First thoughts on Nylas N1, the extensible, open source mail client

While Gmail,, Office 365, iCloud, and other web-based email applications have become ridiculously popular, many (I’m one of ’em) choose to continue to access email through traditional desktop apps like Microsoft Outlook, Mac Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird, and other less-used open source variants. The truth is, Microsoft Outlook and Mac Mail are still the goto mail applications on our desktops.

Enter Nylas

Nylas is a startup doing potentially disruptive work in the email space. Specifically, the service wraps an API around common mail, calendar, and contact operations and creates a common framework for talking to not-so-common mail systems. Whether it’s iCloud, AOL, or Foxmail, the API allows you to start developing your next mail, calendar, or contact enabled app easily. Afterall, if you’ve ever attempted to interact with a mail system (and multiple protocols or standards) while creating a web app, you know how painstaking and hacked-together it can be (yes I’ve done it, and yes it sucks).

Why I was excited to hear about Nylas N1

I love coding shortcuts. I love code re-use. I love open source extensible platforms. It’s for those reasons that I was excited to hear about Nylas N1, a possible disrupter in the mail app space. The entire N1 app is available on Github, and plugins can be created and submitted to the project (open source mail clients are not new, but this one is particularly interesting).

Here’s what intrigues me about N1

  • Many mail and calendar clients are known for being picky about different standards (CalDav anyone?). Because N1 consumes the Nylas API, there’s no need for any other standard (everything just works together).
  • When Nylas adds support for a new mail system, that system, protocol, or standard is automatically and immediately available to the desktop client.
  • Developers that love to geek out on new mail clients will certainly also visit to understand the API behind the app. Nylas is engineering more visibility for the API.
  • The app is open source and available on Github and it’s frictionless to try it out. In-fact, you don’t need to be a developer to try it.

I tried N1, and here’s what I thought

  • Syncing is slow. I put Microsoft Outlook, my iPhone, and Nylas side-by-side. The sync back to Exchange is definitely faster with Outlook and iPhone.
  • The interface is slick.
  • A combined inbox doesn’t seem to exist. It’s a feature I love.
  • No mobile app.
  • Plugins are easy for a developer to install, but might be somewhat difficult for someone non-technical.
  • I’m often quick when replying to emails. When replying and deleting a message, the message doesn’t send (presumably because changes need to sync to the drafts folder before the message disappears to the trash).

Those are all my observations for now. Check out Nylas N1 for yourself, and let me know what you think!

8 thoughts on “First thoughts on Nylas N1, the extensible, open source mail client”

  1. Tried N1 recently on my iMac 10.11.2. No troubles syncing with my Gmail account. That’s when things started to come apart. The app crashed several times. It failed to update from Gmail. I found no way to force the app to get mail (that might be on me). Eventually it just stopped responding and I had to force quit. When it worked it was worth exploring more, but…

  2. While Apple Mail may be used by the majority of Mac users, it’s not because it’s the best. Apple Mail does not play well with Gmail…thousands of threads about this all over the internet, and many (still) unsolved problems with Apple Mail they’ll likely never fix. The one that keeps me from using it full time is each time I open a window to compose a new email it’s in a different spot on my large desktop (unless I’m using my MacBook and have Apple Mail in the full screen mode. This drives me, and millions of other users, insane.

    N1 may not be the answer (yet) but like many others I’ve been looking for the “perfect” email app forever…it doesn’t exist. The very latest version of N1 has a lot of fixes, especially for slow synching. An initial sync after install still takes a long time, but now N1 keeps a separate connection open for your inbox sync and I’ve found it equally as fast as any email client I’ve used.

    1. I’m popping it open for another look. Totally agree no email client is perfect. 🙂 The major hurdle for me is sync time and calendar reliability (not related to Nylas, more related to other email clients). Here’s to hoping.

  3. I’ve installed the Windows version of N1
    It doesn’t seem to give me the option of NOT having a combined inbox.

  4. Having checked out ALL Mail programs over the past few years, I still consider WINDOWS LIVE MAIL 2012 my best option. It allows an unlimited number of accounts, I can “schlepp” mails from one account to a Folder in another account.
    And it works smooth with even Gmail.
    I realize that WINDOWS LIVE is a discontinued Brand name, and that this could be the reason that 2012 was, apparently, the last version.
    I would to see if it discontinued altogether. Why not just re-brand it?
    Windows Essentials … ???

    1. In my experience, sometimes old mail tech from Microsoft is re-named and the tech is added to new mail programs. I wonder if the new Windows Mail for Windows 8+ has some of the Live stuff built in.

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