A few weeks ago, I wrote about a company that lets you send snail mail from the web for free by completely a bunch of spammy offers. At the end of that post I concluded that if someone "offered a service that stored my address book online so I didn't have to constantly retype the recipient's address, and allowed me to pay the postage and not have to bother with all the offer mumbo jumbo, that is actually one I would probably use."

Shortly after the post was published I heard from Postful, an email-to-snail mail service that does exactly the things I was asking for. I finally got a chance this week to give the service a whirl and a proper review.

How It Works

Postful literally makes sending messages as easy as sending an email. Once you've signed up at Postful, you simply send an email to 'quickletter@postful.com' with the name and address of your recipient in the subject field, and your message in the body of your email. After you've sent your missive, Postful creates a PDF mockup of your letter that you can check via your account on the website. The PDF creation process only takes a few moments and Postful emails you when the mockup is ready.

You don't actually have to do anything to approve the letter, but if you want to make changes, you can cancel the order before it it sent. Postful letters support rich text formatting (fonts, colors, etc.) as well as photos and attachments -- that is, you can attach a Word document or PDF file, for example, and have them printed and sent with the letter.

Letters cost $0.99 for the first page, and $0.25 for each additional page in the US -- which covers printing and first class postage ($1.49/$0.39 for letters sent internationally), and funds can be added to your account by credit card, Google Checkout, and PayPal.

Mailboxes

Postful allows users to create mailboxes for frequently used addresses. So I could create an 'auntsue@postful.com' mailbox, and by mailing it Postful would automatically address my letter to my Aunt Sue. I wouldn't have to remember Sue's mailing address at all, and could just add that email address to my email client's address book.

Mailboxes are public, though not published. Meaning if I wanted to, I could share my Aunt Sue address with other members of my family and they could use it at as well. (Note: I don't really have an Aunt Sue.)

Conclusion

So is Postful useful? I think so. I'm a child of the digital age, and for me, writing email is a lot more natural than writing a real letter. I plan to use Postful to keep in touch with my grandfather, who refuses to buy a computer. Being able to fire off an email and have it turned into a paper letter that can be mailed to anyone I'd like is a great way for me to bridge the generational divide and keep in better touch with my older relatives. Plus, who doesn't enjoy getting a good piece of mail?

Because Postful supports rich text formatting and images, it could theoretically be used to send letters on your business letterhead (just add it to the top of the page as an image -- and even insert your signature as one, as well). Further, Postful is working on an API to allow developers access to their service.