Apple Mail Plugins and Tools

After some fiddling with Entourage, I switched to Apple’s Mail.app when Panther came out. Since then, I started to love the app more and more, despite the fact that there are some features that are at least a little bit ugly.

One of the reasons why I like Mail.app is, that there are many tools and plugins available that greatly enhance the Mail.app experience1.

[Robin Benson][] keeps a nice list of plugins and tools. As of today, the list counts 27 of them. Of these, I currently use 8:

[SpamSieve][]#

This essential application from developer Michael Tsai is indispensable. Without it, I would delve a sea of useless mail for gems. Since its version 2.1.2, it integrates as a Mail.app plugin that is less error-prone and also faster when matching new mail against the spam database.

[GPGMail][]#

Call me a security freak, but since I use mail applications, I was always keen on having an application with a PGP bridge. It started in my PC days with [PMMail/2][] for OS/2 and later, [PMMail2000][]2 for Windows.

I have no problem so far with S/MIME and currently consider it being the more user-friendly approach to e-mail encryption but I still want to have a PGP fallback somewhere.

That’s where [GPGMail][] fits in nicely: It actually wraps the handling of PGP encrypted mail in a transparent way from within Mail.app and completely relies on the freely available [GnuPG][] implementation. That should make the friends of conspiracy theories feel cozy and warm, while the more big-fat-business oriented people still might rely on the plugin from [PGP][] themselves.

GPGMail definitely is a must for anyone dealing w/ PGP from time to time.

[Mail.appetizer][]#

[Mail.appetizer][] is that kind of plugin that sits there and provides some useful service, without making too much noise. You would think you could live without but then, you make the remarkable discovery that it aint so.

This plugin will display a notification – a Bezel – when new mail is delivered. You can choose which mailboxes to observe and you can equally define the size and opacity of the bezel.

The advantage of this solution over all the other notification applications that put their icon into the menu bar: It remains completely hidden unless something remarkable happens.

Sweet. The only app I know of that might supersede Mail.appetizer is [Growl][]. But not today.

[MailEnhancer][]#

Something that bothered me from the beginning was, that Mail.app was not intelligent enough: For example, imagine you have multiple mail accounts lying around. It would be great if the signature that corresponds to the account was automatically chosen and changed whenever you selected a different account in the new message window.

Well, [MailEnhancer][] deals with that and always selects the right signature for you. It doesn’t do this stupidly, though: It really replaces the old signature with the new one (Unlike some other brethren in the dark and dangerous world of PC software … ).

There’s some more stuff (4 settings all in all) that I don’t use. The signature switching alone is worth using that plugin!

[MailPriority][]#

Sometimes, you want to give your mail some distinction. For example, some priority. [MailPriority][] does exactly that and two things more, three in total, though:

  • Lets you select a new messages priority * Colors incoming messages by priority * Allows you to request a receipt

The latter one isn’t useful when mailing with geeks but most useful in a corporate environment: The mighty [Outbreak][] will honor these by default. This comes in very handy when you want to have some track on e-mail. You’ll never follow-up on a mail too early … :)

[Mail Pictures][]#

This one is more for the playful out there. You can select a picture of your own, located somewhere one the net and the plugin will add a X-Image-Url header to every outgoing mail and make Mail.app not only display the pictures of people in your Address Book or people with a .Mac address but honours X-Image-Url headers alike.

If you know lots of people and they use it intensely, this might become something beyond some geek stuff. Especially if you’re as visual as I am.

[TypeAheadFind][]#

This is my latest addition to Mail.app but I think it might become a great tool as well. [TypeAheadFind][] will do a instant search in the currently selected folder in Mail.app: As soon as you start typing, it will select the first matching message.## [http.mail][]

I didn’t try this one but I think it might eventually be useful to some people. I am an advocate of the No-Web-UI paradigm when it comes to mail. While I understand the benefit of a central storage like hotmail, I’m just too reluctant to use these kind of “web applications” extensively.

Just give it a try. Maybe you like it :)


This was my list of indispensable and most useful plugins for Mail.app. If anyone ever programs one that will change Mail.app’s behaviour of adding attachments inline (Beurk), I will be grateful forever.


Luckily, Cocoa makes it so easy to add extensions to an application.

It contained integrated PGP support from a very early stage on, was standards compliant in sending Mails and was in every respect a well-done, easy to use mail client with some powerful hidden options. Too sad it’s gone.[Robin Benson]: http://www.tikouka.net/mailapp/ [SpamSieve]: http://www.c-command.com/spamsieve/ [GPGMail]: http://www.sente.ch/software/GPGMail/English.lproj/GPGMail.html [PGP]: http://www.pgp.com/products/personal/index.html[GnuPG]: http://www.gnupg.org/ [PMMail/2]: http://www.pmmail2000.com/ [PMMail2000]: http://www.pmmail2000.com/ [Mail.appetizer]: http://www.bronsonbeta.com/#MailAppetizer [MailEnhancer]: http://home.insightbb.com/~n9yty1/MailEnhancer/ [MailPriority]: http://home.tiscalinet.ch/david.frank/mailpriority/index.html [Mail Pictures]: http://www.nikwest.de/Software/ [TypeAheadFind]: http://homepage.mac.com/kenferry/software.html#TypeAheadFind [http.mail]: http://sourceforge.net/projects/httpmail-plugin[Growl]: http://growl.info[Outbreak]: http://daringfireball.net/2003/08/good_times.html


  1. I love plugins. For me, it’s the perfect way to enhance an application. AppleScripts are fine, but I want the additional functionality right under my fingertips, integrated in the application’s UI, and not buried deep down in some script menu. ↩︎

  2. I still consider PMMail2000 being one of the most feature-complete mail clients in many ways, despite the fact that development seems to have stalled for a while now. ↩︎

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