Review: Kiwi – Gmail, Unleashed From the Browser

Rating: 4.5/5

Posted in Apps, Mac, Reviews on 23/06/2015 by Ian Fuchs

5s

Gmail.  Probably the most widely used free email service available. I use it, everyone here at MacTrast uses it, and you probably use it (or know someone who does). With the extreme popularity of Gmail, it’s no surprise that there are almost as many iOS email apps supporting the service as there are photo apps in the App Store.

But what about on the Mac?  A search of the App Store yields only a handful of apps – most of which are pretty worthless (take my word for it). This leaves most users sticking with the stock Mail.app on the Mac, or using Gmail in their browser. Neither of these are the perfect solution, but a new app, launched today, is looking to create a native desktop experience out of the web-based email service.

Kiwi for Gmail: Overview

Kiwi ($9.99 in the Mac App Store), originally on Kickstarter as Gmail for Mac, is a Mac application that offers the ease of use of the Gmail desktop web interface, as well as Gmail’s customizations, features, and settings, but in a native Mac application. This means you get the same Gmail you’ve used in Safari or Chrome, but with the added beauty of desktop notifications, easy account switching, gestures, and more.

Kiwi for Gmail Inbox View

Getting started with Kiwi is super simple. Just sign in with your existing Gmail account(s), and you’re up and running. There’s no learning curve with Kiwi because it’s Gmail for the web, unleashed from the browser. This means you get all of Gmail’s (and Google’s) best features, instead of just a stripped down inbox. With Kiwi, you can use Google chat (Hangouts), access your Google Calendar, and even quickly access your Google Drive account.



After using Kiwi for the last few weeks, I’ve been very happy with the experience. Having been an avid email user on my iPhone and iPad, and avoiding email on my Mac, Kiwi has brought me back to using email on my most productive device. The quick access to all of my accounts, familiar interface, and desktop notifications all lead to a more productive email experience. Zive, the folks behind Kiwi, have also implemented a beautiful feature into Kiwi’s menu bar icon, allowing you to put email away when you really need to focus, without losing quick access to email when you need it.

Kiwi For Gmail Menubar

Coined the Zen switch, Kiwi features an built-in “Do Not Disturb” mode, which allows you to silence all notifications from the app when you need to get things down, without silencing your entire Mac’s notification system. This switch then allows you to get to work, without the annoyance of email that can dramatically distract you from getting real work done.

Kiwi is currently offered in 2 verisons, Kiwi for Gmail Lite and Kiwi for Gmail.  The lite version allows you to use the app with one (1) gmail account, and removes the Zen switch, and some notification controls. The full version of Kiwi allows up to six (6) separate Gmail accounts to be used, and supports all keyboard shortcuts, custom account colors, notification settings, and will soon support various Gmail plugins, as well.

Kiwi for Gmail Settings

Verdict: [rating: 4.5]

Kiwi is a fantastic desktop experience for Gmail, and offers the most True-to-Google experience available on the Mac. Their multiple account support, notifications, and Zen switch adds a layer to Gmail that isn’t easily achieved in the browser, without sacrificing all the Gmail features many of us have grown to love.

Pros:

  • Zero learning curve (because you’re interacting with the Gmail you’re used to)
  • Multiple account support
  • Desktop notifications (all or important only)
  • Zen switch

Cons:

  • Some features load in a browser window, instead of within the app
  • No way to view messages/inbox offline

If you’re a Gmail user, and especially if you use multiple Gmail/Google accounts, Kiwi is by far the best Mac app available for the most native Gmail experience, unpaired from the browser. Check it out in the Mac App Store today!



  • Electrodaddy

    What about Mailplane? This is a complete rip off with less features. Mailplane already supports plugins and all features load in the app. It also supports Evernote and Omnifocus. It’s also a lot less buggy. It’s not available in the App Store but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

  • Hi Electrodaddy – just responding as one of the creators of Kiwi for Gmail. We think Mailplane’s done a great job with their app, but we wanted something more. Their approach, like Fluid, Go, and others, is to essentially take a single-site-browser as far as it can go. In that approach, there’s no true, fundamental separation from the actual web browser, and a lot of details of the Gmail experience wind up broken or with issues as a result. Multiple accounts are also implemented there with Gmail’s own browser-based approach, which doesn’t work that well even in Chrome.

    We wanted to do something that used Gmail’s own approach on iOS and Android in its apps instead. There’s no way to get the full power of Gmail through IMAP, POP, or even Gmail’s own APIs, so you have to create a hybrid of a full email client and a web interface to do that. It’s very challenging but is the exact approach Gmail uses itself on iOS and Android to give you more Gmail features than you can find in Mail or Outlook. That’s what we did here, and we can say with confidence that we’re the only ones in the world who’ve succeeded in doing that in as polished a way as we have with Kiwi for Gmail.

    Beyond that, while it’s a matter of personal style, we spent years designing award-winning products for Apple as well as getting deeply acquainted with with Bose and iRobot and their product design processes. We wanted a design that was seamless and friendly, and that was truly integrated into the desktop environment of OS X.

    We created our app to put user experience and beautiful, dependable design beyond any other considerations, and both technically and artistically, it’s what we’ve tried our best to do. We wish the folks at Fluid, Mailplane, Mailtab, or others well, we really do. But we were determined to do this our own way.

    • Thanks for the follow-up/clarification, Eric! Having used Mailplane in the past, and ditching it because I ran into several issues along the way, I can’t agree more.

      cc/ @stevekitch:disqus

  • JohnJohnJ

    I tried Kiwi for Gmail but had to abandon it. On my 27″ iMac the system font size is sooo tiny. And it can’t be changed.

  • Kristen

    Is there a viewing pane in kiwi for gmail, so i can click on the email and see the content, much like outlook uses, and mail uses on a mac? Also, if I go to my gmail calendar, will it be online, or through this app?

Author

Ian Fuchs

Ian, Senior Review Editor at MacTrast, has been an Apple enthusiast for years, starting in 2000 with an iMac and iMovie. In college, Ian developed skills and further interest in all things Apple. Ian's expanding skill set increased his love for Apple's products. Now the owner of an iPad Air 2, iPad mini, iPhone 6S Plus, Apple TV, MacBook, MacBook Pro, numerous iPods, and a classic G5 Mac Pro, he is "pretty familiar" with Apple's products. Ian resides in Chicago, works as a Programmer & Systems Analyst at a college, loves his dog more than probably normal, spends most of his free time with his wife and plays various instruments (drums, guitar, piano, trumpet).