Email stinks. It’s a cluttered, unfiltered mess that isn’t very useful when it comes to prioritizing your workflow or getting things done.
This is why I’ve become such a fan of Google’s new take on an email app, Inbox. It goes far beyond Google’s previous attempts to help you organize and sort messages with Gmail’s various tools. It’s a paradigm shift in how you work email – you have to learn to trust it and change some of your habits. However, if you’re willing to shift your workflow some you’ll find Inbox to be the ideal, all-in-one solution that lets you keep everything set with several slick tools.
BETTER DESIGN AND UTILITY
Google has dabbled with changing up Gmail before – the most recent shift being to filter your email into different tabs like Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. The problem is all that did was reshuffle the deck. The mess was still there, just arranged differently.
Inbox is different in that it taps into significantly more machine learning to pull out information in context. The app also integrates with Google’s Reminders to give you a true Get Things Done workflow style.
For example, all your travel emails are collected together and Google pulls out the essential details into a handy card. Same goes for purchases, shipping details, and calendar events – it makes this information much easier to spot at a glance. I’ve found this to be essential while on mobile, and now it’s a part of my workflow that I just can’t live without.
WHY INBOX IS BETTER THAN GMAIL
The most powerful component to Inbox is that it truly is your core Inbox for getting work done. By letting you snooze messages to appear later, set reminders, and automatically organize the messages it helps you in knowing what you should be doing and keeping the key information in one place that’s easy to search through.
Inbox details - the floating action button quickly pulls up contacts or launches a reminder. Then Inbox will autosuggest information when creating a reminder, even including a phone number or address for certain businesses or contacts.
Even better, you can fell batches of messages in one swoop. Similar to the Sweep feature in Outlook.com you’re able to mark one or all of them as Done, which is much faster than selecting groups of messages for deletion or archival. This specific function takes a bit of an adjustment. You have to be OK with the idea that you’re mass archiving a lot of messages you haven’t read. The idea that it might clutter up your archive searches is a valid concern. If so, go to Settings > Account name > When removing messages I prefer to. Then select Mark as Done or Move to Trash.
Mark as Done: If you wish you can send batches of emails to your archive or the trash.
I like the bundles better than Gmail filters for organization, because it’s automatic and more visual. But your labels are still there – they live along the side with the other bundles. You can move a message to one of them just as before, so this piece of your workflow doesn’t need to change. Unfortunately they’re in garish gray for now – hopefully Google will let you add in some colors and icons to change this up.
Google’s machine learning is behind a lot of what makes Inbox so compelling. Another nice feature is how it will autosuggest replies, which I’ve been using with increasing frequency to fire off a response. What that says about how personal I’m being to my contacts, of course, is a philosophical question worth pondering.
I’ve also come to rely on how Inbox will help with setting reminders. Once you create a new reminder, details like the phone number, email address or web link will appear automatically. This way if you’re supposed to call a contact at 11 AM, your reminder will pop up and you can tap the number to initiate the call – no need to dig through the dialer. Also, Inbox will show any reminders you set in Google Keep, so there’s no need to switch apps to check up on what you’re supposed to be doing.
Inbox reminder: Google will help you file that reminder with some automatic suggestions.
The key is that you have to learn to trust Inbox and its automatic sorting. If something ends up in the wrong place (it will), then select the message and send it elsewhere.
Teach Inbox where those messages should really go.
By employing these tactics you may be able to reach the elusive Inbox Zero. But you don’t have to – Inbox is designed to be more of a to-do list, recognizing that essential details that we need for work typically live in our email. Instead of saving everything to something like OneNote or Evernote, you can find it here.
HOW TO USE INBOX IN TANDEM WITH GMAIL
While Inbox has come leaps and bounds from when it launched, it still might not be ready to fully replace Gmail for you. Search with Gmail (on the desktop) will look through your Drive contents and contacts. Formatting choices are better. And there are far more options for importing and exporting mail to different accounts. If you’re a true Gmail power user, it may be best to use Inbox in tandem. up.
For example, you might find that Inbox is great with its ability to swipe away messages, view your reminders, and quickly find your travel reservations. But on the desktop you might want to go through messages based on their arrival time or rely on your labeling system.
Inbox trips: While Gmail may do a better job with specific messages, you can’t beat the automatic organization capabilities of Inbox.
One solution you may want to try if you’d like to slowly ease yourself into Inbox is to use Gmail on the desktop and Inbox on your mobile device. This especially may be attractive if you have a widescreen monitor, as Inbox can get particularly stark to look at with all that white space. Also, sometimes the slick animations are frustrating – when you’re in a hurry you’d rather that Inbox just opens the message already.
While Inbox represents the future of Gmail, it still has some ways that I’d love to see it grow. Like the Android version of Gmail or Outlook, Google should give you the ability to work with any other email accounts, like Outlook.com, Exchange ActiveSync, or IMAP. But Inbox has changed the game enough that it’s my daily email tool, and it might be yours also if you’re willing to buy into a new system.