★ Mac App Recommendation: Sparrow

Today marks the official launch of Sparrow, a new mail app for the Mac. I've been using it in beta for the last few months, and am very impressed with how the app has grown and changed. It's Gmail-only at the moment; support for services like Yahoo, MobileMe, and custom IMAP email should arrive at the beginning of next month. Once that hits, I'll be kissing Apple's own Mail.app goodbye for good. Sparrow has significance beyond being an exceptional mail app. Along with Twitter for Mac and the upcoming Reeder for Mac (an Google Reader client currently in public beta), Sparrow is a harbinger of Mac apps to come. Although clearly influenced by the iOS experience, these apps are hardly clones of their iPad counterparts. They are fully integrated into OS X, and reflect a sensibility at the heart of the Mac experience since 1984: minimalism and form-as-function. After decades of increasingly complex, feature-rich applications, we're finally getting back to the essence of what each of these programs is supposed to do.

It's a change that even our language reflects. No longer do we refer to "applications" in conversation. Instead, we talk about apps - shorter, simpler, and with all of the meaning that needs to be conveyed. And as this new generation of apps prepares to take the Mac landscape by storm - a trend I expect to only accelerate with the launch of OS X Lion later this year - we can expect to see smaller windows on our screens, simpler-but-speedier functionality, and a more tightly focused user experience. Will they do everything? No. But they'll do 100% of what we need to do 95% of the time using less memory and costing us less money than whatever we're using now. It's a brave new world, Mac users, and it only gets better from here.

And Windows users... well, enjoy Outlook.