Not sure when or why, but somewhere in the last 2 years I became a smalltime fan of technological minimalism. Yeah, I know the whole bit is sort of a oxymoron – gigantic computers with amazing monitors plugged in to a network of any and all information all the time – but hey, lets run with it for a sec. The essential idea of slowing things down, decluttering your life, and concentrating can be kind of empowering. Utilizing cool, well-designed technology to aid the process is just plain fun.
Acting as a research intern for ReadWriteWeb these past few week, I’ve been plugged in to a lot of new, hot off the press web apps, one of which is Gmail’s new Sparrow mail client. I downloaded it quickly, and had it installed in no time. I swore to use it solely for one week, which didn’t work out, but my initial reactions are below.
I like the look and feel of Sparrow. You can tell it was designed to act smoothly and things shift and slide around in interesting ways. It did not take long to figure out where all the buttons are to make it work. Generally, pretty pleased on first impressions.
After using the client for a while though some little things here and there started to annoy me. First, having the ability to slide in/out the message window is really cool, BUT I can’t choose which side of the window it slides out of. So I always have to have Sparrow pushed to the left side of my screen with enough room to slide out if I want to see a message. Not very conducive to someone like me who moves windows around a lot so I can monitor different things while working on others.
Also, hitting the Delete key on the keyboard doesn’t delete the highlighted message. What? Every mail client integrates the keyboard to allow shortcuts like that! So, every time I want to delete a message I have to mouse over to the delete button and click. No big deal really, but for one could sacrifice a few good seconds of productivity having to do all that when one keystroke should take care of it.
Last gripe, when replying to a message the conversation in the main window constantly reloads to reflect what you are typing. It is pretty distracting to see the screen in the background flashing with every word and backspace that you do in the reply window. I appreciate the knowledge that the message is being saved as I work, but there has to be a better way to visualize that, or leave it alone until I’m done typing at least.
The good news, Sparrow has a lot of room to grow. It is functional, simple and clean, all tenants that appeal to me and with some ability to customize how it works it could become my primary mail client. Right now, I am still using a hybrid of Sparrow, Mail and Gmail in the browser. That’s my two-cents.