What’s the single most loved and hated app on your Mac? Browser? Nope. Something from Adobe or Microsoft? Uh, possibly.
One of the iLife apps (iTunes is a love-hate relationship for many Mac users)? Maybe. For me it’s Mail. Email. Specifically, Apple’s Mail for OS X. Love it or hate it, I keep looking for better alternatives. Free alternatives. Because, you know, free and pretty good is a tough combination to beat.
When Good Enough Is Good Enough
Mail on my Mac is good enough. Not so good that I sing Mail’s praises. Not so bad that I’m willing to pay money for a replacement—and there are plenty of Mail replacements available, both with a price tag and without.
Today I have a Mac mail replacement that’s worthy of consideration.
I could have stopped at Mozilla’s Thunderbird. No price tag. Endless features. But it’s a decidedly Windows-like experience, with options and features that just seem to get in my way. Clunky is a good description.
On the paying side, there’s Microsoft’s Entourage, which is on End Of Life status, so, you know, why bother? Outlook for Mac is coming and we’ll have to consider that as a replacement, because, you know, all of us here love Microsoft products so much.
Moving on down the line there’s PowerMail, which is Claris Emailer-like which stirs my nostalgia gene a bit, but it’s an email option with a price tag, too. There’s Postbox, which is powerful and fast and decidedly Mac-like, yet reassuringly multi-platform. And, venerable Eudora which, honestly, I keep thinking is discontinued but they keep updating it.
Why don’t those email app developers create a free and lite version which can compete with Mail on your Mac, but give us a reason to upgrade to something with a price tag? Is anyone listening?
Postbox Goes Lite With Express
The problem with email apps is that we need one that does most of what we need. Composing and reading email is almost minor—it’s a given. There’s a need to search mountains of email quickly. A need to reduce and filter spam. A need to archive old email messages.
See? It’s not just writing and reading, which almost any free or commercial email app does just fine.
The folks trying to make a buck with Postbox are either listening, or have figured out that they need a carrot to entice Mac users searching for an alternative to try their app wares to see wassup. Wassup is Postbox Express. And it’s free. And different.
Check the comparison chart between the free Postbox Express and the decidedly not-so-free Postbox (which is loaded with so many features you’ll need to scroll and scroll).
Entice Me With Email Gold That Glitters
To entice me to switch from the free Mac Mail, Postbox Express gives Mac users—email composing and reading. And search. And threads. And archive. Tabbed browsing. Anti-phishing and malware services. To-Do tagging, but no To-Do creation (go figure).
In other words, the Express version of Postbox does less. Less than Postbox. Less than Mail. But it’s priced the same as Mail. Free. Postbox Express (and Postbox) are decidedly attractive and easy to use. Like Mail.
Both try to differentiate their wares from Mail by adding features that Mail really doesn’t have. For example, Postbox has customizable start up screen ability. I’m sure you’ve sent email to Steve Jobs asking for that. No?
How about status updates to Facebook and Twitter? That’s thinking different.
Except that I already have a few apps that do that and they’re better than the tacked on functions in Postbox, which has a price tag, and not on the Express version which doesn’t have either (Facebook and Twitter add ons or a price tag). See the dilemma?
In other words, Mail isn’t so bad. It has plenty of features for the great unwashed masses of email users, but isn’t overbearing or difficult to use. For a third party commercial email app to bite into Apple’s Mail market there are rules to follow.
First, give me a reason to switch. So, rather than comparing Postbox Express to Postbox, compare both of them to Apple’s Mail. That’s a good start. Why? Because I need a reason to switch to free and a reason to switch to something with a price tag.
Postbox has add ons. Mail? Not so much. What are the add ons that would glitter in the noonday email sun and get me to consider an alternative, free or otherwise?
Second, remember that features should have benefits. Why do I have to figure out the benefit myself? Tell me, already. Postbox has File, Image, and URL search capability. Express does not. What? That’s not in Mail (it’s not)? If not, tell me. And tell me what it does and why it’s good. See? That’s not so hard.
Here’s another. Postbox has Flexible Message Editing and Annotation and Express does not. OK. First, what does that mean and why is it good for me? Second, does that mean that Express has inflexible editing? Why would I want that?
When competing against a built-in, free Apple app here’s what you (speaking to Postbox app developers and anyone else who dares to try to compete against Apple with a free or commercial app) absolutely must do.
First, more features and benefits (or, in the alternative—better). Second, tell me and show me the benefits (video on your web site would be nice). Third, show me how they compare to Mail. Fourth, give me some definitive reasons (fun, easier, more productive, more capable) to switch from the default standard. There’s probably more than four but you get the idea. Competing against free and pretty good isn’t so easy.
Postbox thinks different, but not enough different to get me to pay money. Postbox Express needs to compete better with Mail and it doesn’t, so the incentive to even try it in the first place is diminished.