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

While Gmail, Outlook.com, 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 Nylas.com 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!

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