Monday, September 24, 2018

RECOMMENDED - Google Inbox Replacement - light a Spark right away!

With the announcement that Google would be shuttering Inbox, there's been a lot of articles about what to use as its replacement. I've pretty much been living in web mail for the past few years - but on my iPhone and iPad, it's been a bit of a toss-up. Mail on my MacBook Pro hasn't worked properly for months now (and solutions never worked properly) so I figured I would use this as an opportunity to find a better solution overall.

Spark is an email client for iPhone, iPad and Mac OS from Readdle. I started with it on my iPhone, evaluating a few other alternatives but what sealed the deal for me was its clients for the Mac and iPad.

Spark has a "Smart Inbox" which combines multiple accounts into a single inbox, making it easier to stay on top of all your mail. Since the feature was offered, I've been using Gmail with its support for multiple email addresses but some mail clients don't support it easily. Spark handled it without a problem.



Mails can be pinned as well as snoozed ( a feature I used often in Inbox) and all of your existing Gmail filters (rules) are still left intact. It felt like an awesome mail client but then I discovered its other great features.

When sending an email, there's an option to remind you if you need to follow up on it later. There's also an option to "Send Later" which is great for scheduled emails.

An email can be "exported" to other services including Reminders and Trello. When a message is exported to Trello, it can be added to any of your boards.



I don't use many of the services listed but with support for Evernote and OneNote, Spark should cover many favourites. I hope they add Pocket soon.

Emails can also be generated as a PDF and stored to popular cloud services including Dropbox and Apple Files. Files from these services can also be attached easily.

One of the features I've enjoyed recently in email clients are automatic replies. Spark's Smart Replies let you add your own and easily insert them when needed as well as Signatures.

When moving to a new client, it's often frustrating to learn new keyboard shortcuts. Spark has that covered with separate keyboard maps depending on which Account you are using. From the list, an Active set can be chosen. While I don't use gmail's keyboard shortcuts, it's certainly popular for some and it's nice that you won't lose them.

So it's a mail client...and it's free. Great deal but where Spark adds surprising functionality is with its Teams functionality. Team functionality does require a subscription but makes collaboration part of your email experience. Shared draft emails is such a cool feature, especially when responding to proposals or important marketing messages.

I get frustrated when I receive an email from a company where the actual response is in an attachment, obviously crafted by a team of people. I don't care who wrote it - just put it in the email. With Spark Teams, there's really no excuse for it.

Emails can also be linked to in external documents. Click the link and Spark opens the email directly. This works across devices as well.

Speaking of devices, I've never been a big fan of Apple's Mail support on the Apple Watch. Spark's implementation is super clean, showing counts of types of emails at a glance.

While Teams is a subscription based tool, it does require that everyone buy into Spark as a solution. This can be tricky, unless you can enforce it top-down.  ReAddle offers a number of other products, that individuals may find useful as well - a PDF editor, improved calendar and Scanner.

So with any company offering a free product, my concern immediately jumps to how they make money. Why is that important? Google offers free email - imagine what would happen if they decided to shutter Gmail. That could never happen, right? Well, they just shuttered Inbox. In fact, Google could be cited for the number of its own products or concepts that it has shut down over the years.

ReAddle doesn't have a great record either but rather than hide it, they advertise it. It's an interesting approach but it also shows that they do recognize what has gone well and what hasn't. The fact that they've been around since the iPhone launch in 2007 DOES say a lot about the company.

If you are looking for a replacement for Inbox or even just looking for a better email client, take a look at Spark - I think you'll love it. If you do use it, what features do you like?