Birdseye Makes Email on the iPad More Visual, Dynamic, and Yes, Even Fun

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The words “fun” and “email” probably don’t belong together. But of the small handful of email apps available for the iPad, Birdseye is certainly the most fun. It’s also the most dynamic, with some cool tricks that should come standard with the stock iPad Mail app.

Birdseye’s interface is so streamlined it makes the native iPad Mail app look positively cluttered; instead of a column and main window, there’s simply a stream of emails that scroll horizontally, each one fully rendered.

Click on an email and you’ll be taken to a fullscreen view, with very little to clutter focus save for a header and some buttons (trash, reply, star and archive) at the top that somewhat mimic the OS X menu bar.

The other half of what makes Birdseye so snazzy is the way you can interact with the emails; the app adds context-sensitive options to its action menu (activated through a button at the bottom of each email), generated mostly by recognizing commands within the email. For instance, open a mailing-list email and you’re given the option to unsubscribe, or visit the website; a Linkedin invitation will generate menu options that allow you to accept or ignore the invitation, or open it within the Linkedin app.

Sure, the options are available in the email body anyway — but this way you don’t have to hunt for them, and they’re much easier to act on.

However — and this is a big however — the app also has some major drawbacks that keep it from replacing the Mail app on my iPad. For one thing, right now it only works with Gmail, though the developers say they’ll soon be adding compatibility with Yahoo iCloud and Outlook accounts.

It’s also somewhat sluggish, despite a recent update that added speed upgrades. Finally, I’m not sure that heavy email activity really benefits from Birdseye’s UI — it’s just not easy enough to wade through fifty or so emails.

If your daily email load is light to moderate, you have a Gmail (and only a Gmail) account and want a fresh email experience, Birdseye is worth checking out.

About the author

Eli MilchmanWhen he was eight, Eli Milchman came home from frolicking in the Veld one day and was given an Atari 400. Since then, his fascination with technology has made him an intrepid early adopter of whatever charming new contraption crosses his path — which explains why he's Cult of Mac's test editor-at-large. He calls San Francisco home, where he works as a journalist and photographer. Eli has contributed to the pages of Wired.com and BIKE Magazine, among others. Hang with him on Twitter.

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