How could this newcomer be as good as Thunderbird? By using all of Thunderbird's software code and adding on features of its own.
Al Fasoldt's reviews and commentaries, continuously available online since 1983


Stop paying for software:
Thunderbird offspring takes the free e-mail crown

August 23, 2009

By Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, Al Fasoldt
Copyright © 2009, The Post-Standard

   Postbox apparently is not free, according to the software's Web site. The beta version, which I tested, is free, but not the final release version. There was no hint of this change in status when I downloaded and installed the program. As a non-free program, Postbox ranks highly, but I recommend Thunderbird to those who do not want to pay for e-mail software.
   The best way to save money is to stop spending it. That's the idea behind my new series on the best free software for Windows and Macs. This week I'm recommending new e-mail software with oustanding organizational features.
   Thunderbird, which I've often recommended as the safest and easiest-to-use e-mail software available, now has a rival. It's called Postbox, and I'm convinced that it's as good as Thunderbird in most ways and even better in the ease-of-use category. Like Thunderbird, Postbox is totally free.
   How could this newcomer be as good as Thunderbird? By using all of Thunderbird's software code and adding on features of its own. This probably sounds illegal, but it's perfectly OK. Thunderbird, a project of the Mozilla Foundation, is an Open Source program, meaning that anyone can improve the code and even create a new program as long as proper credit is given and the new software is also Open Source.
    Postbox is incredible. Adding a couple of features here and there would no doubt make Thunderbird a slick chick, but the programmers of Postbox decided to turn Thunderbird into a different critter altogether -- into the software equivalent of a super-sharp-eyed eagle, able to locate specific messages and attachments within a fraction of a second, even when you have thousands of messages.
   Postbox, like Thunderbird, is available in identical versions for Windows and Macs. The version currently available is a "pre-beta," which supposedly means the program isn't even ready for testing, let alone normal use. But my experience with Postbox left no questions as to whether the software was ready to use. (I don't know why the Postbox engineers call the current version "pre-beta." Maybe they're just being too cautious.)
   You can download the current version from www.postbox-inc.com. The installer normally picks up your e-mail server settings. If it doesn't, you'll need to type the server information into the program.
   Message search is very fast, but it improves to what seems like the speed of light if you categorize your messages -- something that takes only a couple of clicks. I've used e-mail categorizing methods for years, in software from Microsoft Outlook to Apple's Mail, and it's always taken more time than it's worth.
   But not in Postbox. Select one or more messages and click once to assign a category. Once you've listed messages by category, photos attached to those messages are shown off to the right, grouped together -- a brilliant touch. And links within those categorized messages are shown together on the right, too, as are sender and frecipient addresses. You never need to fish through any of your messages for photos, URLs or names.
   There are many more features, including advanced anti-phishing (from an online database updated every 30 minutes) and automatic, no-effort-needed program updates.
   I know how hard it is to change habits and switch e-mail software. But Postbox could make a big difference in how at least part of your life is organized. Give it a try.