before I dive into the ins and outs of this set up let’s see how you can set it up.

The Settings

The first thing you wanna do is set up Mail as your default client and turn off all notifications. I hate notifications. I don’t want my mac to ding or ring at random. Plus, no email is really urgent in my world. You can adjust this according to your preference though. That’s up to you.

As for the font, I like to use San Francisco but that’s also a personal preference. Size is also up to you. 14 is the sweet spot in my opinion.

Next up we have viewing options. A couple of things here. You don’t want to use the classic layout because it need too much horizontal space. You can however turn on the contact photos as well as the list preview.

I have both turned off because I don’t need to see pictures and I don’t need to have a preview of the message. I want to open the email to see what’s inside and then decide what to do.

Next you want to set Archive as the default action to the discard move. This will allow you to swipe left on the message to show the archive icon. As I said at the beginning, I archive everything since I have plenty of space available in my inbox.

You also want to have the most recent message at the top. As for the option when you’re composing a new message, I’m not a fan of quoting the entire message every time so I turned off that option.

With the settings done, we can now move into the View options and hide everything that’s not necessary. You want to hide the tab bar, sort the messages by date and have the most recent at the top, hide the Mailbox list, disable the Message Filter and hide the Favorites Bar.

You do want to to keep the Toolbar though because that’s where the search fields lives. We can now move to the toolbar. If you right click on it you can customize it. As you can see from the picture below, I deleted everything and the only thing left is the search field. And in order to have the search field centered inside the window I added two spacer on each side of the search field.

Also make sure to display the icon only. As for the message window, things there are pretty straightforward.

Each message opens in a new window and as you can see from the picture, the only button left in the toolbar is the reply button. I’m not a fan of replying all but you can tweak that based on your needs.

And that’s pretty much it. You should now have an uber minimal email client. I particularly like it because it’s super focused. If something is in my inbox I need to act on it. And I have only two options available: reply and archive. If I need to get an old email I have a handy search bar always available at the top.

If you decide to give this setup a go let me know. Also let me know if you have ideas about how to improve it. I'm always happy to try new things.