Email with PostBox

Email is something 99% of us do every day. Certainly if you’re an online worker (designer, programmer…) then email is a huge part of how you run your business. Gaining efficiency in your email sorting/writing/deleting can reap huge gains in overall daily productivity.

The Contender

In steps [Postbox](http://postbox-inc.com/ref.php?r=R8RFPKC) to help you battle the deadly time suck that is email. Postbox is based on the open source [Thunderbird](http://www.mozillamessaging.com/en-US/thunderbird/) (from Mozilla) email engine. This means that out of the gate the developers of Postbox didn’t have to worry about the little things like connection to different email protocols, basic UI layout…and could focus on providing a refined product to users.

The Postbox interface
The Postbox interface

The Good

Aside from many of the expected features of an email client (multiple accounts, POP/IMAP) the biggest ‘pro’ for Postbox is it’s cross platform support, yeah that’s right it runs on both OS X and Windows. Couple that fact with the awesome license of Postbox (purchase includes both platforms) and you’ve got one awesome reason to drop some coin if you are split between systems and crave some consistency (as I was for a long time).

My second most loved feature of Postbox is the extensive list of [keyboard shortcuts](http://www.postbox-inc.com/support/postbox2_shortcuts) available. It’s a fact that moving from typing to the mouse slows you down so any time you can cut out that movement you’ve saved yourself some time. Need to move an email to a folder, no need to drag and drop when ‘V’ is right there. Need to move to one of the other accounts in Postbox hit ‘G’ then type inbox and pick the one you want. There are way more available so go check them all out and if you do a task more than once in an email session learn the keyboard shortcut.

Lots of Keyboard Shortcuts
Lots of Keyboard Shortcuts

For you Mac users Postbox also has special support for both Things and Omnifocus. I’m no longer a Things user but I can say that Omnifocus support is top notch and welcome. Clicking the link in Omnifocus will open the email in question, never have reams of unread email as ‘todo’ items in your inbox again.

Before I was a Postbox user I was a Thunderbird user so knowing that the stable platform of Thunderbird sat under this beautiful (seriously way prettier than Thunderbird) client was a huge bonus. I’ve set up Postbox on 3 or 4 machines (both OS X and Windows) and it’s always felt easy. On my Mac it imported everything from Mail.app with no issues. While I could be wrong I don’t ever remember having such an easy time switching email clients even when I was using Thunderbird.

The other advantage of having Postbox based off Thunderbird is that you’ve got a huge list of available plugins. When I wanted a proper Canadian dictionary I just went to the Thunderbird site and downloaded one. Even with that PostBox has a number of extensions that they know work and are [listed on their site](http://www.postbox-inc.com/extensions/).

Postbox certified addons
Postbox certified addons

The Bad

Just like any software Postbox has a few issues though. First the search is supposed to index all your mail (both on site and on the server) to make searching fast. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. I could never find a consistent reason for the search index failure but it happened. I just got in the habit of manually forcing an index of available mail every week or so. Depending on how much mail you have this might be something best left for while you’re on lunch as it can take a while and you’re email is not available while Postbox is indexing.

Indexing can take a while in Postbox
Watching the indexing chug along

Occasional speed issues were also a problem for some (not that I had any). It seems that when your email is starting to operate slow forcing an index cleared up the issue. Again, not a deal breaker but something that’s a bit annoying. Backup of the Postbox folders also seemed to slow down the performance for some so don’t forget to [exclude](http://support.postbox-inc.com/entries/110315-excluding-certain-postbox-files-from-time-machine-on-mac-os-x) them from local backup. Really we should all be using IMAP or Exchange anyway so having another backup is a waste of time/space.

Finally I’ll complain about the Postbox support forums. They have an awesome AJAX search that breaks if you try and navigate back with your browser. I know this isn’t something related directly to the application but if you’re looking for some help or tips you’ll quickly find it annoying which will be a point against the software.

Conclusion

Postbox is a solid email client with a beautiful UI that sits firmly within the predictable realm of every other email client out there. It certainly works and it works well but if you’re looking for true innovation on how you interact with your email look elsewhere (like the great simple UI of Sparrow). With that said I still highly recommend Postbox for its full features and cross platform support. It’s most certainly the best option for any Windows users I’ve seen.

If you’ve on OS X and only/mainly using Gmail or Google Apps then go take a look at my review of [Mailplane](http://wp.me/pTzzZ-1h).

Staying in the Zone by Killing Distraction

The zone is that place where things flow. Birds fly music plays. It’s cheesy, cliche and sometimes hard to come by. Really the zone is where we need to be regularly to get things done. For many of us the zone only sometimes shows its head. We struggle to find it. Love it when it happens and lament when we can’t find it.

It’s kind of like the ‘killing zone’ in the movie Wanted. You start off with it just happening and you have no control. Over time you learn how it works for you and grab the shuttle from the loom. Then you become a master.

The Distractions

Whether you work at home or in an office distractions come at us fast and furious. In the office co-workers visit your desk to chat. At home dogs bark, kids cry, neighbours stop by to say ‘hi’. In either place the phone rings while you are focused. Email comes in and audibly notifies you. You keep your twitter client open and it notifies you (my hands up on that one for sure).

The Weapons of Distraction Death

My primary weapon to kill office distraction is headphones or at the least music. Even if I’m not actually listening to music I have my headphones on. The headphones create a visual barrier for people when they come up to my desk. It makes them think twice when I don’t immediately react to their entry into the office (even though I see it at the edge of my vision). A number of times, when I stay focused for a few seconds extra they leave and shoot me a quick email which I can answer during my email times.

Second you need to turn off your email. Don’t leave it open all day. Don’t respond instantly to every message that comes in. Don’t open your email first thing in the morning. My daily routine goes something like this. I arrive at the office and login to my computer. Open Google reader and triage the items I’m never going to read. Fire up mail.app and triage my secondary email (99% of the time just filing and marking items as spam). Then I open my normal work email and deal with what needs to be dealt with. Once I have dealt with my email I close the window.

I personally have my email set to provide no notification of any fashion when new email comes in. This lets me Tab to Entourage if needed and create a new email from the keyboard without opening the app and seeing what might be there. I only open my email if I am between items of work and have a few minutes that I am not focused on a project. I also open it directly after lunch and just before I leave for the day. It takes a bit for co-workers to realize that you don’t answer email instantly but in the long term they learn and it makes you way more productive.

Finally, stop the social networking. Don’t have Tweetdeck open. At the very least turn off the notifications. For a while I used Seesmic and it lets you turn off all notifications but a small tone if someone DM’s you or replies to you. While I love this feature in Seesmic I went back to Tweetdeck cause it’s way faster. Unfortunately Tweetdeck notifications are on or off. So turn them off or close the application.

While multitasking is all the rage constant interruptions are unproductive. So let’s decide to kill the distractions and get more done. Have any other ideas to kill distractions love to hear them.

photo credit: el patojo via photopin cc