The first time I heard about Postbox, it was a relatively new email client for the Mac. Based on the details in the first announcement and my trial run, I was very intrigued. I recall telling the rest of TUAW that -- if its stated goals were achieved -- it had the potential to take over my Mail.app setup.
See, I love my setup, but everything that I really like about Mail has been added by plugins, and those plugins require a certain performance and stability sacrifice. It would be bittersweet to part with everything I've built there, but it would be a welcome change if it were a step up. With better task management, great search features, tabbed views, a plugin architecture and more, Postbox has always struck me as a serious challenger.
Since the last time we mentioned it, Postbox (which is Mozilla-powered) has continued to become more Mac-like, with system-wide Address Book sync, notification integration with iCal, Spotlight indexing, and more drag and drop features. There's even a way to instantly transfer photos to iPhoto, making it easy to save all of those travel pictures your mom decided to send ... one attachment at a time. Most important (to me), the most recent release (1.1.2) has added integration features for task managers Things and OmniFocus.
If you've ever explored productivity apps on the Mac, you've probably at least tried one of these to-do list apps before. We've covered both Things and OmniFocus quite a bit in the past. The consensus that came out of the early battle between these two prominent apps was -- to put it (too) simply -- that Things (a 2009 Macworld Best in Show winner) was the simpler, more elegant one, and OmniFocus (a 2008 Best in Show winner) was the complex, more powerful one. Whichever you prefer, if your task manager is one of these, you can now turn emails in Postbox directly into tasks (with a link back to the original message in the notes). It's not a new concept to Mail.app users, but it's been something that many people who've switched to Postbox (or are thinking about it) have sorely missed. I'm hoping this is a step towards an architecture that will allow any task management app (or other note-taking/productivity apps) to do the same, in the way Mail's AppleScript dictionary makes possible. It is possible, right now, to drag a message to create a link to it in another app. I just want to be able to script that!
I won't delve into all of the previously-existing features (we've been there before), but I'll highlight a couple that have really been tempting me. First, there's a great GMail vibe to the message handling, including "conversation" views (like threaded views where you can read an entire conversation at once), and Topics (essentially tags, or labels if you're familiar with GMail). A message can have multiple topics, allowing it to exist in multiple places in your organization scheme, similar to MailTags for Mail. Instead of flagging messages (or starring, in GMail parlance), you add a To-Do item to it, and those can be easily searched, pinned and integrated with your workflow. They show up as flags or stars, too, if you view the same message elsewhere. To-Do's can exist on their own, too, without being attached to an email. The search features of Postbox are pretty stunning, too, with speed, accuracy and flexibility. If you want to see all of the images, links, or attachments in a message, conversation or entire mailbox, you can pop up a new tab and do just that. It's a powerful package.
I've only tested Postbox with IMAP, so I can't attest to its performance with POP accounts. My Google Apps account works great with it, and it causes no problems with Mail on my iPhone. I've tested it with both Things and OmniFocus, and the new integration features are working perfectly.
You can read up on the latest developments at the Postbox blog. The Things/OmniFocus integration works right out of the gate, but you'll probably want to grab the latest version of your chosen task manager just to be sure. The prior inability to link back to my emails was the biggest issue holding me back, so I'm giving Postbox an extended test run right now. We'll see if it ultimately fits in to my up-'til-now Cocoa-only organization app lineup ... I'll let you know how it goes. If you're tired of Mail.app's lack of advanced features (or the shenanigans involved with adding them), you can try Postbox for free, and pick up a license for $39.95US. If you haven't already picked a task manager, Things and OmniFocus, both have free trials as well.