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Gmail is good as ever, but could Inbox by Gmail be the better choice for you?

Inbox by Gmail is Google’s most recent approach to email organization and management. It takes some getting used to, but if it’s capable of giving you a simpler email workflow 6 Simple Tricks to Reduce Email Stress 6 Simple Tricks to Reduce Email Stress Dealing with email is the best part of my day. Said no one ever. You need all the tips you can get to manage your email inbox? We can help you out! Read More , it’s worth adopting. And now you don’t even need an invite to use Inbox!

To help you decide whether you should switch over to Inbox completely, we’ll show you some of the ways in which it’ll make email better for you. But first, let’s show you where everything is in Inbox’s interface.

Where Inbox Options Are

You’ll find all of Inbox’s options and settings in one of five locations:

  • The toolbar that appears when you hover over a message – This is where you’ll find the options to pin an email, snooze it, mark it as done (or move it to the inbox)

inbox-message-toolbar

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  • The pop-up menu that appears when you click on the Move to… icon (three dots arranged vertically) in the toolbar shown above
  • The icon-driven menu hidden behind the Compose button – You’ll be able to see the menu when you hover over the big red plus (+) icon at the bottom right in Inbox
  • Inbox’s Settings dialog – To bring this up, click on the hamburger icon at the top left in the Inbox interface, and in the fly-out sidebar that appears, click on Settings

inbox-settings

  • Individual bundle settings – To bring up the Settings dialog for any bundle, hover on its link in the sidebar and click on the gear icon that appears next to it.

inbox-bundle-settings

Now let’s see how Inbox saves you, the user, both time and effort.

1. Turns Your Emails into To-dos

With Gmail, you can send emails as tasks to your to-do list 9 Instant Ways to Turn Your Emails into Tasks 9 Instant Ways to Turn Your Emails into Tasks You can't stop to-do-type emails from ending up in your inbox, but you can turn them into tasks to manage them better. Here are some tips to turn emails into tasks. Read More app, but with Inbox, your email is your to-do list. Inbox treats it as such because it understands that most emails need you to take some kind of action.

Inbox allows you to mark emails as “done” instead of “read” or “archived”. That may be a simple change of wording, but it does put a different spin on email management.

Emails that you mark as done get shunted out of your way. It’s like checking tasks off your to-do list and is the equivalent of archiving in Gmail. You can also pin important emails to the top of your inbox for quick access to them.

2. Sorts Email Right for You

Inbox takes the onus of sorting your email and does a pretty good job of it. It places similar emails in groups called Bundles.

When you’re setting up Inbox for the first time, you’ll get a prompt to choose which type of emails you’d like to see grouped into a separate bundle. Trips, Promos, Updates, Forums, and Finance are some of the bundle types that you can choose from.

inbox-settings-dialog

Use the Create new… sidebar link if you’d like to create a custom bundle. You can go back and tweak your bundle preferences anytime via Inbox settings.

3. Highlights Just the Data You Need

From flight times to car rental info to order confirmations, Inbox is familiar with the kind of data that you’re usually looking for in your inbox. That’s why it keeps that important data highlighted at all times in scannable cards for easy identification.

inbox-card

Inbox also makes it easy to tell if an email has attachments, photos, inline images, links to videos, etc., by making their thumbnails visible in your inbox.

inbox-thumbnails

If you mention a link, a phone number, or an email address while creating a reminder in Inbox, its Assist feature brings up extra information that it thinks you might need. We’re sharing this tweet as an example:

You’ll appreciate that Inbox is smart enough to not display sensitive data like license keys in cards.

4. Speeds up Email Replies

For any email that’s currently open, Inbox lists three text snippets beneath the message. These are replies crafted by Inbox to save you some time. Click on any of the snippets and a new draft appears with that snippet pasted in the body of the reply email. You can review and edit the email before you hit Send.

inbox-smart-reply

Inbox notes the changes you make and learns from them, crafting better response options with each iteration. It also works its way up to more complex sentences as you keep using the Smart Reply feature. Smart replies are available on the web and on mobile.

