Review: Google Inbox

Inbox is Google’ latest software offering, and thus far, I love the way it’s changed my email workflow.

Inbox is a web interface to Gmail and a standalone iOS/Android app. It’s currently open in private beta- if you request an invite, you’ll get in within a few days, and you get three invites to send to others. Inbox is sort of the 2014 Gmail- it borrows heavily from existing email solutions, but it integrates them beautifully and it’s generally a cut above the competition.

The Good

  • The iOS app is exceptional: fast and responsive, no issues with crashing or bugs, beautifully designed. It borrows heavily from Mailbox with regards to swipe gestures- swipe right on an email to archive it (now termed “Mark as done”), swipe left on an email to snooze it until an arbitrary date/time in the future. I haven’t tried the Android app but I have to imagine Google put at least as much effort into it.

  • Unlike Mailbox, folders and labels are first class citizens. Mailbox is quite opinionated about how email should work, and I don’t like its opinions. It allows you to set up lists (“To Read” etc.) and sort messages into those lists, but it doesn’t let you use your existing Gmail folders/labels unless you use a hacky workaround. Inbox lets you keep your folders and easily sort messages from the inbox, individually or in bulk.

  • Bundles. Inbox bundles messages in your inbox based on its guess as to their purpose- the default bundles are Travel, Purchases, Finance, Social, Updates, Forums, and Promos; and you can define your own. Bundles keep your inbox clean and let you quickly identify important messages, especially if you receive a high quantity of email. Also, bundles “learn” from your interactions- if a message gets sorted into the wrong bundle, you can move it into the right bundle/into the inbox and Inbox will remember your categorization.

  • Highlights. Inbox shows highlights along with messages- travel reservations, locations, package tracking, attachments, etc. This makes it much easier to scan your inbox and quickly access important information related to the emails you’ve received.

  • Search. Unsurprisingly, Google is really good at searching things. You can search emails by sender, subject, title, etc., and I’ve found search to be exceptionally fast and precise at finding what I’m looking for.

The Bad

  • Gmail only. Other email providers aren’t supported (and, sadly, my university uses Office 365). It’s possible to work around this, though- in Gmail settings, you can send mail from other addresses and retrieve mail from other accounts that support POP.

  • No desktop app. Google prefers web to desktop applications and Inbox is no exception- you have to use Inbox in the browser. However, I was able to create a webapp for Inbox using Fluid. (Currently, Inbox only supports Chrome, so you have to override the user agent in the Fluid app preferences- I haven’t experienced any bugs from doing this, but your mileage may vary.)

So far, I’m in love with Inbox. It’s like Mailbox but with first-class support for folders and better features. Unlike many Google offerings, Inbox is extremely polished and ready for daily use right away. Add a desktop app and easier integration with other email providers, and I really couldn’t ask for anything more.

Tags: workflowemailreview

Zach Schneider

Zach Schneider

Rails, React, & Sundry