Managing Email With Postbox

24 Comments

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.

24 Comments

BSM

I’ve been using this for a week now, just installed the Calendar plugin as well and this thing rocks. Not only does it have read receipt options but also it has the ability to show animated icons which mail lacks.

PK

I downloaded PostBox, and have been trying it out for a few days. Honestly, I think it’s counter intuitive to Getting Things Done. I’ll try it out for a few more days though.

The concept of GTD, is to have zero messages in the Inbox, and to delgate actions, etc…. It seems this application is expecting you to save all your emails so you can reference them later for some reason.

The program is quite a bit slower than Mail.app and takes longer to load images and attachments.

Also the integration with Twit, FaceBook etc, seems like another distraction that really does not belong in an email program.

Just my 2 cents. So far I’m not impressed at all. I will keep trying it out for a little while longer as I would hate to make pre-judgements, but these are my impressions so far.

iPhone app reviews

This sounds like a good email application. Reminds me a lot of the Google Wave email in some ways. I do agree with Andy a little though, It could be some what complex however, most new technologies seem complex at first. I would really have to use it more to make that assessment.

Andy

The great thing about Mac apps is that they are intuitive, Postbox is too complicated. Also, I just imported Mail data and I know that Postbox isnt giving me the info I know should be there when I do a search. Sorry, it is gone.

Ryan

Postbox absolutely rocks.

But I’d give it some time. It needs to get out of beta before I can really start using it. Nevertheless, this is going to be the BEST mail client available on OS X after its release.

Suds

I have used Postbox for over 3 months and have now decided to go back to the good old Apple Mail. Postbox has been too slow for my taste. Specially for sending out an email, it takes for ever. It authenticates for ever before sending emails.

troyjjensen

Ready to download the Beta pronto…..but I handle 40% of my email via my iPhone. What about synching with the iPhone….critical to me!

iMeow

Mmmm… It seems they send out the beta download link manually as I also gave them my email address but have yet to hear anything about where I can download it.

D

Scott:

I signed up the minute I saw the sexy goodness, I HAD to. Call it software lust, gotta have it, whatever you want. I signed up there before I posted here! :)

I seriously look forward to testing the beta – and hope that the price point is at my level.

Thanks Scott!

Scott

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 :).

Tijs Teulings

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.

D

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!

D

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.

simplygrey

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

Grey

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

AppBeacon

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.

Angie

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.

Jeff

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

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