We have had some very exciting news regarding Apple products in the past few weeks, but when Mr. Vardy let me in on Sparrow coming to the iPhone, needless to say I was super excited. Sparrow for the Mac is a great alternative to the native Mail.app, so I was hoping that Sparrow for iPhone would be the same thing.

After following this Lifehack Mini Guide, you should find that Sparrow could be the new Mail app replacement for your iPhone.

First use

The Sparrow mail app is laid out a little differently than a traditional list-based app. The basic interface contains three panels that you can slide back and forth. The first panel contains all of your email accounts, as well as the button to get to settings, and a way to add new accounts. The second panel is the list of all of your “mailboxes” and label (if you are using Gmail; folders otherwise). The third panel is a drill down on the current “mailbox” or folder that you tap from the second panel. So, the way you navigate is horizontally and vertical.

Accounts Panel in Sparrow for iOS

Accounts Panel

Folders Panel in Sparrow for iPhone

Folders Panel

Messages Panel in Sparrow for iPhone

Messages Panel

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding new accounts

To add a new email account, go to the Accounts panel, click the “+” button at the bottom right and enter a name for the account (which will be the display name of the email), your email address, and password. If your email provider is supported (like Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc.) the account will add automatically. If you have your own personally hosted email, then you have to enter your server credentials in to add the email address.

Mail functions

Here is how you get your mail done with Sparrow.

Navigating your inbox

The inbox view of Sparrow is quite intuitive.

Inbox View in Sparrow for iOS

Inbox View

To check for new mail simply drag the list all the way down to enable the refresh function. This is just like in other list based iOS apps.

You can process your inbox emails one-by-one, or you can process them in bulk. To process your email individually, you can swipe the message from the inbox to the left and you will then be given a set of options to reply, star label (or put in folder), archive the message, or delete the message.

To process your email in bulk, simply tap the Edit button at the top right and you will see a new menu bar at the top. The first checkbox button allows you to mark all of your messages as read. The other three buttons, Move, Archive, and Delete, will be enabled after you mark your messages you want to process. This is a really fast way to deal with your inbox.

Single Email Processing in Sparrow for iPhone

Single Email Processing

Bulk Email Processing in Sparrow for iPhone

Bulk Email Processing

 

 

 

 

 

 

Other mailboxes (for instance you sent mail or trash) can be dealt with the same way as your inbox. You can just as easily move and process your mail in these other mailboxes.

Single email and threaded view

Sparrow has threaded email view built right in. So if you are a Gmail user you will feel right at home.

To view your email simply tap on the item in the mailbox you are currently in. If the email has multiple replies associated with it, you will be taken to the latest message and will see the number of the mail message that you are on (for instance 3 of 3). To get to another message in the thread you can pull or push the message down or up to “slide” the next message. Or, for longer threads, you can tap the message number indicator in the heading (the 3 of 3 heading) and you will be taken to a list view of each message. To get to the message just tap on it.

Threaded Messaging in Sparrow for iPhone

Threaded Messaging

All Threads View in Sparrow for iPhone

All Threads View

 

 

 

 

 

 

You can quickly process your email with the little blue arrow at the bottom right of the currently viewed email. Tapping that button will bring up buttons to create a new email, forward the current email, star the current email, archive the message, or delete the message.

The action bar at the bottom of a message in Sparrow for iPhone

The bottom message bar

You can also mark a read message as unread by tapping the the small dot in the messages subject section.

Composing messages

To compose a new message, tap the small blue button at the bottom right of any mailbox view. This will bring up the Send To screen where you can add email recipients. One of my favorite things about Sparrow right now is how you can quickly search for a contact and  choose if you want to make them a ‘To’, ‘Cc’, or ‘Bcc’ recipient in one nice little package. It’s super intuitive and the color feedback makes it very easy to use.

Compose a new message in Sparrow for iPhone

Compose a new message

Add To, Cc, and Bcc in Sparrow for iPhone

Add To, Cc, and Bcc

 

 

 

 

 

 

To compose the message, tap the Next button after you have selected your recipients. You can then type your subject and message. To make an attachment, click on the paper clip in the subject text box. You will be given two options; to take a photo or choose one from your photo library. Once you add a picture to the email, you will see that you have a nice “gallery” at the bottom of the message where you can add new photos, delete them and view them before sending.

