Encrypted email service Proton Mail gets its own desktop app

Proton Mail finally has a native desktop app, rolling out now in beta for some users on Windows and MacOS.

The encrypted email service has, of course, been available to desktop users since its inception nearly a decade ago — first through the web, and latterly via a “bridge” that opened access to Proton Mail accounts through desktop clients such as Outlook, Thunderbird and Apple Mail.

With a dedicated desktop app in tow, though, parent company Proton is cutting out the browser and bridge middleware to bypass intermediaries and serve end-to-end email encryption directly from its own clients.

The desktop app provides offline access and is available directly from the Windows Start menu or MacOS dock, while it also bundles access to Proton Calendar, the encrypted calendar app Proton launched back in 2019.

Proton Mail for Desktop with Calendar

Proton Mail for Desktop with Calendar. Image Credits: Proton

Alongside the new app, Proton also unveiled a handful of new features that will be available to Proton Mail users on both the web and desktop. These include email auto-forwarding, which enables premium users to set rules to automatically forward messages between Proton Mail accounts while maintaining end-to-end encryption (E2EE).

“Messages sent between Proton Mail accounts are always end-to-end encrypted by default, but to maintain end-to-end encryption for messages forwarded to other Proton users presented a huge technical challenge,” Proton CTO Bart Butler said in a statement. “We needed to figure out how to re-encrypt messages for different recipients without the server being able to access the content. Our cryptographic engineers have made this possible in a first for encrypted email.”

Other new features include “snooze,” which allows users to set reminders to deal with important emails at a later time, and attachment previews, which serves a glimpse into email attachments from their inbox without having to open it fully.

Proton Mail Snooze

Proton Mail Snooze. Image Credits: Proton

Privacy push

Founded in 2014, Proton initially only offered encrypted email, but the Swiss company has expanded into VPNs, a password managercalendar and a cloud storage service called Proton Drive which also has its own desktop app.

While much of Proton’s pitch has been about selling encrypted alternatives to big-name incumbents such as Gmail, its new app actually takes things beyond that by bringing native support directly to the desktop.

“While many people use email on desktop in a browser, desktop apps can still provide certain advantages such as better offline support,” Proton CEO Andy Yen said in a statement. “For this reason, we have decided to launch a desktop app, something that even Gmail does not provide.”

For its initial beta phase, the new Proton Mail desktop app is only available to those on the Proton Visionary plan, which was only available to legacy users who signed up early in the company’s history. However, the company is temporarily making Visionary plans available again, from today through January 3, 2024.

Proton Mail for desktop will start rolling out to all users in early 2024 and, as with its other apps, the company confirmed the new email clients will be open sourced “in due course.”

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