5. Speeds up Searches

The problem with email searches 5 Advanced Gmail Search Operators You Should Know 5 Advanced Gmail Search Operators You Should Know Gmail is an ingenious webmail client with many awesome features. Being a Google service, one of its strengths obviously is Search. And this is exactly how Google revolutionized email. In Gmail you don't really have... Read More is that you still have to look through the results to find key information. Inbox knows that this can be time consuming and does its best to push the right information to the top. Then it shows you other relevant results in two groups: Top results and All results.

When I searched for flight time in Inbox, right at the top it showed me the most relevant card that matched my query — a card highlighting the flight number as well as the departure date and time for the earliest upcoming flight. Handy!

inbox-smart-search

6. Acts as Your Travel Assistant

Tracking travel plans Stress Free Travel: How to Prevent Mistakes and Minimize Anxiety Stress Free Travel: How to Prevent Mistakes and Minimize Anxiety Wouldn't it be nice if traveling could be a blissful affair? With a healthy dose of technology and a few tweaks to your traveling mindset you can banish all anxiety. Read More has never been this smooth. Inbox has a dedicated bundle called a trip bundle that gathers all emails related to each of your trips in one place. Click on Trips in the sidebar to view trip bundles for upcoming trips as well as completed ones. Click on any of them and there’s all the right data you need!

You can even share trip summaries with family and friends quite easily. All you have to do is open a trip bundle, click on the Share trip icon (right-facing curved arrow), fill in the recipient’s email address, and hit Send. Inbox takes care of adding the trip summary to the email when you click on Share trip.

Trip-Info

 

7. Prompts You to Create Reminders

When you receive an email that Inbox identifies as a to-do, it suggests adding a reminder for it. You can accept its suggestion by clicking on ADD REMINDER. This way you don’t need to follow up on emails that require action. All you have to do is accept Inbox’s reminder suggestions and get on with your work till Inbox prompts you again to take action.

inbox-reminder-suggestion

Reminders that you create in Inbox and tie to a specific time and location show up as cards in Google Now. Also, when you add a reminder in Google Now or in Google Keep, it turns up in Inbox. You’ll find it under Reminders in the sidebar.

inbox-reminder-from-keep

8. Keeps Emails out of Sight Till You Need Them

Emails that you don’t need right now are often a distraction because you have to bypass them to get to the ones you do need. To help tackle this problem, Inbox also allows you to snooze emails for later.

Snoozing an email hides it temporarily and moves it back to your inbox when you’re ready for it. If you still aren’t, feel free to hit Snooze again.

You can pick from snooze times like Next week, Someday, and This weekend or add a custom snooze date, time, and place.

inbox-snooze-email

9. Lets You Control the Frequency of Promo and Update Emails

It’s annoying to have promotional emails or update emails trickle into your inbox throughout the day. But with Inbox, you can opt to display the Promo and Update bundles in your inbox just once a day or even once a week. The catch is that you can’t change the time at which the bundles appear in your inbox. The default is 7 AM and you’ll have to live with that, for now anyway.

To set the frequency for promo emails, open the Settings dialog for the Promos bundle. There, under Show bundle, select the radio button next to Once a day or Once a week and close the dialog. Repeat this process for the Updates bundle.

inbox-promo-settings

In the bundle settings dialog, if you have set the Bundle messages in the inbox option to Off, you won’t get the email frequency option, but you will get one to automatically mark messages as done when they arrive.

Note: Promo emails include deals, offers, etc. and update emails include notification emails like confirmations and alerts.

10. Learns What You Need

Inbox uses intelligent scanning to sort your emails, highlight key information, and to provide suggestions for reminders, replies, and searches. What’s great is that the more you work with Inbox, the better it gets at giving you relevant suggestions. This is sure to save you a lot of typing and correction as you continue to use Inbox.

Also, you don’t need to learn or remember any special syntax to interact with Inbox, because it recognizes natural language just fine.

Inbox Is Great, But…

The quick and easy data access that Inbox provides is made possible by the data-scanning mechanism built into it. This means that Inbox trawls your messages to bring up the information that’s most relevant to you. Creepy? It sure is, unless the lack of privacy Why Have Americans Given Up On Privacy? Why Have Americans Given Up On Privacy? A recent study by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School for Communication concluded Americans are resigned to giving up data. Why is this, and does it affect more than just Americans? Read More  doesn’t bother you much. This intrusion into every part of your life is the biggest problem with Inbox, granted that it’s an intrusion that has your blessings if you sign up for Inbox.

