Guide Review - Postbox
Postbox's polished interface makes it a joy to use — and, for the most part, is effectively approachable, too. Search, for instance, is fast and reasonably intelligent. You can search for keywords or criteria everywhere or in specific folders and get results in seconds; a filtering bar makes focusing on certain senders or topics (more about these later) a snap. Postbox also helps you find related emails, files or links when you read a message — or compose one.
Help Composing Mail
Speaking of files and composing: Postbox lets you attach files to emails, of course; you can send links to Dropbox files just as easily, though, which is fabulous whenever you've already uploaded a file to Dropbox and don't need another copy in your "Sent Items" folder. Canned messages and multiple signatures also help with composing messages. Postbox could be more perceptive, though, and insert the recipient's name in a greeting, for instance.
Building the index needed for Postbox's searching prowess takes an initial effort, of course. Depending on the size of your email archive, the process can be lengthy. Thankfully, Postbox indexing happens automatically when you idle away from your computer. Eager for results, you can also trigger manual indexing — which, unfortunately, cannot run in the background. It's also a pity that searches cannot be saved as smart folders easily. Postbox does retain Mozilla Thunderbird's virtual folders, of course.
The Gmail Approach
Speaking of email archives, Postbox takes the Gmail approach. An "Archive" button moves mail from inbox to a single big archive folder. Search is always there to pull out what you need. Afraid no search will collect just the messages you need? You can label mail freely in Postbox with topics — and use these like folders, or as search criteria. (If you do use a Gmail account, Postbox lets you use Gmail labels like its own topics — and the "Important" label gets special treatment, too.) Postbox also lets you add notes to messages, edit their subjects and even alter the content.
Archiving is not the only cue Postbox has taken from Gmail. Instead of listing threads as one message after the other — interesting new bits hidden under globs of quotations — Postbox creates a coherent conversation that just shows new information by default. Next to the conversations or message, you'll also note some — hopefully key — pieces extracted for easy access: addresses linked to a map, images with previews, attached files and links for swift following. Finally, signature links take center stage.
Managing Mail, Events and Tasks
A handy button marks messages as "To-Do", and some clever clicking puts them into a grayed out pending state. Unfortunately, Postbox does little beyond subtle hints to help you with the doing and waiting, or at least organizing the tasks. An integrated calendar or alert system are missing, and changing a to-do item's status relies on a tad crude editing. Postbox does detect dates, though, and lets you set up events in iCal, Google Calendar or Lightning easily.
Postbox filters spam with reasonable accuracy. It's a pity the classifier is not leveraged for assigning topics — or suggesting replies and groups, for example. Integration with social networks could also go farther. Postbox does retrieve images, company names and job titles and lets you post to select sites, but does not otherwise integrate conversations on these sites.
(Updated November 2011)