I have the feeling that many companies have been pushing towards web-only services in the past two or so years. While there have been online services before, like Gmail or Yahoo Mail for email, or file hosting services to host files online, it seems to me that many companies want you to move all of your files to the cloud.
You can use one of the many file syncing services to host your files online, listen to music from everywhere, and even stream movies to your devices.
While that may be comfortable in certain situations, say you need to access the data from a new computer or a different location, it does have implications as well.
Yahoo Mail for example was not reachable for select users in the past couple of days. What this means is that you depend on the company providing the service. If they experience hardware or financial issues, or shut down, then you cannot access your data temporarily or in some cases permanently.
That's one of the reasons why I prefer to use desktop applications instead of web apps.
Postbox email client
I have been using Thunderbird for a long time. I think I switched to it from Opera Mail when it first came out, and have used it ever since.
Postbox is based on Thunderbird code, and the resemblance still shines through when you look at the main interface of the desktop email client. That does not mean that the feature set is identical. What you will notice is that Postbox has been heavily modified, in most parts for the better.
While Thunderbird users may be able to implement some of those features using extensions, it is fair to say that it is not possible to implement them all doing so.
If you have been using Thunderbird before and decided to try out Postbox -- a 30 day free trial is available -- you will be pleased to note that you can import all your emails, accounts and other data to Postbox during first run.
It may take a while depending on how many emails need to be imported, but once it is done, you get access to all data directly in the new program.
Postbox can import email and other data from a variety of other desktop clients including Microsoft Outlook. If you are using web mail, you can add those using the new account wizard. For high profile services such as Gmail it is a near automated process.
All you have to do is enter your name, the email address and password to set up the account. For others, you may need to integrate them manually into the program though.
The interface looks similar to Mozilla's email client, but there are a few differences that you will spot right away.
Probably the most important one is that there is a new accounts listing on top of the mail folders in the left sidebar. To switch accounts, you simply click on one that is displayed there. In Thunderbird, you may have to scroll down as all inboxes, spam folders and sent folders of all accounts are displayed at once in the sidebar.
Postbox in addition to that makes available unified folders that you can access to display emails from all or select accounts together. The All Accounts filter is available right from the start, and a right-click on it and the selection of "New account group" from the context menu allows you to add new groups that you can assign email accounts to.
Design and layout
The design of Postbox looks clean and some what even say minimalistic. That's not a bad thing though, as it helps you concentrate on what is important -- the emails.
The default layout displays three vertical panes (accounts and folders, list of emails of the selected account, the actual emails) which you can change to the classic layout instead which displays the accounts and folders as before, but divides emails and the actual contents horizontally instead.
Postbox supports conversations, which means that emails that belong to a conversation are displayed as one in the interface so that you can access the whole conversation at any time.
Messages appear from newest to oldest here, with a quick reply box displayed directly under the newest email that you can use to respond immediately.If you do, you will notice that the contents of past emails are displayed to you immediately, which most clients do not do.
It also enables you to reply inline without opening a new compose window, which would happen if you would use the regular reply option. It is furthermore possible to collapse individual replies here.
The top toolbar displays often used actions such as getting mails, replying, archiving or composing emails. Just like in Thunderbird, it is possible to customize it by right-clicking on it and selecting the customize option. You can add or remove icons from the toolbar to customize the experience.
Here you find another feature that is unique to Postbox: the different view modes. Emails are displayed by default, which you can switch to one of the following three instead:
- Attachments displays only emails with attachments for the selected account or account group. To use the feature, it is necessary to index the folder first. This takes seconds to a couple of minutes depending on how large the folder is.
- Images on the other hand displays all images as thumbnails when selected.
- To-Dos finally tracks lists of to-dos that are included in emails.
Postbox ships with a powerful tagging system that you can make use of to assign topics (aka tags) to emails. Topics can be displayed in the program's Focus Pane (use Ctrl-Shift-P to toggle), which displays favorite topics, attachments, favorite contacts and lets you sort emails by date as well.
When you are sending emails with attachments, you can either attach the files directly to them, or use the program's Dropbox integration instead. This uploads the files to Dropbox and only attaches links to them to the email.
Recipients can download emails faster because of this, and you won't run into the storage limitations in regards to attachments either.
There is another feature that I really like in regards to the compose window. You can display a sidebar here that displays address books, attachments that you have received, or images right there. This offers a comfortable way of attaching files or images to emails, and selecting new recipients as well without having to leave the compose window at all.
Another interesting feature is Postbox's social integration. If you are using Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter, you can connect the accounts to match profile pictures to email addresses automatically.
This adds those profile pictures to emails that you receive which may improve visualization of contacts in Postbox. And if you do not use any of the services, you may still see some profile pictures thanks to the program's Gravatar integration.
If you are using Gmail, you will notice that Postbox supports quite a few features that make Gmail popular. It supports Gmail Labels, can add dates automatically to Google Calendar, and also supports the same keyboard shortcuts that you use on Gmail.
While that is great for users of Google's email service, you may notice that some Gmail features are not available. There is for instance no support for Gmail's advanced search operators such as from:firstname.lastname@example.org, is:important or has:yellow-star.
Postbox supports add-ons that you can download and install to extend the program's functionality. It does not support Thunderbird extensions unfortunately, and you are left with the couple of add-ons listed on the extensions page.
You find the calendar add-on Lightning here that you can use to add calendar support to Postbox, and the Provider for Google Calendar add-on to allow bi-directional access to Google Calendar.
Other extensions that are worth of note are Enigmail which adds OpenPGP support and QuickFolders, which lets you open favorite folders as tabs in the client.
The not so good
As good as Postbox is, there are things that may keep you from using it as your main desktop email client. There is no Linux version for example, only versions for Windows and Macs.
If you rely on native Exchange protocols, you are out of luck as well as Postbox does not support those.
And even though it is based on the same code base as Thunderbird, it does not support Thunderbird extensions by default. While it does support extensions, they need to be customized for Postbox by their authors or the Postbox team before they become compatible.
Is it worth the price?
Postbox is available for $9.95 which gets you the client and all minor upgrades until the next major version of the client gets released.
If you like the features that it adds that are not available in Thunderbird or other desktop email clients, then it is definitely worth that money, especially if you are using desktop email primarily.
The email client supports lots of clever features, better Gmail integration, the focus pane, or unified account views that can speed things up for you or make them more comfortable on a day to day basis.
If you are not sure, I'd suggest you download the free trial version to test it out for yourself