Mailplane for Gmail

Since I got this iBook G3 I’ve been primarily using it for communication (email, instant messaging) and multimedia (audio podcasts and my music collection). Unfortunately, the iBook doesn’t have a great deal of power since it is running Tiger which is a bit more resource intensive than OS 9 which is what the iBook shipped from the factory with. Checking my Gmail account was extremely painful because with all of the browsers it took an incredibly long time to load the interface and every email that I would click on would load painfully slow.

Fast forward a couple of months after getting the iBook I found an application called Mailplane. When I first saw the application I was extremely skeptical of it. I questioned why there was a need for such an application when I could simply load Gmail in a web browser and do everything I needed to do in the browser. I figured it was one of those applications that just made it easy for lazy people to gain access to their Gmail account. I didn’t sign up for the beta then but fast forward a couple of months and I got to wondering about it again.

I signed up for the beta and downloaded the application. Immediately it hit me as to why this application was needed. Accessing my Gmail account was extremely fast using Mailplane. Accessing Gmail using Mailplane was much faster than accessing the account with a browser even if I was using my best computer. I am not an application developer but my guess would be that there is some sort of caching happening behind the scenes. There has to be because it is so fast! When I get an email I am notified in the menu bar of Tiger and if I want to go view the message I can simply click on the Mailplane icon and have immediate access to my email.

Mailplane has other features but I will be honest with you, I don’t use them. The icon toolbar at the top of the application allows you to navigate your Gmail account, add stars, archive, access the online version of Google Talk, access your photos for sending via email. All of that is great but again, I don’t use them because I still primarily use the interface that is provided inside of Gmail. The only feature that is available that I will probably use in the future is the multiple accounts feature which I’ll be using once I get my domains set up with Google Apps (which is also supported by Mailplane).

I don’t have a complaint about the application however I would definitely like to see the application upgraded so it can take advantage of the new features availalbe in the updated version of Gmail. I especially like the ability to easily filter my messages and would like to be able to do that using Mailplane instead of going to another computer to access my Gmail account to create filters. I realize that you can do filtering via the settings and I have been doing that ever since I got my Gmail account in 2004 but the updated version of Gmail allows you to “Filter messages like this” very easily via the drop-down menu in your message pane.

The application is still in beta but I was able to purchase the application at a special discount since I was a beta user. I am not sure what the pricing will be once it is out of beta. I don’t regret purchasing this application due to the convenience it has added to using my Gmail account and I do recommend it especially if you are like me and have an older machine or hate having to wait on your Gmail account to load.

I think the developer of Mailplane has done a tremendous job and I look forward to more updates. I’d also love to see the developer create an application like Mailplane but for Google Reader. That would be really useful, too!

Mailplane for Mac OS X

Article update: Sunday, December 2, 2007: The latest unstable beta of Mailplane that I just installed does take advantage of the latest version of Gmail 2.0. Thanks!

Article update: Wednesday, October 1, 2008: I have updated this article with a screen shot from the latest version.

Since writing this article in November of 2007 the developer has made many improvements to Mailplane. When Gmail 2.0 was first supported it was very slow. That has been improved and the application is much more responsive with the latest version of Gmail.

20" ViewSonic Optiquest Q20WB LCD Monitor

If you recall from the Taco HTML article I wrote back in June, I mentioned that my 3 year old Envision LCD (Envision EN7100) decided to kick the bucket. Ever since then, up until the 5th of October (earlier this month, for me) I had been using my backup CRT monitor. I got paid for a web design project in September and I decided that I had put up with the CRT long enough and purchased the 20″ ViewSonic Optiquest Q20WB from NewEgg.

There are a couple of reasons I purchased this monitor, specifically. The first reason is that the monitor has DVI and VGA inputs. One of these days I am eventually going to be able to afford a new computer, hopefully a Mac. The good thing is I won’t have to get a converter for the Mac and if I still have my PC I will be able to switch between the two computers by using the on screen controls. Then just switch between the mouse and keyboard with a KVM switch.

The other reason I purchased this monitor over an Acer or another cheaper brand was because I really wanted something with a good brand name. I realize that Optiquest is a low-end model on the ViewSonic line, at least that is what I read on one of the review sites. I still figured that since all ViewSonic makes is display products that it would be better to go with something from them. I was very much considering an Acer display that was only 19″, it was the same price as the display I bought. I just got to thinking about it and thought that since they made computers and other equipment they might not have the best product.

I was fairly confident that this monitor would work with my system. I was wondering because my PC is a few years old now (I built it in 2003). Luckily I was able to pull it out of the box, plug it in and it worked without any problems. I increased the resolution to the highest resolution (1680 x 1050) and it didn’t puke. I did install the drivers for it, don’t know that it was a necessity because the screen looked great even without the drivers.

I’ve been using the new monitor for over a week now and I am absolutely in love with it. However it has a problem. It shrinks! I’m joking. Just when I pulled it out of the box when I got it and had it on my desk it looked humongous. I kept thinking to myself “How in the world did this thing fit in the box!?” Now don’t let that negate the fact that it is still a large display. It’s really nice to open Lightroom and be able to leave all the panels open and still be able to work on my photos with a large sized editing window. The same goes for coding. I can open Aptana and have all the panels open and still see most of my code. I can also have some code on one side and an IM window on the other side and a document above that. It’s very nice.

There are a lot of controls in the on-screen display. Many more than my Envision had. This Optiquest has controls for adjusting colors, contrast/brightness, the location of the on-screen display, on-screen display language, resolution notices (when you enter a low resolution it displays a message to increase the resolution for optimal performance). You also control the input selection through the on-screen display.

At 20″ the display is larger than my 19″ television. I still have to use the television for playing videos streamed online because for some reason they just appear brighter on my television. I am not sure if it is how the video files are encoded (very low resolution videos) or if it’s just a drawback of LCD technology. Again, don’t let this negate the fact that this is a great display.

The only real problem that I have noticed about this monitor and it’s really not even an issue for me, but, it is wobbly if you bump into the desk or even lightly touch it. It’s not going to tip over but the display sort of wobbles on it’s stand. Again, it’s not an issue. It may even be designed to do that so that the display simply wobbles instead of the stand being pushed back and maybe accidentally turned over.

The only other thing that may be a concern to some people is that widescreen content still does not fill up the entire screen, even though the display is a widescreen display. I don’t have any higher resolution video to try out but I assume with higher resolution video it would fill up the display with no problem at all. When you play a widescreen DVD at the highest resolution there is still letterboxing.

Again, the display is simply gorgeous. It’s very bright. When I look at my iBook now I realize just how dark it is and then wonder how much darker the CRT was because I considered the iBook to be brighter than it! I’d always use the iBook to make sure my photos looked ok after I uploaded them to Flickr! Working on my photos and videos with the CRT monitor just was not cutting it. Whenever I look at photos on the new monitor I am much more impressed with them. I enjoy them a lot more. Whenever I am on Flickr viewing photos from my friends I enjoy them much more because they are brighter and much more spectacular.

At roughly $180 this monitor puts the Apple 20″ Cinema Display to shame. The Optiquest has a 5ms response time whereas the Apple display has a 16ms response time. The Apple display has a 300 cd/m2 brightness rating, so does this Optiquest. I am glad I bought this monitor so I can better save for a new Mac desktop or laptop. Who cares about color coordinating anyway? Heck, sometimes a domino color scheme can be quite interesting!