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Summary:

A number of different email clients are available for the Mac, but a new piece of software announced at MacWorld takes a new and different approach. Postbox is a new way to manage online communication, aiming to let you spend less time managing messages and more […]

A number of different email clients are available for the Mac, but a new piece of software announced at MacWorld takes a new and different approach. Postbox is a new way to manage online communication, aiming to let you spend less time managing messages and more time getting things done. Built with powerful search and organization features, finding and browsing old messages is a simple process.

A video of the application in action can be seen at a recent presentation, and gives a great overview of what the app is capable of. The system supports all manner of email accounts and formats; IMAP, POP3, SMTP, Mobile Me, Gmail, RSS and Newsgroups. The software is noted to scale well, having been tested on databases of up to 30,000 messages.

The Main Interface

The main interface consists of folders, topics and search tabs. Folders and topics are used for categorizing and managing your email, and search tabs allow you to quickly view your contacts (generated based on all the messages you’ve received), images, attachments and links. Easy searching is central to the application and is given a great deal of attention.

The detail of the interface itself is impressive, feeling very much like a native Mac app. That said, it does feel slightly cluttered at times and there is undoubtedly room for further simplification in its look and feel.

The idea of ‘topics’ adds a different slant to traditional folder organization. These operate in a similar way to tags, and messages can be set to automatically be assigned a topic depending upon their contents or who they are from.

Conversations

As with many modern mail clients, the facility exists to display email messages in conversation threads. This is done in an accurate and visually appealing way, clearly displaying the details for each message along with a summary of who is involved with the conversation.

The sidebar area in a conversation is something I could see being very useful. It collects all the information which has so far been shared in a message thread: links, addresses, images, attachments — it’s all displayed in one place. This saves a great deal of time navigating back and forth through different messages.

Searching

While both Postbox and Mail.app are fantastic at cataloguing mail message content, Postbox takes displaying search results to a new and interesting level; emphasis is placed on context. When searching for a piece of text within a message, for instance, results show the matching results with a multi sentence abstract around it. Messages retain their original thread information, and searching for images shows all the related message information.

Sharing

With full integration to web services such as Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Delicious, sharing information received via email is remarkably simple. Right clicking a link, for instance, brings up a context menu of useful export options:

Getting content from various web services into a new message is just as simple — the sidebar lets you pull in information directly from search engines, reference sources, and social media sites. Integration with Google is present through the application, though for now there doesn’t seem to be any link to this being a revenue stream for the developers (as is the case with applications such as Firefox).

Conclusion

After trying Postbox I would seriously consider it as an alternative to the standard Mail.app shipping with OS X. It takes a step forward in terms of features, offering far greater functionality than Apple’s basic email client. That said, I do enjoy the simple interface of Mail.app and there are a number of minor bugs which will need ironing out before the release of Postbox.

Postbox is currently in Beta stage, and you’re able to register your details to be notified of new developments. This can all be done through the Postbox site.

What are your thoughts on the application. Do you feel that it will prove to be a solid competitor to Mail.app, or are people more likely to continue the gradual move towards web-based email services? I’m sure Apple will be watching the development of this application carefully, and I would not be surprised if several of the features it offers make an appearance in a future version of Mail.app.

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  1. Wow, pretty sweet. It’s about time someone made a mail app for OS X that had some real features to it.

  2. I’ve been using / testing Postbox for about 2 weeks and for being beta, I’m immensely happy with it. There are a few things lacking but the guys over at Postbox have been incredibly responsive not just in replying, but in listening to what folks are saying / asking for. To be clear – I really, really, love(d) Mail.app. But it started to feel a bit too rudimentary in some aspects. Postbox is a welcome breath of fresh air.

  3. Posts about Google as of January 9, 2009 | The Lessnau Lounge Friday, January 9, 2009

    [...] 2. I switched on street view and GPS and I could see my own house in Geelong. No wonder Managing Email With Postbox – theappleblog.com 01/09/2009 A number of different email clients are available for the Mac, [...]

  4. If you use Gmail, I’d recommend MailPlane. It’s a desktop client for the Mac that works solely with GMail. However, it has some great features. The best is a iPhoto integration. You can drag images from iPhoto directly onto an email to attach them. You can also drag any files into MailPlane. If you’re currently editing an email, they will be attached. Otherwise, a new email will be started and the files attached.

  5. Looks interesting, although I haven’t been given a link to the beta version yet in order to test it out.

    It does beg the question, though, of what role email will play as social media continues to evolve. I like the way this app starts to integrate social networking and web/media searching, but it seems to me that it’s just a first, very small step.

    I’d like to see an app that helps me to organize ALL my conversations throughout all my various social networks (including e-mail). And personally, I’m using FriendFeed (and social networking generally) for the kinds of conversations that Postbox seems to focus on, not traditional email so much.

    Anyway, I will try it out. Should be an interesting experiment. I’ve been using MailTags for some of the features Postbox offers, but it’s not without it’s problems and limitations.

    Cheers,
    ~G

  6. BTW, what about iPhone integration? I hesitate to replace Mail.app because I don’t want to mess up (or unnecessarily complicate) push mail notification on my iPhone.

    So I guess I’m hoping some of these features do make it into a future version of Mail.

    ~G

  7. I think this is gonna be a great race..I think Apple may end up buying this thing….or something. It’s too good not to, I mean the proof will be in the pudding. You know, price, features – and most of all, how it’s implemented.

  8. Well, they say they will notify me once they have the beta ready. But if Angie has been testing it – I wonder if she works there? I hate it when I see ‘sexy’ software like this – only to be made to wait! Horrible! lol. Come on guys, it’s ‘sexy’ let it out for all to see!

  9. Definitely some interesting features. I do wonder how it holds up for bigger mailboxes though, one of the weakpoints of Mail.app. 30.000 messages is not that big really i would like to see it tested with 100 or 200k messages.

  10. D, we are sending out invites to folks on the signup list (http://postbox-inc.com) in small batches as opposed to all at once which is why some folks have already received their invite. We’ll let you know when your invite is ready, just make sure you are on the list :).

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