Think desktop email is dead? Not so says the latest entrant to this field, San Francisco-based startup Postbox, who is today revealing the final release of their desktop email application based on Mozilla technology. Originally launched into beta a year ago, Postbox has a heavy focus on search and organization with a primary goal of addressing email users’ information overload issues. Like Mozilla’s own Thunderbird email application, Postbox exists only as downloadable software. However, unlike other desktop programs, Postbox natively integrates web services into its interface, including Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed.
When you first get started with Postbox, you’re promoted to select from a list of web-based email accounts including Gmail, AOL, Windows Live Hotmail, and Yahoo! mail. If you’re using the app for anything else, you can select “other email account” instead. You’re able to import RSS feeds and Newsgroup accounts, too.
Search: Once configured, Postbox looks very much like any other email program you’ve used in the past – this is no radical redesign like Google Wave plans on being. There’s a message list, preview pane, folder lists, favorite folders, etc. However, the killer features in this application don’t have anything to do with its design. Instead, what makes Postbox so appealing to power emailers are its search and organization features. The application can help you find anything in your email whether a contact, an address, a link, a picture, an attachment, or even just a snippet of text. Searches appear in Postbox’s tabbed interface where visual results – like photo thumbnails, for example – make finding the right result easy.
Topics: Similar to Gmail’s “labels,” Postbox uses “topics” for organizing email, a system that helps you stay on top of your current projects. And as with Gmail, messages can be flagged with multiple topics. This can be done either after you receive them or as you compose an email. Postbox will also automatically tag future emails within a thread with the same topic.
Compose Sidebar: Also in the Compose window is a sidebar which provides easy access to images, attachments, links, contacts, and signatures stored elsewhere in your email. Click on any of these icons and a search box appears allowing you to quickly retrieve items.
To-Do’s: For getting things done, Postbox lets you turn email messages into “to do” items which pushes them to the top of your inbox where they stayed pinned until complete.
Inspector Pane: When viewing an email message, the so-called “Inspector Pane” on the right summarizes the content detected within that email conversation including information about the sender, attachments, images, links, addresses, etc. What’s interesting is that the sender’s profile picture can actually be retrieved from Facebook or Twitter if you’ve linked your accounts from the Web Services menu (under Tools).
Extensions: Although Postbox doesn’t include a calendar of its own, the Lightning add-on, one of several supported extensions lets you view your calendar as a separate tab in Postbox. It provides access to your Gmail calendar, too.
A Lot to Like
Even though many email users are happy with their web-based solution of choice, there’s a lot to like about Postbox’s desktop app. For example, we especially like the ability to post from our email directly to Facebook, Twitter, and FriendFeed. And what we wouldn’t give for visual search like this in Gmail! Postbox’s search features are robust yet simple to use and the handy “Inspector Pane” is a useful tool that could easily become an essential component to your email workflow.
For these reasons and more, it’s no surprise that this application made our list of favorites earlier this year. (See: Still Shiny: 23 Apps We’re Using One Month Later).
With the public release of version 1.0 of this application, the company isn’t introducing any major upgrades, but that shouldn’t stop you from giving it a look if you’re interested in desktop email clients. Postbox is available as a free trial, but sells for $39.95 if you decide to purchase.