Add a photo to your email in Sparrow for iPhone

Add a photo to your email

Add more images or delete them in Sparrow for iPhone

Add more images or delete

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you want to change the email address you are using to send the email, simply tap the top header where the “From” listing is. You will then be given a list of all of your currently added email accounts as well as any aliases you have added (more on that in a bit).

Change the 'From' account in Sparrow for iPhone

Change the 'From' account

You can also add more people and change the there message type (To, Cc, or Bcc) by tapping on the number of people that the message is being sent to in the To text box. This will take you back to the “Send to” screen where you can edit the messages recipients.

 

 

 

 

Forwarding and replying

Once you have the basics of sending email down, forwarding and replying is a snap. You can forward and reply in two different ways, one from the mailbox view, and one from the message view.

From the mailbox view

Simply swipe the message to the right and choose the reply button (furthest to the left) to reply to the message. You will then be taken to the compose message screen where you can do all the things like changing the sent from email, adding recipients, adding attachments, etc.

Options for a single email in Sparrow for iPhone

Options for a single email

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the message view

Tap the Reply button at the top right of the screen to reply to the currently selected email. You can then treat it like any other composed message.

Settings

To get to Sparrow’s settings, go to the account view panel (the panel all the way to the left) and click on the settings gear in the bottom left of the screen. From the setting screen you can adjust single email accounts as well as behaviors for all accounts

Accounts

Account settings in Sparrow for iPhone

Account Settings

Under the accounts heading you can choose an account change the accounts avatar, add a custom account signature, add aliases (that is, other email addresses that this account can put in the ‘From’ field when sending an email), turn sounds on or off, and the ability to refresh your account’s contacts and labels.

The default account option under the Accounts header on the Settings screen can be used to choose a default From account.

Appearance

Pretty general settings here. You can choose how many messages to recent messages to show (from 25 to 1000), how many lines are shown in the preview, and toggles to show your avatars in your accounts screen and the ability to use Priority Inbox (if you are using Gmail).

Advanced

Here there are toggles for turning on reply to all as default, an option for when you label something (or put it in a folder) it will archive it too, and a reversed thread order for your messages (ie. newer emails will be number 1 of 3 rather than 3 of 3).

The last choice is a Panel Button option which allows you to change the behavior of the panel button in your mailbox list panel. By default, the button on the top right of the message list panel will take you back to the mailbox and label list panel, and the button at the top right of the mailbox and label list panel will take you to the account panel. By choosing Go to Accounts in the Panel Button option, the top, right button in the message list panel will take you all the way to the accounts panel.

Social Networks

As of now, you can sign-in with your Facebook account to grab avatars for all of your contacts.

Other stuff

To get back to your inbox quickly from another folder or mailbox view, simply tap the header of the list. For instance, if you are in a folder called “Receipts”, just tap the header of the list and you will quickly move to your inbox. Once there, you can tap the header to get to your unread and starred items.

Quickly change list views in Sparrow for iPhone

Quickly change list views

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Panel Button option, you probably want to choose the “Go to Accounts” option as this gives you the most flexibility. Instead of having to swipe all the way to accounts, you can simply tap the button. Then you have the option to swipe to your Mailbox panel. It’s much more versatile.

Right now there are no push notifications. Some people will find that to be a nuisance, or even possibly a deal breaker, but really it’s kind of nice to not be annoyed by endless message ‘dings’ and ‘boops’. Also, there is no way to turn off the unread count in Sparrow’s badge. Seems like a misstep.

Another potential setback is that because of iOS restrictions, Sparrow can’t be made the “default” mail app. That means, whenever you tap on an email address from, say, Safari or any other app, Mail.app will open instead. This means, that you need to have the same email accounts set up natively on your iPhone as you do in Sparrow, that is if you want to use all of these accounts to send from.

Sparrow for iPhone is a very well thought out and useful application, and for most people can totally replace the native Mail app on their iPhone. Hopefully this mini guide will help you get you started with using Sparrow for iPhone.

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