Don’t give up if you lament the lack of advanced functionality in the default Mail app on Mac, as there are a number of third-party plugins available which add features to Mail. One of the more comprehensive plugins is Mailbutler, a tool that lets you snooze messages, schedule messages to be sent later, attach notes to messages, set follow-up reminders on sent messages, and more.
Mailbutler works not only with the Mail app on Mac, but also with Gmail if you use Chrome as your browser. I’m using Mailbutler with the Mail app on Mac. Although the Gmail version appears to work similarly in my limited testing, this review is written from the perspective of an macOS Mail user.
If you’ve used Mailbutler in the past, you may want to try it again. I bought a lifetime license to Mailbutler in early 2017. I stopped using it after only a few weeks, though, when I ran into a bug involving empty outgoing message subjects.
With the release of Mojave in late September, I gave Mailbutler another look. At the time I was using Mail Act-On (another Mail plugin) to quickly file messages and also to send them later, but Mail Act-On wasn’t ready for Mojave. 1
Not only did I find that Mailbutler’s previous bug was fixed, but that the plugin had improved significantly since I had last used it. Shortly after that, when I started writing this review, the Mailbutler folks reached out to me about writing a review. When I told them one was already in progress, they upgraded me to the Business plan so I could evaluate those features, too. Most of those features focus on teams and sharing, which I don’t use, so this review will focus primarily on the Professional features that were already covered under my Professional license.
Although not without issues, Mailbutler offers a number of helpful features.
The Notes functionality is the feature that has been the biggest (and most pleasant) surprise for me, compared to my distant recollection of the feature when I first used it over a year ago. If my recollection is correct, the only way to do something “notesy” with Mailbutler back then was to connect Mail to a notes program such as Evernote. Doing so let you export email messages into that notes program. I didn’t use any of the supported notes programs at the time, having cancelled my Evernote subscription quite some time ago.
That feature still exists, but there’s also a new type of notes functionality now. You can now attach notes directly to email messages that only you can see – no third party app required. If you have connected Evernote, OneNote, or Toodledo Notes to Mailbutler, then your note will also be copied to that app.2
To me, this is ten times more helpful than the original functionality. For example, I had an email I couldn’t act on, because I was waiting on additional information from someone else. I could have sent the message over to my task manager, Things. Instead, I chose to add a note to the email message, reminding myself what I needed. I then deferred the message with Mailbutler (see below for an explanation of the defer/snooze feature). When the defer period expired, I had a reminder, in the form of a note right in the message, telling me why I had deferred it and what I needed.
Scheduling (Send Later)
Mailbutler’s scheduling feature was the reason I came back to Mailbutler. If you click on the scheduling button, you’re presented with a dropdown menu, from which you can choose when you want your message to be sent. If you use a supported email provider, such as Gmail, your Mac doesn’t need to be running for the message to be sent.
For unsupported servers, you can choose to use this feature in compatibility mode, which requires your Mac to be running. In testing, my Gmail account worked in regular mode, but my Office 365 account required compatibility mode.
If you sometimes want to kick the can down the road, and temporarily get a message out of your inbox, Mailbutler’s Snooze feature might interest you. Mailbutler places a snooze button in the Mail toolbar, and in the toolbar of individual messages. Clicking on that button presents you with a dropdown menu, from which you choose how long to defer a message. The snooze durations are customizable from within your Mailbutler account settings on the Mailbutler website.
Mailbutler’s Follow-Up feature will alert you if the recipient of a message doesn’t reply within a time that you set. You click on a button at the bottom of your message draft, and select when you want the follow-up to occur. Like with the Snooze feature, these times are customizable from your account settings on the website. Once you’ve set a follow-up, the message subject shows up in the Mailbutler menu bar dropdown, in the form of a task. You also receive a system notification.
This feature is helpful, but could use some work. For one, the menu bar app is a bit clunky. It displays your notes, tasks, and an activity log, and lets you recall a Mail message by clicking on a Mail icon, but it isn’t easily scannable. It would be more scannable and helpful, for example, if it showed the follow-up date in the list, without requiring you to click on each message to see the date.
Mailbutler sends you a system notification when a recipient doesn’t reply by the specified time, but that means you need to leave these notifications untouched in Notification Center until you’re ready to act on them. The only other alternative is to go through the task list in the menu bar app, and click on the calendar on each one to see the follow-up date.
Mailbutler has some other handy features. You can be notified that you may have forgotten to attach a file to a Mail message if Mailbutler detects a word, such as “attached,” in your message. You can customize the list of words that Mailbutler detects.
You can set a delay period for all messages in Mailbutler’s settings, and can recall any “sent” message before the expiration of this delay. In reality, messages are held in your Mail outbox until the delay expires.
Mailbutler offers message templates and snippets. This lets you insert pre-made (by you) blocks of text into messages. Because I’m a TextExpander user, I haven’t used this feature.
If Mailbutler detects that a Mail message is a newsletter, it inserts an “unsubscribe” button at the top of the message. Click on the button, and you’ll get a system notification that you’ve successfully unsubscribed from the newsletter. I haven’t used this enough to be able to tell if it actually works.
If you ever need to send large files by email, and don’t use Mail’s Mail Drop feature, you might be interested in Mailbutler’s integration with Dropbox, Box, OneDrive, and Google Drive. If you connect Mailbutler to one of these services, you have the option to have attachments (of a size of your choosing) go through these services, instead of being attached to your message. This feature hasn’t been without issue for me. It works fine from my iMac, but the option doesn’t appear at all on my MacBook Pro, and I don’t see a per-device setting anywhere.
I haven’t tried out the business features, such as link tracking, public notes and tasks, and shared message templates.
What I’d like to see
As noted at the outset, Mailbutler isn’t without issue. While a few of the features alone, such as Notes and Delayed Send, make it worthwhile for me, it feels like a young product with some rough edges. I’m sticking with it, and hoping to see some improvements in a few areas:
- Mailbutler’s servers are slow and at times unreliable. I’ve gotten a few “Bad Gateway” errors over the last several weeks, and the overall experience of navigating around my account settings feels slow. I know of one other lawyer in the Macs in Law Offices Google Group who has complained about minute-long delays when sending messages. I don’t know his setup, so can’t comment on this, but I can say he is extremely tech-savvy.
I’d like to see Mailbutler become more streamlined, and quicker to use. For example, I’d prefer there to be a faster way to invoke certain features, such as the dropdown menus for snoozing, following up, and scheduling messages. You can set keyboard shortcuts for one default snooze and one default follow up, but I’ve already set up a Keyboard Maestro macro so I can access the dropdowns with keyboard shortcuts. Even better would be natural language support, so I could hit a keyboard shortcut and, for example, start typing a snooze time.
The big drawback for many people is that Mailbutler is available only with Gmail and macOS Mail. It’s probably pie in the sky, but an iOS companion app would be fantastic, or at least a way to trigger follow ups via the bcc field, like Sanebox supports.
As mentioned above, I’d like to see more information in the menu bar dropdown, such as the date attached to each item without needing to click on the calendar.
Speaking of the menubar, it can be a slow process to go through multiple items, as you have to process them one by one. I’d like to see the ability to batch process items in either the menubar or the web interface, so, for example, you could delete several at once after selecting them.
I was fortunate and snagged a lifetime license to Mailbutler during a promotion over a year ago. Normally, though, Mailbutler is subscription-based, with a generous free option. With the free option, you get unlimited use of Undo Send, Cloud Upload, Attachment Reminders, Avatar Images, and Unsubscribing to newsletters. For other features, such as notes, tasks, snoozing, and scheduling, you’re limited to 30 of each action a month. For €6.50 per month (about $7.35/month at present) on an annual plan, you get unlimited use of those features and others. There’s also a Business plan with even more features. Mailbutler has a complete pricing break on their website.
Mailbutler is worth it to me. I had looked for a replacement for Mail Act-On’s Send Later feature, when Mail Act-On wasn’t ready for Mojave. I returned to Mailbutler for this, and was pleasantly surprised by some of the other robust features, such as the improved Notes functionality. I hope Mailbutler continues to improve, gets the rough edges worked out (such as its server situation), and becomes more streamlined.
Given the generous free tier, there’s not much to lose if you try out Mailbutler. You can see if the rough edges are noticeable enough to you to outweigh all you gain from Mailbutler’s features. And if you’ve tried Mailbutler previously, you may want to give it another shot, as it feels like a different tool from my first go-around with it a year ago.