I’ve been in the process of attempting to reduce the electronic clutter in my life. I talked a little bit about this before, and I’ve certainly haven’t missed the deluge of posts in my RSS feed. I decided to take the next step and try to see if I could make myself a “Inbox Zero” kind of person. I’ve flirted with Mailbox and others before, but I tended to revert to a combination of the vanialla Mail (for personal use) and the standard Gmail app (for work email). However, neither of these really helped in the “quickly clearing junk out of my Inbox” kind of way. Enter Inbox.
One of the main reasons that I’ve been somewhat stuck with Gmail as my mobile email reader of choice for work email is that I heavily utilize Gmail labels. As Inbox is, of course, a Google product and doesn’t seem to break anything.
The beauty of Inbox is two-fold:
Bundling just seems to work.
Yes, I know, “It just works” is an Apple thing. But in this case Google seems to be using my own labels systems to help bundle together things of comparable email types. What’s really magical about this is that you can then (with a swipe or a button press) mark as “done” (a.k.a “Mark as read” and “Archive” for those of us using the web interface) an entire category of emails. This is particularly useful for scanning through retail spammy emails that I get. For a while I’ve had these just routed into a folder that bypasses my Inbox completely. I’ve lost a couple of important emails that way, so now I can just glance through everything and quickly junk an entire week’s worth of spam and/or notifications (Facebook, I’m looking at you).
Snooze is awesome.
Along with “Swipe to mark done” there’s also “Swipe to snooze” (a la Mailbox and half a dozen other things now). The real beauty here is the ability to quickly and easily snooze something until some time in the future. Often this is “tomorrow morning”. Sometimes this is “next week”. I wish I could change the default snooze periods (can’t, as far as I can tell), but it’s certainly flexible enough that I use this all the time. This allows me to use my inbox as an active To Do list (something I’ve learned from my wife, and which is incredibly effective). This also means that when I’m checking my email I’m not seeing a long list of emails, each of which I have to look at and think to myself “Nope, I’ll get back to that next week.” Those emails just magically appear in my inbox on Monday morning, leaving me free to completely forget about them. I don’t think I can stress how refreshing it is to free my brain up from this kind of task.
There are a couple of issues that don’t quite work perfectly yet. Some of these are probably things that are coming (there are already three options for when to Snooze, so they might as well let me pick when this is). One that’s kind of a weird is the lack of the use of the “Starred” flag. Right now I’m keeping my inbox as my “prompt” To Do list, with the “Starred” category as my slightly longer term action items. Inbox itself doesn’t seem to want to let me flag things as “Starred”. There is a “Pin” option, which prevents an email from disappearing when you mark a whole Bundle as “Done”, but this isn’t quite the same. It could just be a design choice, implying that if a user is going to rely on the Starred folder, then they’re most likely at a computer, whereas Inbox is really meant for quickly dealing with your email Inbox. I actually find myself leaving the job of cleaning out both my personal and work email inboxes to when I’m on the phone beacuase this is actually more efficient than using a full computer interface.
In the end…
Inbox is probably the best email client for someone like me, who’s fully connected via Gmail accounts. For someone who’s been roped into some kind of enterprise email scenario (Outlook), then I doubt this’ll be much use. It feels like there’s a lot of server-side work going on to make the Inbox magic happen, and I just think taht classic email servers might be a little too rigid to make this work. For me, I’ll be happy with my empty inbox.