Power user email
Android App of the Week With its focus on the Gmail app, the Android stock e-mail client is a bit of a red-headed stepchild. It works well enough but it clearly doesn’t feel the love of its creators. That leaves a gap in the Market for a good e-mail client and luckily Android has one: K-9.
Being a true open source community project - you can download the source code here - K-9 unapologetically puts function before presentation. So while this may not be the prettiest e-mail client you’ll ever see, it’s one of the most powerful and adaptable.
In the main view all the text on show can be resized (left) while the main account view is simple and clear (right)
K-9 supports IMAP, POP3 and Exchange 2003/2007. It also does IMAP IDLE push messaging, but it also gives the user full control over push and polling message retrieval behaviour. Configuration options can be set for each account and even each folder.
There’s an equally high level of control on offer for notifications, including the option to have a separate alert tone for each account and set a quiet time during which the app keeps schtum when e-mail arrives.
In the IMAP folder view, see as many or as few as you want (left) while the mail view is simple and spacious (right)
If you want all your mail in one place, there’s a unified inbox, and you can set either that or the individual account view as the default home page. Each account can also be assigned a colour-coded bar but that and the light/dark theme is as far as the eye candy goes.
Of more use are the options to change the size of every - and I do mean every - piece of text on display from e-mail body copy to the address of the sender, the date, the title and the time - or you can hide certain fields completely.
Fetch mail configuration options (left) and folder view and sync options (right)
There’s also a built-in search engine, an option to store mail on your SD card, and you can even assign unique signatures to each account.
To be honest, this only scrapes the surface of K-9's features and adaptability. And that brings me on to its two failings. Firstly, K-9 could really do with a user guide and, secondly, some sort of export/import settings facility.
Notification settings (left) and global options for a little eye candy (right)
Why? Quite simply the app is so malleable it’s easy to forget how you have set it up which can be a time-consuming pain in the backside when it comes to setting it up on a new handset.
K-9 is completely free and unblemished by any advertising. If you want to get ahead of the curve the developer has posted several beta versions more advanced than that in the Market. ®
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2. I can't find any setting for this specifically, but this is definitely not how it works for me. If I open a folder and fetch, it gets the most recent 25 emails. In addition, you can change this number (even to "all").
3. As per 2, I can't say I've personally had any issues on this front... do other apps with similar functionality perform correctly on your IMAP server?
I guess YMMV, but I tried a lot of mail apps before settling on K9. The beauty of IMAP being that I can switch at any time, but I can't think of anything I need that K9 doesn't do.
Yes, it actually works
My day-job is supporting email server software (Mailtraq, since you ask), so I come across all sorts of client software. From a protocol point of view, K-9 is one of the few that plays by the rules, and doesn't cause any problems. We recommend it. K-9's push IMAP is particularly nice, and saves the hassle and expense of Blackberry BES for mobile users. Clients from Apple and Microsoft, in contrast, cause all sorts of grief as they seem incapable of following RFCs consistently.
Great IMAP Client
I do IMAP, not Gmail. The standard Android IMAP client was practically unusable, a truly horrible program. I stopped noticing/hating my Android email when I switched to K-9. It's been perfect.
I think the big problem is it's buggy, but mainly in small ways
I still use K9 - but only because there's nothing better (at least free) for Android at the moment. Thing is it is buggy and new releases just bring new 'features'. I suspect it's too many fingers in the source code pie.
I take it the designer of K-9's icon reads The Register? ;-)
Don't take it personally, chap, I just think a robo-dog doesn't quite say "email" to me as much as, say, an envelope...