There’s the default Gmail client for Android of course, for handling all my Gmail inboxes. But I have a Yahoo account too, plus a few more for my newsletters and other stuff that I don’t need that often. I thought my Android needed another email client that could help me manage all my email accounts.
The great thing about Android is that there usually are alternatives to be found that address the shortcomings of one program. Google Play gave me the rather un-mail like name of K-9 Mail. It sounded more like a German U-Boat than a full-featured Android email client.
But from first impressions, it seems that it’s just as capable of torpedoing any deficiencies in my mobile email management.
K-9 Mail Is Open Source…But Feature Rich
K-9 Mail is completely community developed and is hosted at Github. The mail client is based on Gmail’s original email client for Android but it comes in with a whole lot of other features. K-9 supports IMAP, POP3 and Exchange 2003/2007 (with WebDAV).
It is not very glamorous to look at but I hope it’s not looks you are after. K-9 Mail gives you two themes – Light and Dark. You can change the font size, and that’s about it for the front-on display.
Here’s how the first screen will look after you have configured your accounts. From the settings, you can also set it so that you directly land in the unified inbox:
You can set up a mish-mash of email accounts on K-9, but handling all those incoming torrents of email starts with notifications. K-9 allows thoughtfully allows you to set notification alerts for each account. For instance, you can give each account a different ringtone, vibration pattern, and notification LED color. You can give each account a different color too.
That’s a bit on the cosmetics. Let’s look into some key features.
K-9 Mail and It’s Key Features
Organizing your email
K-9 has a unified inbox apart from separate one’s for your accounts. The Unified Inbox pulls in all the emails from all your accounts and by default displays them from the latest to the oldest. In K-9, you can apply various sorting functions to all your inboxes. For instance, you can sort them so that the unread emails are at the top, or the ones with attachments:
K-9 also gives you a search feature from its landing screen. It will search all your folders for the keyword of your choice. K-9 can retrieve the email provided it has loaded (synced) all the mails you have in your account.
K-9 has good email organizing features…for instance you can move emails from one folder to another, copy it to another folder, archive it as usual, or mark it as spam.
Clicking on Folder List brings up your original folders as configured for your account. For Gmail, it includes Labels too. You can also share an email but it wasn’t working for me, so perhaps that was a bug there.
Viewing your email
This is a screenshot from a full message window as displayed on K-9 Mail. Personally, I found it neater than the Gmail Android app.
You can star it if it’s important enough. Mark it spam if that’s what it is. You can click through hyperlinks and select text. The share function works from the full view. The option to view the full headers of an email is available from the menu of a particular email.
Composing your email
Replying is as smooth. To make it smoother, you need to have all your contacts and their email IDs synced with the Android’s phone book of course. And, there is the Read Receipt option, just the thing for all your business emails.
The Little Extras You Will Notice
The best features of K-9 are all beneath the surface. To explore them all, you will have to go into the Folder Settings, Account Settings, and Global Settings. There are a universe of options to configure that can give you fine-tuned control over your inboxes. It would destroy the conciseness of this article, so I will limit myself to points:
You can configure IMAP server settings.
Pull and Push folders can be separately managed.
You can set message and folder size sync limits to conserve phone space.
Apart from default identities and signatures, you can also manage identities with alternate ‘From’ ID and signature.
K-9 Mail also supports OpenPGP (Pretty Good Privacy) protocols if you need to encrypt and sign your emails.
You can set a Quiet Time when all notifications will be disabled automatically.
You can choose between rich emails and plain text emails.
Before Signing Off…
K-9 Mail comes close to being a complete email client package for Android. The emails loaded pretty fast and the email management features made for an easy user experience. Threaded conversations are absent, but you can use the More from this sender option to lineup emails from a specific sender in one queue. There are still lots to write about, but I will let you draw some of your own conclusions and tells us about them in the comments. Do you find K-9 Mail to be the best email alternative to Gmail for Android?