Mailing Desk is a Gmail and Google Apps client for the iPad that provides an elegant standalone interface to Google’s offerings in addition to a lightweight browser interface that works well for previewing Web pages that are linked to from within the app.
The layout of Mailing Desk is the main selling point of Thought Out Apps’ free Offering. It has a polished look with vertical “flick” bars bracketing the left- and right-hand sides of the main window, which is set up well for using as a Gmail client, but can in fact be used to view or work with other Google apps, such as Google Docs, Calendar, and even YouTube.
In all three panes you can access all Google apps via the familiar “More” drop-down menu, and in the two side panes, large icons for Tasks, Calendar, Docs, Facebook, and Google+ are arranged along the bottom. It’s very simple and intuitive to select the primary apps you want to access on the left and right—say the Calendar on the left and Google Docs on the right—and view one or the other while keeping Gmail (partially) visible.
Gmail and Google Calendar—with the latter in Desktop Mode—provide very good functionality. However, Google Docs allows for little more than plain text editing in Mobile mode, and doesn’t work properly in Desktop mode. You can see the full menus that allow for editing, formatting, and so on, but when you pull down the menus, the iPad’s keypad disappears, and then reappears when you select a command—and it does so before you can select text to perform an action on. Using Google Docs in mobile mode does enable you to cut-and-paste text between Docs and Mail, though, which can come in handy. You can also select Google Docs and email them as attachments through the Mobile version of Docs.
There are two flaws in the overall Mailing Desk interface, and the degree to which they may be problematic for any individual user is difficult to ascertain. The first is that when you flick open either sidebar, the mail pane simply gets shoved over to the side; in other words, the interface isn’t adjusted in any way, so part of your email is cut off. The second is that you can only have two panes open at once. While it may be difficult, given the iPad’s screen size, to design a three-pane interface, it seems possible. While such a layout may detract from the overall appearance of the app and make it more difficult to use in some ways, it seems that providing the user an option to use three panes would be a useful improvement.
Overall, Mailing Desk can be viewed as a fine Google Mail client that provides some very nice “extra” features. Using that criteria, it is certainly worth a try—you can’t beat the price, and it’s very likely that many users will find the app pretty appealing.
[Jeff Merron is a freelance writer and editor living in North Carolina.]