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 yearslong beta, is that it finally made me stop going to Gmail.com. 

I’ve tried a lot of 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 through messages as fast or as well as Gmail, which is why I’ve dumped 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 stuff with inbox organization, and don’t even get me started on the ones that seem somehow unable to stay online and actually deliver all my messages. For years, I’ve downloaded apps hoping for better, more native email tools than Gmail’s cluttered mess of an interface, and for years, I’ve ended up begrudgingly returning to the cluttered mess. 

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

In a way, Mimestream isn’t really an email app because it doesn’t do IMAP and POP3 and all the standard email app stuff. It’s a Gmail app. It doesn’t even support Outlook or other email providers yet because Jhaveri and his team have been so focused on building a better way to do 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 looks more like Apple Mail than Gmail. It’s fast, it’s clean, it’s not terribly visually exciting — but that’s probably for the best when it comes to email.

I’ve been testing the app for more than a year, and there’s nothing about Gmail I miss. Mimestream carries over the same keyboard shortcuts, the same labels and filters, the same everything. Its search is fast and excellent — because it’s just Gmail’s own search 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 just about every way, it does Gmail 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 then just opens Gmail when it actually ought to open Mimestream. It ought to support Outlook and other providers, too, especially if it wants to be people’s main email client. And Mimestream will eventually need a way to replicate Gmail’s plug-in structure because there are a lot of power users who won’t want to ditch Boomerang or Mailtrack.

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

In the meantime, Jhaveri figures the first best use case for Mimestream is people who have multiple Gmail accounts. You can add all your accounts to Mimestream and either flip through your individual inboxes or see them all in a unified list. Mimestream also supports Gmail’s inbox categories, so you can see your Promotions and Updates separately if you prefer. 

Mimestream brings in most Gmail features, like 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 you use for personal stuff, you can group those under what Mimestream calls “Profiles” and see all your related messages together.

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

Mimestream has some definite regular person appeal, but it’s priced very much like a tool for businesses and power users. It’s a subscription app and will cost $50 a year or $5 a month, though you can get your first year for $30 during the launch. That’s a lot to pay for a better-looking Gmail! It’s nowhere near the $30 a month cost for a service like Superhuman, though, and it’s in line with other productivity apps like Fantastical or Todoist. Other email apps, such as Spark Premium, are about the same price, too. A few bucks a month, Jhaveri reckons, is a fair price for a better email life. But ultimately, for many users, Mimestream is competing with free. And free is hard to beat.

Personally, I’ll be paying for the annual subscription without much second thought. I spend hours a day in my email, and it’s the source of so much of the information I need minute to minute and day to day. As Gmail continues to be overrun by ads, Meet icons, and feature creep, I’m happy paying 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’ve been looking for.