Postbox: a Facelift (and More!) for Thunderbird


I’ve been busy preparing for a transition of many co-workers to a Microsoft Exchange service lately. Until that migration occurs, we use a web interface and/or Thunderbird to interact with the IMAP mail server. For context, I am a big fan of Thunderbird and prefer it over other similar desktop clients. Much of my time recently has been spent figuring out Outlook instead of using Thunderbird and keeping my ear to the ground for related mail applications. That being said, I still managed to catch Postbox in the beta stage and I have to say I’m quite impressed with the modifications they’ve made over Thunderbird.

You setup your accounts inside of Postbox just like you would Thunderbird, except Postbox has a number of preset accounts to make it even easier for you to connect to popular mail clients like Gmail, Windows Live Hotmail, or Yahoo! Mail. Postbox can import settings and configurations from other clients just like Thunderbird and including Thunderbird. Migrating my settings and local folders to Postbox from TB was very simple and very quick.


One thing Postbox brings with it is the To-Do list. You can just create a new entry for the To-Do list and it will put it at the top of your e-mail stack. Just put in a Subject and body and it will get added to the task list. If you look at your e-mail in another client, these to-do list entries simply look like standard e-mails. This is a fast replacement for those of us who e-mail ourselves notes and reminders.


Thunderbird has the next feature already, but Postbox really brings it to the forefront. This makes it more useful, more visible, and really more likely to be used. You can assign Topics to e-mails and you can create your own topics along with the default ones like Important, Work, and Personal. This tagging helps keep things organized and also aligns things with the To-Do list mentality of many e-mail clients.


Postbox uses tabs near the top of the client window to show different categories and inboxes. One very cool use of the tabs is the way Postbox can make the content of your e-mail available to you in different ways. For an example, look at the screenshot below. There are multiple tabs for images, attachments, and links, as well as two tabs for different folders. Under the images tab, all the images in your e-mails for the account selected will be displayed. (This would be more impressive if I had more than one image…) The same is true for the attachments and links tabs; all attachments will be listed plainly under its own tab, and all links from your e-mails will be listed with a little bit of accompanying context under the Links tab. This can be very helpful in getting to the meat of your e-mails and looking through archived (historically sorted) messages.


The compose window for Postbox really has a lot to be exploited for the e-mail power user as well. The compose window brings with it a small version of the attachments, links, and images tabs seen above, as well as a few other cool features. Integrated into the sidebar for the Postbox compose window includes: Google Maps, Yelp search, Thesaurus, and an easy signature selection.


Postbox also has a great search feature, the ability to archive messages at the press of a button (puts a message in a folder under your inbox called Archive), conversation views, contact panes, and quick links to help you find related messages to the one you’re looking at in the Reading pane.

Postbox is based off of Mozilla’s code and has a lot of the great features you’re already used to with Thunderbird. With similar accounts setup, Postbox had a little bit bigger footprint (40MB) compared to Thunderbird (27MB) as a running process. Your mileage may differ depending on your accounts, messages, and e-mail habits. The beta has been perfectly stable in my experience. Check it out now and provide some feedback to the developers to create the ultimate e-mail client.

Version tested: 1.0 beta12

Compatibility: Windows XP or Vista. Mac OS X (Tiger 10.4 and Leopard 10.5)

Go to the Postbox homepage for more info and to download the latestoar version (approx 7.73 megs).