My skepticism about email client apps is high. Promise to revolutionize the way you process email, increase your productivity, and get you to inbox zero generally elicit an eye-roll from me. But after tinkering with an app called Seed Mail (free, App Store) for a few days, I’m ready to keep this one on my iPhone for good. Seed Mail connects to multiple webmail and Exchange accounts to give you a unified view of all your messages, if that’s what you want. You can also view just one email account at a time. Even better, it includes the related calendar and contacts sections of those email services, too. In other words, you can read all your mail from any of your accounts and then switch to your Gmail calendar without ever leaving the app.
Seed Mail is speedy and comes without any gimmicks. It includes plenty of features that many people have come to rely on in the stock Mail app, while adding several that are truly useful. It’s a wonderful email client, despite a few quirks here and there, and it deserves a PCMag Editors’ Choice.
Supported email systems include IMAP, Gmail, Outlook.com (and Hotmail.com), Yahoo! Mail, AOL, and Exchange (2013, 2010, 2007, and 2003). As you connect multiple accounts, each one is color-coded in a settings pane that’s collapsible to a left side rail.
Uncomplicated choices in the interactive design keep the app useful without trying to change your life. Swipe right to left on any message, for example, and you’ll only see four or choices: star the message, add a reminder to it (a great feature), file it into a folder, or trash it. A fifth choice only appears on Gmail messages, and that’s to archive the message.
I love that you can suppress notifications from one email provider, but leave them on for another. I also love that you can optionally add a passcode to Seed Mail. I don’t love that the app adds a new default signature line for each of your emails, but I can forgive it because it’s simple enough to change.
My favorite feature is that my email system calendars are included right in the app. Half the time when I’m trying to plan my time, it’s via email, so I value the ability to flip right to my calendar without having to use the multitasking feature.
No, wait: There’s another thing I love even more: When you open an email thread, Seed Mail shows you a chat-like summary of who said what. It’s simple, but this seemingly minor design tweak turns a tiresome email thread back into a conversation between people.If you don’t have much to say in reply, you can use the “Quick reply” field to type a short message and send it along. An email client that encourages shorter messages? Be still my beating heart.
A few quirks made me raise an eyebrow at Seed Mail but not abandon it. For example, when I updated my profile picture for the app, it didn’t show up for hours, even though all the steps completed without incident. In one Gmail conversation thread, my friend’s profile picture appeared sideways, even though she’s upright in the official Gmail app. I could have sworn I once swiped left to right on a message and saw a blue checkmark appear (perhaps so I could mark the message complete?), but I was never able to replicate it. Swiping left to right only opens the collapsible left tray.
Is there a feature or two missing? Only one comes to mind. I personally need to be able to select multiple messages at once to delete them or move them to another folder, and you can’t with Seed Mail. That’s one big reason to keep the Gmail app or stock Mail app on hand.
Many email clients make lofty promises to change user behavior, and I just don’t think that’s realistic (I’m looking at you, Mailbox app). Seed Mail doesn’t shoot for the moon, but rather packages great design and a few sensible yet creative touches, into one special email client app. No need for eye-rolling. Seed Mail’s a keeper.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc