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Mailplane Stops Selling Licenses

Mailplane About box

For many years, my preferred way of reading email was through the Gmail-specific client Mailplane. It wraps Gmail’s Web interface in a native Mac app that provides additional features and Mac-native niceties. Although I’ve been using betas of Mimestream recently, whenever I need to do something that Mimestream can’t yet accomplish, I drop back to Mailplane.

Unfortunately, Google has started blocking embedded browsers from its login page in an effort to protect users against man-in-the-middle attacks. For the last 6 months, Mailplane developers Lars Steiger and Ruben Bakker have tried to find an official solution with Google, but without success. Although they have a workaround in place and plan to keep Mailplane running for existing customers as long as possible, there’s no telling how long that will be.

As such, they’ve now announced that they are no longer selling licenses to Mailplane, and anyone who has purchased Mailplane in the last 60 days can contact them for a refund. That must have been a tremendously hard decision to make, and kudos to them for doing the decent thing. I’ve enjoyed corresponding with Lars and Ruben over the years, and they’ve always been highly responsive, aided in part by their customer service system Replies.

Although Mailplane users can keep running the app as long as it continues to work and can always fall back on using Gmail in a Web browser, there may be other options. I have no experience with them, but several other Gmail-specific mail clients work like Mailplane, notably Boxysuite and Kiwi for Gmail. Their developers haven’t commented on the Google authentication problem, so perhaps the apps are architected in such a way as to enable an official solution. Or they’re just not as concerned about unofficial workarounds breaking. Personally, I’ll stick with Mimestream for now. Julio Ojeda-Zapata reviewed it last year in “Mimestream Brings Gmail Features to a Mac Email App” (25 September 2020), but note that it has improved significantly in the intervening months. I can see why—Mimestream’s developer, Neil Jhaveri, has been highly responsive to even my suggestions about subtle user experience changes.

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Comments About Mailplane Stops Selling Licenses

Notable Replies

  1. What do you use now? I still use Mailplane, and guess I need to start deciding what to do when it disappears.

  2. I just use the Mail app, and will use Safari when I need or want to use the web interface.

  3. I assume Kiwi for Gmail might also be killed by this new Google policy.

    I’m trying Mimestream, which looks nice, but nothing seems to have the feature I most used in Mailplane - being able to log in to multiple Gmail accounts separately and use the web interface.

  4. I hope Mailplane survives long enough for me to learn all the ins and outs of Mailmate. It looks like a good choice for multiple Gmail accounts. At least I hope proves to be.

  5. I don’t understand. The Gmail API opens a special url in the browser and then the app gets a response.

  6. As I understand it, Mailplane doesn’t use the Gmail API—it’s just pretending to be a normal Web browser.

  7. Exactly. Mailplane doesn’t use the API. It’s essentially a browser in an app-wrapper, which is what Google does not like, and apparently they were unable to find a way to make it work.

    The way I read the announcement, it doesn’t sound like they got a lot of help from Google which should surprise literally no one, but I can’t say that for sure.

  8. Now I understand.

  9. There seem to be quite a few ways to wrap websites as Mac apps. e.g. Fluid, Unite, Flotato, Wavebox. Maybe they could be alternatives. I used to use Mailplane, but not recently.

  10. There are other e-mail clients that are similar to MailPlane in that they are basically front ends for Google’s services.
    So far, none of the others are reporting any problems:

    Boxy ($29/yr)

    Kiwi for Gmail (free/$30)
    http://www.KiwiforGmail.com

    Mimestream (free while in beta)

    However, if all of those are discontinued, and for some reason you don’t care for Apple’s Mail, there are a large number of third party e-mail clients for the Macintosh. Here’s a list:

    Macintosh Email Software
    http://www.macattorney.com/mail.html

  11. Mimestream is completely different. It uses the API, not a web browser.

    Kiwi seems like it is the same idea as Mailplane, so not sure why Mailplane would be doomed and Kiwi would be fine.

    Never used Boxy, so I can’t speak to that.

  12. I’ve been a user of Mailplane since it was first released. But for some reason, a couple of months ago, I decided to give Mimestream a try. It is fantastic. So while I am sad about Mailplane going away, I’m happy to have a great option.

  13. With Mailplane being sunset, I’ve switched to having my Gmail go to Apple’s Mail app on the Mac. On iOS, I use the official Gmail app.

    Email is a necessary evil, but I refuse to pay for an email app for the sole purpose of keeping my gmail accounts separate from my regular domain email addys.

    I like the look of Spark, but I’m left feeling like it’s the only option for me. Airmail looked promising a few years ago, but it’s a hot mess now and I won’t go near it.

    It would be nice if something came along that was simple, and didn’t try to reinvent email.

  14. Mimestream ticks all the features I DON’T want, unfortunately.

    • It’s (going to be) a paid app – I don’t mind paying for apps, but for my use case, it just isn’t warranted when there are free options (Apple’s Mail, and the web browser)

    • It uses Google’s APIs instead of standard IMAP – which means the app can just stop working any time Google decides to mess with the API (which is what killed Mailplane)

    • It has way too many features that don’t work – according to the developer’s site, there’s nothing he can do about it, again because Google doesn’t allow it in their API.

    It’s too bad, because it looks really nice on the surface.

    If Google would just use IMAP standards, the email app market would be flush with great choices. Instead, devs are forced to code around it which is expensive for them and makes for too many compromises, in my opinion.

    Ultimately, the best option is probably to stop using Gmail completely and only use my own domain email. Unfortunately, much like web browsers, the world has settled on one or two (Edge and Chrome) and devs put little effort into supporting anything else.

  15. I am also a huge Mailplane fan. I understand that it has “sunset” due to the Google API but it seems to still work fine for me. Rueben and Lars have been really great over the years in supporting the product; has anyone encountered any recent issues with Mailplane?

  16. Best answer. I have my own domain which forwards to a commercial email account we’ve had for 30something years…maybe 40. iCloud, fastmail, and my several gmail accounts for various things all redirect to my domain account and that’s the only one I ever look at.

  17. That makes sense, I’m just curious which entity hosts your domain account.

  18. There’s a local place up in the DC area called Heller Information Services. Paul used to run a dial up board back in the day named The Twilight Clone…then when email started to be a thing he added email. Wife and got email accounts with him…our first…and it’s the most widely distributed. Bought my own Laubenthal.net domain later and had them host the MX record and it is setup so I can connect to either the his.com or laubenthal.net address…would have considered fastmail.com but it was either non existent or still a startup at the time. Added the fastmail accounts later as a just in case option as well as iClouds and a couple of gmail addresses for special purposes later on but set everything to redirect to my domain.

    Today there are lots of great email options…but back then good ones were few and far between…and we won’t ever give up the his.com accounts even if we moved the MX hosting elsewhere for long lost friends who have the Christmas letter from 30 years ago purposes. The account at his is about $100 a year but since it is mine I host addresses for son and DIL for free and can create aliases for various purposes.

  19. I’ve been using Mimestream heavily for quite some time now, and I like it more than Gmail’s Web interface (which was what Mailplane provided) and vastly more than Apple’s Mail. Obviously, you do have to be willing to pay for an app eventually, but I’m not particularly worried about either of your other concerns:

    • API vs. IMAP: Sure, Google could change the API to kill Mimestream and lots of other tools that rely on the API. It’s not some hacky thing—it’s a fully published API. Google could also decide to drop IMAP. Neither is particularly likely. The utility of the API over IMAP is that Mimestream is far faster and tighter than IMAP clients that have to check for mail repeatedly. With Mimestream (and Gmail on the Web) mail is either present or it’s not, there’s no checking involved.

    • Features that don’t work: I’m sure there are some, but as someone who lives and dies by email, I haven’t run into anything that’s problematic. Every now and then something (like the Report Phishing command) requires opening a message in Gmail itself or using the Gmail interface (like messing with filters, which I seldom have to do). What impossible features are deal-breakers for you?

    I’ve really enjoyed working with Mimestream’s developer, Neil Jhaveri too. He has fixed a number of bugs and tweaked Mimestream in response to my comments—I haven’t had this much fun since the days of talking with Steve Dorner about Eudora.

  20. Seconded on Neil’s awesomeness. He’s great.

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