This fall Google began testing a new email service called Inbox. I’ve been using it for a couple of weeks. It’s pretty fantastic. I found it very easy to get started with and the various tools are clever and useful. The buzzword-y features it has are: bundles (like folders for different projects, purchases, travel plans), highlights (get important info without having to open that email), reminders (create a reminder that lives in your inbox with everything else), and snooze (set an alert in the future to deal with an email). These are all appealing features that might be available in your current email program, but not as easy to accomplish
There are plenty of online guides written by Getting Things Done (GTD) gurus that will explain possible ways to use the service. Inbox doesn’t force you to do things one particular way, but gives you options to find what works well for you. I like that.
One caveat: at the moment Inbox will work only with Gmail addresses. There is an easy workaround: open Gmail in your browser, click the gear and select Settings. The fourth tab is “Accounts and Import”. There you’ll select “Check mail from other accounts using POP3”. You might have to dig around to get all the correct server info, but once you have that set up, your non-gmail accounts will appear in Inbox. I suggest creating a “bundle” for each email account while you get used to things. Need to add more than the five permitted non-gmail accounts? Just open a new gmail account, repeat the procedure and attach the second Gmail address to Inbox.
If you’ve used the excellent Boxer email program on your iOS or Android device, many of the interface elements will be familiar. Besides the phone and tablet apps, Inbox brings its functionality to PCs in the web browser, something Boxer doesn’t do.
If you’re conscious about your privacy, as I am, you should remember that Google is getting valuable information from your use of the service. For the moment, I am comfortable taking them at their word that none of the data gathering is for anything beyond marketing. Not everyone is. One new feature that appeared this week which raised a few eyebrows: if you are signed into Google and you do a Google search on “my purchases”, Google will gather (okay, bundle) that info from your emails and present your online orders in the results. Is this creepy or nifty? (Be a bit comforted knowing that this only works if you are already signed into your browser.)
Inbox is a beta project and things can break or change. Then again, Gmail spent years in beta and millions of users got hooked before Google officially released it. I’m looking forward to seeing how the project goes. There seems to be a plan for Hangouts integration which, in turn, could bring SMS/MMS texting to Inbox. Calendar integration seems to already be rolling out.
In the spirit of #GivingTuesday, I have some invites to the service to give out. Just shoot me a reply via Facebook, Twitter or Google+ where this post shows up or comment below. If I run, you can send an email request to [email protected]. They have been pretty generous about sending beta invites quickly.
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