Inbox for Gmail revolutionized my email in a week

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Gizmag reviews Google's new take on email, Inbox for Gmail

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Google's Inbox is the latest interface for Gmail, both on the web (only through a Chrome browser at the moment) and via mobile apps for iOS and Android. It's a major and almost entirely positive upgrade to the Gmail experience. But if I'm honest, the best thing about using it for the past week is finally being freed of that bloated, boring and increasingly clunky Gmail interface that's needed an overhaul for a few years now.

Inbox also confirms what I've suspected for years but never really asked many other people about – many of us now use our email inboxes essentially as to-do lists. When urgent items like Gizmag's daily newsletter come in you look at those right away, and then there's all the junk and fluff that needs to be swept away into spam, archived or deleted, ultimately leaving a list of emails in your inbox that either require action in the form of a response, or represent an action that does not need an email response once it's done (like the automated assignment emails I get from Gizmag's CMS robot), but it stays there as a reminder anyway.

If this is how you do email, Inbox will be a minor revolution in your life. Gone are vague concepts like "starring" an email. In its place is the ability to "pin" an important email and only view pinned emails if you want. You can also add actual reminders to the top of your inbox that show up right alongside your other messages. Anyone else who has ever taken the ridiculous step of sending yourself an email as a reminder to get something done will surely appreciate this simple new feature.

These reminders also come with the smarts of Google Now, so if you set a reminder to reschedule a dental appointment, Inbox acts as your digital concierge and personal assistant by adding contact information and even hours of operation, if available.

Perhaps my favorite feature in Inbox is the ability to snooze reminders and messages until a later date, time or even place (similar to Dropbox's Mailbox app). Won't have the information your colleague has requested until next week? You can set his message to re-appear in your inbox whenever you'll have what he needs and take care of it then. Need to pick up some supplies from the hardware store? You can set Inbox to remind you next time you're driving by that location.

The look of Inbox is so much less cluttered than Gmail (especially the web interface) that it can be a little jarring and definitely requires a brief period of adjustment. I had become quite accustomed to rapidly clicking the old-school checkbox to the left of each dealt-with message and quickly archiving them all in one fell swoop. While that satisfaction is gone, it's been replaced by a smarter inbox that bundles together all your "low priority" emails, allowing you to quickly browse all those ads, newsletters and old listservs at a glance and then easily "sweep" them into your "Done" folder, which is essentially the same as archiving messages in the old Gmail.

Inbox also bundles up other pre-determined sorts of messages, like purchases, finance and travel. Just as you used to do with folders, you can now also create your own bundles for certain types of messages and decide whether or not they should skip your main inbox.

Messages and reminders are also grouped by when they came in, so there's a block for today, yesterday, this month, last month, and so on.

Your Google Hangouts and Google Plus notifications are still integrated into Inbox, but much more discreetly than before in the upper right corner. The result is a greatly stripped-down look to Inbox that I presume is also something of a preview into the more sleek new look of Android's upcoming "Material" design in Lollipop.

In getting used to Inbox, you might feel like Google has actually hidden too much at points. For example, it's quite difficult to view the entire thread of an email when you're trying to reply inline (you need to "pop out" the message to see it all), and the ability to set an email signature doesn't seem to be turned on yet in this invite-only beta version.

The trade-off is a much more visual and focused email experience that highlights key and graphical parts of your messages in your inbox stream to save time.

This is a beta product, though, and I have run into some bugs with attachments. I also found the ability to snooze to a location relatively useless since it only seems able to snooze to businesses in major metro areas, along with a few other places.

Other key disappointments in the early version of Inbox for Gmail are that it doesn't yet work with Google Apps accounts, and that it remains invitation-only. Most people are reporting that it is rolling out pretty quickly, though, and requests submitted to the official Inbox site for an invite are being granted within a few days. Click the link below to get in line yourself, and watch the promotional video at the bottom of this post for more details.

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