Sparrow: ★, for Bit Barfing

Sparrow is heralded as “The New Mail for Mac.” John Gruber on Sparrow 1.0:

Sparrow, the most interesting new Mac email client in at least a decade, hits 1.0. Get it on the App Store for $10. Not quite there for me, yet, but it’s close. The Gmail-specific features are very clever.

That’s some high praise. Sparrow is a Gmail email client that looks like Twitter on the Mac. The UI is sleek, simple, and lightweight at just 9.5MB. Affordable, too at US$9.99. Sparrow has almost all of the things I look for and would be joining my favorites: DropBox-syncing text editor Notational Velocity (5.2MB) and my default image editor Seashore (6.6MB). One or both of these apps had their digital fat liposuctioned by Xslimmer resulting in smaller file sizes.

Apple Mail is horrifyingly obese, which is why I’ve switched to Gmail on the web. It leaves only a few bread crumbs on my system, is simple, and works. Until it randomly decides to take an inordinate amount of time loading. I like Gmail, but it is void of any sexiness. So I decided to take a serious look at this interesting new Mac email client, Sparrow. I did download a beta version a little while ago, but for some reason I didn’t like it. I was willing to give it another go. Well, it didn’t take long to find out Sparrow won’t cut it for me. And here’s why, described by the very first customer review I read:

Great first impression, but some ongoing concerns… ★★★

by Jundan Tresko
Original 1.0 – I really like what Sparrow has done with my email — on the surface. There is great potential here. Digging a bit deeper, however, I am quite concerned about its footprint in the filesystem.

Frankly, it is a complete mess. What do I mean by that? I mean that while only 130MB in total size there were over 30,000 files (yes, over thirty thousand) in Sparrow’s cache for my Gmail account, which itself only has 3400 messages in it (my Inbox has maybe a dozen). Every support file from every other application I have added together isn’t even as many as Sparrow just dumped in my Application Support folder. Even deleting the account and re-adding it after checking the ‘Download Messages on Demand’ option resulted in a cache of nearly 9,000 files (33MB this time). Either way this creates an absolute mess for maintenance tools and routines such as backups, among other things. It also stands out like a sore pimple in an otherwise tidy filesystem.

Is this sort of file clutter considered acceptable application behavior by other users? I am too obsessive to not be bothered by such things. Anyways, while I won’t hold my breath for the developers to change this, I do hope that it isn’t how Sparrow will always be.

Bit barfing. That’s what I’ll call it. Sparrow seems to be good at barfing massive amounts of bits: 30,000 cache files?!? Sparrow might be sexy on the outside, but looks like its damn fugly on the inside. It isn’t just Sparrow though.

I think most Mac applications, except for a few including the two mentioned above, are fugly inside: bloated, inefficient code, that lead to an explosion of files. Have you looked at the files that iPhoto, iTunes, or Mail use? There are many and they consume a huge chunk of your drive. I don’t use iPhoto anymore, instead I use Image Capture (1.1MB) to neatly file my photos and videos. This saves a ton of gigabytes. iTunes? I use it only for syncing Contacts, Apps, and the occasional massive iOS update. I’ll stick to Gmail on the web until Sparrow figures out a way to get its pretty face running without having to blow up 30,000 files everywhere.

What we need is a Steve Wozniak for software. Woz, a circuit minimalist, designed only what was necessary. We need his expertise for bit barfing software. My rating for Sparrow? Just one ★ for looking sexy.