0192E: Trying Out Inbox

So last week I finally got an invite for the new Inbox by Gmail, their new experiment in terms of email management. I've been a Gmail user for many years now and I have to admit that I've been happy with how I've managed to setup my account to do precisely what I want it to do. I never even got around to trying out Gmail's Priority Inbox until recently, and that too was in anticipation of Inbox.

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Inbox - it seemed to be an effort to combine an email app with a to-do app all dressed up to look like a social media page. And that's a pretty weird description, but I think it begins to capture what this app seems to do. But as is often the case with Google services, it's a lot more than that as well.

The first thing you'll notice is how Inbox clusters emails into Bundles in the same way Priority Inbox separated your messages into tabs. But instead of presenting them in completely different tabs, here they a bundle appears like an email message conversation would in the original Gmail. One tap and you'll pop the whole bundle open. You can click a message to read it or just process the entire batch in one go. Thus emails can be tagged as "done", which essentially archives it and pushes it out of view, or you can pin them to have them act as persistent reminders. Deleting an entire batch of messages is not immediately visible - this is marked as "Move to Trash" in the menu in the upper right corner.

Trying to get more people to make decisions regarding their messages as done or whatever is certainly an interesting way to get people to that goal of Inbox Zero. You can also turn email messages into reminders for tasks or just Snooze them to reappear in your inbox when you need them. For example a marketing email for a possible gift for a loved one can be snoozed for the weekend when have time to actually buy things.

Inbox still operates using Gmail as a backend platform so things you do in Inbox will affect how they will appear in Gmail. At this phase a lot of the integration into other Google Apps like the Google+ share button or even the option to view your Google Calendar or Tasks have been dropped for now. Most of your filters won't matter at this point since grouping messages into Bundles seems to be the greater priority. I expect some of these features may find their way back into Inbox as they flesh out the tool set, but for now it's highly focused on just handling your email faster and getting more people to create to-do lists. This actually feels like a better task list than Google Tasks is, especially given how it has such strong ties to your email.

On the whole Inbox feels like a training tool to help people who are drowning in email. yo may not think that you have enough email as a personal user to need something like Inbox, but just dealing with promotional emails and other updates alone has had me really thinking about my workflows.