The Google Gods have smiled on me and let me play with Inbox!

I guess my wistful post from yesterday about what I’d like to see in a new take on email tugged someone’s heartstrings and I have an Inbox to play with today. I’ve tried it on phone, tablet and laptop and there is only one thing I can be sure of already: it will take time to get used to it. That’s not a bad thing, it just means that Google has made many interesting changes to the way users interact with their messages. Inbox deserves respect for the change and the patience to get used to it. It is easy to balk at the differences and crawl back to Gmail but I do think that Inbox deserves a long grace period.

First, what I love:

Snooze: my new best friend

Snooze: my new best friend

  • Snooze is my favorite new feature. Yesterday I mentioned that I need a status between “unread” and “read” emails, one that indicates “I read it on one device but I really need a reminder to look at it again” and Snooze is exactly that. It will be easy for me to adopt and use it.
  • Reminders: Reminders are sort of a lost child of the “productivity” apps such as mail, calendar, notes (Keep) and the various list apps such as Evernote. My recent attempt to finish a task was to put it on my calendar for noon the following day, then move it day after day to the following day. It was ridiculous. So I really like Reminders. I just wish they’d stay at the top of my box until I dismiss them. Sometimes we all need a nudge.
  • Pinning: I like being able to view only pinned items, it’s a clean way to see what’s important and urgent and because it is not automated, it’s something I feel I have control over. I will use this.
  • Bundling: In gmail I could use filters to define labels or actions. Now I can use that definition to turn on bundling, so that all emails that match the filter criteria can show up in one, well, bundle in my inbox. There are also some Inbox defined bundles that include Travel, Purchases, Finance, Social, Updates, Forums and Promos. Inbox seems to be good at sorting those into the right bundles, which is great. Inbox also seems good at distinguishing between purchase receipts and promotional email from the same vendor. I love this feature.
  • Duality: I love that I can access my emails from both Gmail and Inbox at the same time. This duality gives me the best of both: the rigidness, efficiency, and predictability of Gmail while I’m trying the new Inbox features.

The problems I have seen so far:

Tablet Inbox: lots of white space.

Inbox on tablet: lots of white space

  • Layout: There are some awkward screen layouts with lots of valuable empty space. The preview pane gives some information but as it is formatted in rectangular shapes, there is room for more information, provided it is well placed and necessary. For example, for receipts, show me the arrival time and the product. For invitations, highlight the date and time and show me a map. The line-by-line layout of Gmail while boring, certainly made it easy to review.
  • Bundling: See, it’s above in “things I like” because I like the concept of bundling similar messages, but I’m still confused about how the bundles are presented in Inbox’s main screen. It looks like it puts the bundle with the latest message in it on top but the constant shift makes it hard for me to find what I need. I will have to get used to this.

 

Notifications:  browser tabs should show a new message

Notifications: browser tabs should show a new message

  • Notifications: I still have Gmail and Inbox installed on my tablet and phone and only Gmail is notifying me of new mails. It’s the same on my desktop where only the Gmail tab indicates a new mail. Perhaps this is to avoid an overload and I do see some notification settings but even though I have tinkered with them, I still don’t see the notifications I’d like.

Now I’m curious to see what other users think and I’m off to read more reviews. This is a subject many users are passionate about so this should be interesting.

 

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