Inbox by Gmail

Gmail is the tool which handles all of my email accounts. I like it because I can access it and handle it from anywhere. Archiving or deleting a message on one device handles it across all devices. At the end of the day, the inbox is empty.

I use “Priority Inbox.” If you use Gmail, you can enable Priority Inbox by clicking on “Inbox” and selecting “Priority Inbox” from the list.

Gmail Priority Inbox


Priority Inbox segments the inbox into two parts: one for the emails Gmail deems “Important” and one part for “Everything Else.” This cute video presents the concept:

You may also customize Priority Inbox by going to the Gmail settings, accessed by clicking the cog on the right-hand side of the screen and selecting “Inbox.” Over time, you teach Priority Inbox what’s important to you and what’s not. Every email has an irregular pentagon shape on its left-hand side. That pentagon is either colored yellow, or it’s clear. Clicking on that pentagon toggles the yellow fill on and off. Clicking the yellow “on” tells Gmail that email from that sender should be considered “Important” from there on. Un-clicking the yellow tells Gmail that messages from that sender should appear in the “Everything Else” section.

With my email segmented into these two sections, I can fly through it when at my desktop computer. The “Everything Else” section takes virtually no time. I either skim the messages, forward any to read later to Toodledo, or delete without reading. All “Important” email is together, and I can spend the needed time on each one with a clear idea of just how many of those I have.

From my mobiles devices, Priority Inbox only includes the “Important” ones in the notifications. When I open the Gmail app on my mobile devices, all I see is the list of “Important” messages. I can manually view the “Everything Else,” but generally wait and handle it in one batch at my computer.

At the end of the day, all email which requires a reply has received a reply. All email which needs to be acted on later has been forwarded to Toodledo. All email which needs to be saved “just in case” has been archived. All email which needs to be saved because of its value as lasting reference information has been forwarded to Evernote. Everything else has been deleted.

At the end of the day, my Inbox is empty. That’s what works!

So Why Inbox by Gmail?

If you need an intro to Inbox by Gmail, this video is just over 7 minutes and explains the features well:

Inbox by Gmail would work well for the person who keeps all email in the inbox. It does provide some amount of organization and notifies the user how many new items have been received in each area (travel, purchases, finance, social, and promos). The downside is that to view messages, it requires opening each one of those sections. For those of us who have a goal of an empty email inbox, we now have more places we must examine and empty.

On the upside, Inbox by Gmail does help when searching for an archived email. For example, I may need to review an airline or hotel confirmation. When I receive that type of email, I first forward it to Worldmate, a service I use to organize travel information. I then archive the email. I can retrieve it by searching “All mail” and including a search term, such as “Delta” or “Hampton Inn.” With Inbox by Gmail, I tap the Travel “bundle” and see all emails related to airline, hotel, or rental car reservations.


Inbox by Gmail


That being said, if this section was long and I needed to search that bundle, a search also returns results from all other emails, not just the bundle I wish to search. For example, suppose I am looking for a particular reservation for a Hampton Inn. I go to the Travel bundle. Suppose that list is lengthy. I tap the “search” icon and enter “Hampton.” My results will also include emails sent to someone whose last name is “Hampton.”

One feature I do like is that when I compose an email (by tapping the red circle with the “+” inside), I am presented with a list of the several people I email most. With a single tap, I can compose a message to one of those people.

For me, the jury is very much still out on Inbox by Gmail. For the person who lives in email, tries to use the inbox as their to-do list, and tries to use email as their reference system, Inbox by Gmail may just be the answer. For those of us who like the looks of an empty inbox and maximize use of a dedicated to-do app and dedicated notes app, Inbox by Gmail seems more like a solution in search of a problem.

Inbox by Gmail is being rolled out slowly, and currently by invitation. How did I get mine? I posted in Twitter that I wanted one. Someone who already had it sent me an invitation. After a few days, I noticed that tapping the red circle revealed an option not only to compose an email to one of my close contacts, but to also send invitations. Once I had sent three invitations (all to people who requested them from me via Twitter), that icon disappeared. So, it looks like three invitations is all a user is able to send.

Want to try Inbox by Gmail? Do what I did. Go on Twitter and ask for an invitation. Twitter is a magical place where you can ask the whole world a question and someone you may never have met will help you with the answer.

Is anyone using Inbox by Gmail now? What are your impressions?