OS X Apps: Is the Inky E-mail Client the Answer for a Unified Inbox?

inky

BACKGROUND:

Inky, by Arcode Corp. of Bethesda, Md – a desktop E-mail client alternative to Apple’s Mail.app - has been available now for early adopters for over a year.   Inky comes in both Mac and Windows incarnations, and Arcode says they are committed to developing and releasing mobile versions for iOS and Android.   But, we’re partial to our Macs here at this section of MacDaily.co and, so, this review focuses solely on the currently available Mac OS X version of Inky as of August 1, 2013.

The astute reader might ask: “What’s wrong with the Apple Mail client?”.  Actually, we’ve  used it pretty heavily at our house over the years and have few complaints.  But, judging by posts to online forums, some folks seem to have run into lots of difficulties under OS X with trying to sync Mail together with inboxes for other E-mail accounts such as AT&T and Yahoo.  I first ran into this kind of issue when I wanted to sync my Outlook.com inbox along with Mail.  See my earlier blog post here for more background on the Outlook.com problem and a workaround.

Since then, I’ve come across Arcode Corp. with Inky, an OS X desktop client which they say will simplify the difficulties of setting up and managing a unified inbox.  Does it live up to it’s claims and would it be a good tool for your use?  Let’s see …

What Is Inky?

Inky is a desktop client from Arcode Corp. for OS X that promises a unified inbox, facilitating the management of multiple E-mail accounts – including Cloud-based accounts – and providing something not unlike Mail’s Smart Folders.  I’ve included a screenshot of the main Inky UI at the end.

This is a desktop client that resembles and feels like the UI for a browser-based E-mail service, such as Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, or Outlook.com, with similar strengths and weaknesses as a UI.  More on this later.   Suffice it to say, it’s the kind of UI you either like or hate.

Installation & Removal

Installation is easy enough – just download InkyInstall.pkg from Arcode’s web site and launch the package.  Click through the usual EULA stuff and default locations, and you’ll wind up at the main screen (similar to screenshot below), where you are ready to configure your various E-mail accounts and preferences.

To remove Inky from your OS X system, simply find and delete:

  •  ~/Applications/Inky.app
  • ~/Library/Preferences/com.arcode.inky.plist
  • ~/Library/Caches/com.arcode.inky

And, away we go!

Configuration

Click the gear icon to select your font size and UI layout.

Click the Menu Icon (upper left) to Add E-mail Account(s) and enter your Settings preferences for each account.

Add E-Mail Account:  For each E-mail account:

  • Enter the account’s E-mail address and password.
  • Next, Inky may recognize the E-mail service and offer to set up some settings for you automatically, if you wish. (I did not find a single case needing manual set-up.)
  • Last, you can choose to add another E-mail account or Finish the install.

Configure Your Settings:  There are four groups of settings for each E-Mail account:

  • Identity:  Pick a colour for the account’s icon; enter the name, organization, photo, and signature for your E-mail.
  • Client Settings:   Checkmark to include this account in the “Unified” inbox and folders; enter the frequency to check E-mail, background message download behaviour, and various folder locations.
  • Server Settings:   Enter your user ID and password.  Select the usual incoming and outgoing server settings.  (Inky may have previously set defaults for these based on your E-mail account service.  You can simply accept.)
  • Special Folders:  Nothing to see here,  just move along.  (I kid, I kid.)

Under Settings, you’ll also find a “General Settings” tab on the left, above the accounts you just added.  Here you can set preferences for how Inky should handle certain behaviours across all E-mail accounts, such as date formats, attachments, folders, etc.

Be sure to click “Save” at the top, and that’s it!

Inky’s Strengths

There’s a lot to like about Inky, especially including:

  • Easy and straight-forward installation.
  • A truly unified Inbox, consolidating all your incoming E-mail across all accounts, and filtered as you desire by using the Inbox and Messages menus at the top.
  • Should no longer need the Rube Goldberg work-around mentioned above in order to combine messages from Outlook.com into a unified E-mail Inbox.  That is, if Inky ran in a stable fashion (see under Inky’s Weaknesses below).  Note that you could only use a Pop3 connection, not IMAP, with Outlook.com from a Mac.
  • Nicely handles Inbox management by conversations.
  • Can assign levels of importance to each E-mail sender, for later filtering.
  • Inky automatically creates and cross-populates initial Smart Folders, including: by E-mail account, Social, Deals, Subscriptions, Notes, Blocked Senders, Packages, Maps, and Contacts.  Inky will bring forward all your prior Inbox E-mail and does a pretty cool job of populating these folders.  You can add others.
  • Built-in ability to “unsubscribe” from mail servers.
  • Can set to autoload Inky at startup.
  • Can reply using the incoming E-mail account.
  • Built-in facility to send user feedback or report problems straight to developers.

Of course, Inky has all the usual functions such as:  reply, forward, attach, delete, search, move, and so on.

Inky’s Weaknesses

I used Inky for almost two weeks for all my E-mail simultaneously from six accounts spanning four E-mail service providers:  Apple Mail / iCloud, Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Outlook.com.  Here’s the difficulties I ran into:

  • Single Screen UI:  I admit it, I was frustrated by the client’s UI limitations.  I really expected to like the clean, browser-like screen design.  But, it wasn’t until I took the plunge and used Inky all the time for a couple weeks straight that it finally dawned on me why I don’t like using the various browser-based UIs served up by Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, and Outlook.com.  That is:  Inky cannot / does not allow opening additional windows outside of the Inky screen.  For example, you cannot have a window open showing your inbox contents while, at the same time, you’re composing or replying to an E-mail in another window.  Click on Reply, Forward, Attach, Move, etc. and Inky will overlay the current screen with the contents of the next one.  It’s surprising how often this limitation can complicate your work flow.  I corresponded with Inky about this, but their focus now is, understandably,  on stability issues.  It’s unclear whether multi-windowing will ever become a priority for the developers.
  •  No Offline Use:   No capability to review, compose, or reply to messages offline.  Arcode folks indicated they were aware this would be useful but, again, are focused on stability issues now.
  •  Stability Issues:   Inky would occasionally crash out under heavy use, but not unusually so given the product’s young age.  But, one two-faceted problem was especially frustrating:  Inky could not reliably sustain over time either:  (a) an active connection to Outlook.com or (b) two E-mail accounts from the same E-mail provider.  In the first case, Outlook would just drop off line and it’s icon on the left would turn yellow, meaning a connection error occurred.  This always seemed to require re-inputting the user ID and password into the sever settings for the Outlook account.  However, after some trial and error, I found that changing Inky’s default Outlook outgoing SMTP port from 587 to 465 banished the problem for the rest of my testing.  In the second case, one of the two accounts would drop off, likewise requiring re-entering the user ID and password and re-login.  Arcode explained that this was one of the important security issues they were working on.

Recommendation

When Arcode finishes addressing current stability issues, using Inky could make sense for you if you want to manage multiple E-mail accounts on your Mac with a Unified Inbox – even more so when one account is an Outlook.com – AND IF you are accustomed to the single-screen UI scenario.  It has a number of very pleasing and useful features.

If, like me, you are wedded to a multi-screen UI, then Inky may not be for you.

Here’s the screenshot: