February 02, 2021
I have been using Spark as my primary email client for both work and personal email for ten days. Rather than try to produce day or even semi-daily posts about Spark, I decided to write one summary post.
Spark is a well designed, well thought out application. It is opinionated but quite usable. I particularly like the “smart notifications” feature (more on that below). I also like that it has an iOS app so I can use the same client for email on my Macs and on my iPhone and iPad. I do not care for the “Spark account” that is used to synchronize settings from one device to the next — no for security or privacy reasons, although that is a question, but due to wanting a different set of accounts on my work computer than on my personal computer.
Spark has a couple of features they label as “smart”. First up is the smart inbox. When you select the smart, as opposed to classic, inbox, messages are grouped by category. Newsletters, notifications, etc. I supposed this is useful if you have a single email account that is swamped with all kinds of different emails. I have several accounts and tend to use them for different purposes. All my newsletters come to one account, online retail and memberships comes to a different account.
The smart notification feature is very nice. Smart notifications mutes strangers and automated emails. This makes having notifications turned on useful. I wish more applications gave finer grained control over notifications like this.
Spark has you create an account (basically with the first email address you add to the client). This account is used to synchronize your settings from device to device. I won’t get into concerns about a third party being involved in your email. Unless you are using end-to-end encryption, your email is not private.
Where I don’t like the Spark account is wanting to have two distinct profiles. I keep my work email separate from my personal email. I don’t have my work account setup on any personal devices (except for my iPhone). Therefore I have two Spark accounts. One for my work machines, and one for my personal machines. Not a huge minus, but cumbersome. It’d be nicer if you could select which email accounts were active on each device.
There aren’t any themes for Spark, beyond the ability to have a light or dark interface. I can take or leave themes. I do want to control the font and appearance of my email, and you can do that with Spark. The compose settings are only available when you are composing an email. Again, not a terrible decision, but unnecessarily hidden in my opinion.
I don’t like that you can alter the sort order of the messages. I like my messages oldest first, so that as I work my way through the inbox the oldest is at the top and the newest at the bottom.
The smart inbox feature also messes with ordering. It wants to roll up messages, so that the overall list is shorter I supposed. So you end up having to click to expand the roll up, and then click a message to start reading.
As a whole the user experience Spark provides is polished and comfortable. My quibbles are personal preferences rather than egregious design mistakes.
You can select which set of keyboard shortcuts you want active, and you can customize that set further.
There’s no provision for email encryption.
There is no way to prevent loading of images. Once you select an email any tracking embedded in the message has already phoned home.
Long term the answer is no. It is not at all objectionable. It also isn’t compelling. I’d give it a solid B+, or say an 86 or 87 on a scale of 1 to 100.