This year I made the switch. The complete switch. My Mac is Microsoft free. Except for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. That was a business compatibility decision.
But I’m free of email using Microsoft’s Entourage. I switched to Apple’s built-in Mail. It was a mostly painless experience. I was pleased with my decision. That is, until I started looking around at other email apps and some of their very nifty features—good ones not found in Mail.
Mail Is Perfect—Almost
It’s not that there’s anything really wrong with using Mail. It’s fast. It’s easy. It handles multiple accounts. It comes with attractive HTML templates for various occasions. It’s integrated with other Apple apps (iCal, Address Book).
What’s the problem? I’m an email power user.
I miss power. Mail isn’t power.
As I looked around at other email apps I found plenty that think different. Some, like Mozilla’s Thunderbird are heavy on features, free, cross platform, but not so Mac-like.
My latest flame is the one that scares me the most, yet shows the most promise as an email app I can live with.
Scared? Mail is good and it’s free. Postbox is very good, but not so free. I once thought that Microsoft’s Entourage would be around forever. It’s Microsoft. It’s commercial. It’s also gone, replaced by a Mac version of Outlook (which I’ll review next month).
Postbox Thinks Different And Better
This Mac app does a few unique things for those of us who slave over hot keyboards all day long. First on the list is Unified Account Groups. It’s like multiple email accounts organized to your tastes.
Accounts can be set up into groups so you can quickly view how many messages await you in each account, in each group. Sweet.
Second on my list of features I like is the Focus Pane. Think of this as threaded email. If you deal in plenty of email messages from many people, Focus Pane lets you set up priorities for specific messages.
Most of my daily email effort seems to be an effort in manage by nudge.
I nudge projects and communication along with lots of replies. I found out that replying to email messages in Mail means that reply-to windows pop up helter skelter all over my Mac’s window. Postbox’s Quick Reply makes it very easy to reply to a message.
Postbox takes Mail’s threaded view and extends it to Conversation views. After all, email is really delayed conversation—one or two sentences at a time.
It’s really a unified view of the email threads on specific subjects from specific people. This is very handy when trying to keep track of very long email threads.
Now, let me move on to a few functions which Apple does not do well in Mail.
First, tabs. Please, Apple. It’s the 21st century already. Tabs are an easy, easy, easy way to organize information. You have it in Safari. It’s a common feature. Why not Mail?
Postbox has tabs. What would you put into a tab? Let me start with email message archives. Email, over time, gets messy and cluttered, no matter which email app you use. Postbox has a single click Archive function that takes the clutter, moves it away, out of view, but gives you options to see it all again.
Postbox has filters.
I’m not talking incoming email filters to segregate your email.
I like categorizing email messages by keyword, by topic, by user.
Signatures are a must. With so many different email accounts, it’s easy to get the wrong signature on the wrong reply or message. Postbox handles signatures a little better than Apple’s Mail, but it’s cosmetic, not functionally superior.
An area where I have a problem with Postbox is an area that I dislike in Mail. To-do items. Postbox brings yet another to-do list. I sometimes feel I need an app to manage all the to-do apps available for Mac users. On the other hand, Postbox has far more keyboard commands than Mail—perfect for those of us who can type email while we’re sleeping.
Finally, I know that’s far more than four reasons to love Postbox. This one tops my list. The Postbox window. Everything is right there, perfect for Mac power email users with large screens. If you’re using a 13-inch MacBook Pro, MacBook, or MacBook Air, it’s a different story.
After a week of walking through Postbox, I declare it more useful and better thought out than Thunderbird, more powerful than Mail, and almost ready for prime time, despite the price tag.
What’s holding me back? Microsoft’s Outlook for Mac. I need an email app I can live with for a long time, and one that I expect to be around for a long time.