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Former Mozilla developers deliver new e-mail tool

Designed by former Thunderbird programmer, Postbox offers integrated search, content cataloging

February 9, 2009 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Postbox Inc. today launched a public beta of its namesake e-mail client, which is based on Firefox and Thunderbird and offers automatic indexing of all content, including attachments and photos.

Postbox was founded and is staffed by several former Mozilla Corp. developers. Its software was built using Mozilla's Gecko browser engine, and it's based on Thunderbird, Mozilla's own e-mail software, said Scott MacGregor, one of Postbox's co-founders. MacGregor was one of the two Mozilla employees who headed Thunderbird development efforts before then-CEO Mitchell Baker pulled the plug on the e-mail program.

Thunderbird was eventually shunted to spin-off Mozilla Messaging Inc. MacGregor left Mozilla in the fall of 2007.

Available in versions for Windows XP and Vista, as well as Mac OS X 10.4 and 10.5, Postbox is at root an e-mail client with added functions, said MacGregor. "It's aimed at empowering people to do more with their e-mail on their desktop," he said.

Discussing the software's features, MacGregor highlighted the integrated indexing and search, as well as something called the "Compose Sidebar."

Although Postbox's search function resembles Desktop Search, the Microsoft-made desktop search tool built into Windows Vista and available as an optional download for XP, MacGregor noted that his application shows results "in line with the data that you're using. You see the results directly within the e-mail client."

Desktop Search, on the other hand, shows results as a list on the Windows desktop, or within Windows Explorer.

"The sidebar lets you drag content right into messages," MacGregor added, referring to the Compose Sidebar. Available beside the message composition pane, the sidebar shows such things as attachments, photos and links located with a search; those items can be added to a new message by dragging and dropping.

"We also give the ability to browse attachments, and once you find one you're looking for, repurpose that content in another message, or elsewhere," said MacGregor. Postbox provides "connectors" to share e-mailed content with a variety of Web services, ranging from Facebook to Twitter.

Although the e-mailer is based on Mozilla's open-source code, MacGregor wasn't willing to say that Postbox itself would also be open source. "It's too early for us to know right now," he said, adding that the self-funded company is still trying to decide on a business model. "We're going to use the beta to flesh that out," MacGregor said.

Postbox boasts other former Mozilla developers, including co-founder Sherman Dickman, who was the director of product management at Mozilla, and Seth Spitzer, a software engineer who worked on Firefox.

The public beta, which can be downloaded for free from Postbox's site, will lead to a Version 1.0, probably by spring, said MacGregor. A Linux version is under development.

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