Monday, September 7, 2015

Postbox: Now Worse than Microsoft

Normally I use this blog exclusively for technical articles but in this case I will be mixing a little tech with a little op-ed.

A while back I switched my E-mail client to Postbox, which is derived from Mozilla Thunderbird.  It wasn't free, but I didn't mind paying for something with a little more polish and presumably, support.  I had been happy with it for the time I used it, until recently when it automatically updated to version 4.  Cool.  It had a more mobile app aesthetic as is common for a lot of applications these days, and supposedly had a bunch of improvements and features.

What I didn't know at the time was that you have to pay for this upgrade.  No, having an existing license for the previous version does NOT unlock the new one.  I found that mildly annoying, since I use several paid-for applications that allow me to continue to use my license to receive upgrades.

So whatever... I was happy with Postbox 3 so I didn't worry too much about it, hoping that when the "trial period" ended I could just downgrade back to the version I had already paid for.  Kinda like how if, in the past, if you didn't want to pay to buy the newest Windows version you could just stick with the one you already had.  (You still can, if you don't like being spied on.  I am still sitting on Windows 7 thank you very much.)

Guess what?  That isn't an option.  As of this morning, I can no longer use Postbox to send or receive E-mails unless I pay for the upgraded license.  If I had kept my original installation .exe I could perhaps have reinstalled the old one with the license, but I generally don't keep that stuff on my system to clutter it up because USUALLY if I need to roll back I can always go online and get the older version downloaded again.

So here I sit, unable to use software I paid for.  Looks like I'll be importing my E-mails into one of the free E-mail clients, like Thunderbird.

Before I get to that though, I have some remarks for the people at Postbox.  I notice their "Contact Us" page doesn't seem to have a simple mechanism for sending them some feedback, though they do provide a snail mail address for "Fan Mail."

A bit full of ourselves, are we?

I do find it telling that they don't seem to want to hear directly from their "fans" through some kind of E-mail mechanism.  Anyway, here's what I have to say.

Dear Postbox Management and Development team,

I really have to hand it to you.  You have managed to make Microsoft, the company with one of the most evil reputations in the IT industry, look reasonable.  I can understand how a small company that doesn't have a ton of operating capital might need to charge for major updates to their product.  I get that, but what you've done here is to eliminate choice.  As a user of your product, I'm being forced to pay you to continue to use software that I already paid for once before.  As far as I can tell, I've never had the option to downgrade back from the trial version of Postbox 4, and if you included some kind of warning before I installed the version 4 update, I didn't notice it.  I've read articles in the past about the reputation your company has with its customers, and what I'm seeing here does seem to support the idea that you really don't have much regard for your customers, only their money.  On top of that, you have the gall to call incoming correspondence "fan mail."  I don't know whether to laugh out loud or just shake my head ruefully.  For you, I think I'll try to do both simultaneously.  

It isn't even like your product is great enough to justify paying for every major upgrade (or buying the "lifetime license" I've heard about.)  As someone who has used both your product and Mozilla Thunderbird, I don't see a dime's worth of difference between the two, only Mozilla gives Thunderbird away for free.  You know Thunderbird, I assume, as it's the basis for Postbox in the first place.  If I recall correctly, I purchased Postbox originally for $10, and now you want another $15 for the privilege of continuing to use the application.  Your site talks about all of the wonderful new features of Postbox 4, but I never noticed much of a difference except for a rather more awkward and Romper-Room looking interface.

In any case, I won't be paying you again for the same software, whatever your claims are about the superiority of version 4.  You got me once, it won't happen again.  Frankly I never saw much advantage to Postbox over Thunderbird in the first place, and had only been using it because I'd already paid for it.  I will close this message now, but I won't wish you well.  I think companies that do business like yours does deserve to fail.  Instead, I'll wish you wisdom, that you might realize how this alienates customers and will make good adjustments in the future.  

Ok, with that out of the way, let's talk about migrating to Thunderbird.

First, don't bother with the instructions on Postbox's support page.  As of the time I'm writing this, they're from 2009 and not only use basically the same procedure as if you were using Thunderbird already (remember, Postbox is Thunderbird with tweaks.) but they also even provide a link to a Mozilla support page for additional information.

It's really just a simple mater of using Import and Export tools from within Thunderbird to import your E-mail folders from Postbox.  You'll find them in Windows in AppData/Roaming/Postbox and AppData/Local/Postbox.  I haven't quite got the hang of managing E-mail folders so I can't offer any advice there, but at least this will enable you to save your messages so you can safely get rid of Postbox if you want to.

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