I’ve used an awful lot of email clients in my time, starting way back when dinosaurs ruled the earth with Eudora. Since then, the desktop email client has remained a staid software category. New products and updates to existing ones tend to merely beautify the email experience rather than improve it.
So email is still a slog as the inbox represents the morning dirge of our daily routines. This is what’s driven many people (myself included) to other forms of more efficient communication like instant messaging, text messaging, and Twitter. But there’s clearly still love left in the world for email, despite the 80+% spam rate.
So it’s exciting when new email clients comes along that are full of new ideas. Two recently caught my attention. One is a cross-platform desktop client, the other is web-based.
Postbox is an evolution of the discontinued Thunderbird client. Apparently when the project got nixed by Mozilla.org, Thunderbird’s developers decided to go independent with their good ideas. Thank goodness they did, because Postbox is a truly out-of-inbox experience.
The emphasis with Postbox appears to be on building efficiencies with message composition and received message organization. Tabbed message browsing, common with web browsers, is built in. Even better, though, you can generate search tabs with a single click that highlight certain types of content from email messages.
Say you got a message last week with a link in it you wanted to explore, but you can’t remember anything else about the message. A search tab in Postbox can quickly help you narrow your quest and filter out extraneous information. Twice in the past week this feature alone saved me a ton of time.
My favourite feature in Postbox so far, however, has been the Inspector pane. This is a small panel that sits beside each message you receive (it can be turned off) and summarizes the content. Attachments, images, even addresses and telephone numbers in a message will be collected and summarized in the Inspector pane.
This makes it easy to quickly preview and digest the contents of messages. What I’ve found really useful about the Inspector pane, though, is the way it highlights and makes accessible the “unsubscribe” link that email marketers tend to bury waaaaaay at the bottom of their insidious deliveries. My inbox is feeling much lighter after a week with Postbox, just for that feature alone.
Sort of the reverse idea of the Inspector pane, Postbox’s Compose sidebar is a brilliant feature that makes it easy to repurpose content likes photos, documents, and links by making them readily available. It’s the sort of feature that you don’t really understand the extreme value of until you’ve used it a few times and it’s saved you a ton of time slogging through old email in search of that one attachment you wanted to share with someone.
One feature that doesn’t seem to be fully implemented in the current beta that is particularly interesting: Postbox can post to social media environments. So if you want to share a cool attachment from your inbox to Facebook, Postbox makes that a one-click affair.
Surprisingly, that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Postbox. It has a slew of other great features that are all worth exploring.
However, despite its very creative and helpful feature set, Postbox isn’t ready to knock Apple’s Mail off my system just yet. It lacks some bedrock integration features that I depend on in Mail, such as event and task posting to iCal using the third-party MailTags add-on. And I’m really not too keen on the organization of the application’s preferences, nor on the basic message composition window (it’s still a tad mozilla-esque for my taste).
But there’s one thing that Postbox has going for it: a folder is a folder, and a box is a box (how I’d fix some apple mail interface wackiness). And, hey, it’s a brand new beta app, so there’s no doubt plenty of improvement on the way.
Another email client that shows tremendous promise is OtherInbox.
Currently in private beta, OtherInbox seems to be less a general client than it is an efficient and optimized automatic email sorting service that demonstrates some semblance of intelligence.
That sounds pretty minor, but just that feature alone could attract professionals who are just too busy to manage their personal deluge of email communication, but who are desparate to get it organized. I have one client I’m thinking of in particular who, no matter how hard she tries, cannot get control of her inbox.
OtherInbox would seem to be an excellent first step in mastering the beast with a classic divide-and-conquer strategy. I’m looking forward to giving it a try some time.
Although I consider us to be in the twilight of email, it’s still nice to see some new ideas coming to the medium. Products like Postbox and OtherInbox seem to finally promise users some respite from the stress that email inherently brings.