Except for the privacy bit, none of Inbox’s cons seem to be deal breakers. A unified inbox feature would have been a useful addition for managing multiple Google accounts in Inbox though. For now, you’ll have to stick to account switching just like you do in Gmail. A one-click delete option for emails would also have been nice.

Unbox Inbox!

You won’t know if Inbox is worth making your primary email client unless you spend some time with it. Get started on that today. If it’s been more than a year since you tried Inbox Google Inbox Review: A Breath Of Fresh Air Google Inbox Review: A Breath Of Fresh Air Gmail is a household name in the email department, but Google wasn't content with it. Meet Google Inbox, a new way of approaching email. Read More and went back to Gmail, give it another shot, because Inbox has evolved quite a bit between then and now.

The takeaway here is that if it’s efficiency that you’re looking for, Inbox gives you an awesome deal. Not so much if privacy is your top concern at all costs.

Have you switched to Inbox by Gmail? Has it changed your email workflow for the better? Did you hate it and go back to regular Gmail? We’d love to hear about your experience with Inbox.

Image Credit: Hourglass clock by Dima Sobko via Shutterstock

  1. jan g
    July 26, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Do you don"t mind gmail may open your mail and share it with nsa,fbi,cia,tsa,dod or just for fun.If i want to watch youtube they tell me i have to give my phone number,google play creditcard number for wat to keep me safe?You should read the terms and polici.IF YOU ASK GOOGLE OR YOUTUBE TO GIVE THEIR PHONE OR CREDETCARD NUMBERS DO YOU THINK THEY SHARE IT WITH YOU?

  2. Paul
    May 27, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    Started using Inbox sometime around February. After a slight adjustment period (i.e. Gmail withdraws), I found that I like Inbox much, much better. Unfortunately, there are some labs from Gmail that would be nice to have. Also, it's my understanding that the API for Inbox is closed; so, a lot of my business software, which integrates with Gmail, doesn't work with Inbox.

    Anyone know when Google will open this up and allow third party providers to build quality extensions/apps?

  3. dan
    April 21, 2016 at 3:24 am

    When I went to inbox.google.com there was a quick overview of what it can do. However, it is no longer available so how can I view it again?

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      April 21, 2016 at 4:11 am

      Dan, I don't remember what it looked like myself. Maybe this will help: http://www.google.com/intl/en/inbox/

      • dan
        April 22, 2016 at 4:38 am

        That's also a good video but not the one shown when you first request INBOX for your GMail account. On my 2nd GMail account it also displayed when I requested INBOX for it but then (like my 1st account) it never displays again. Too bad, since it was a nice and quick overview in even less detail than the video you suggested (which is also very informative).
        Thanks anyhow.

  4. Dave
    April 18, 2016 at 7:36 am

    Dosent work on Google Apps for Education.

  5. Kathy
    April 17, 2016 at 12:29 pm

    I've been using Inbox since it came out and I really love the way it helps me manage my workflow and helps me say on top of my to-do list. Unfortunately I cannot use it exclusively just yet and always have Gmail in the next tab over so I can switch there when I need to, fortunately that is getting less and less frequent as Inbox develops.
    The feature I am most eager for is for Inbox to handle attachments more like Gmail so I can download multiple attachments at once or push them over to Drive. I would dearly love to be able to drag and drop attachments to, but I am confident those will come in due course.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      May 12, 2016 at 1:49 pm

      Good to hear that your Inbox experience has been mostly positive, Kathy. I also have been switching back and forth between Gmail and Inbox - I use Inbox on mobile and Gmail on the web...

  6. Doug
    April 17, 2016 at 4:08 am

    If Inbox had gmail's rich integration with Calendar and Drive, then I would use it exclusively. Really hope that happens soon. Until then, I just Inbox on my phone and Gmail in my browser.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      May 12, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      That's mostly how I use it, too - Inbox on mobile, Gmail on the web

  7. Rob
    April 16, 2016 at 8:51 pm

    I loved the functionality but it has become so slow. No way I am waiting 5+ seconds for an email to open. Went back to Gmail.

  8. Jeff
    April 16, 2016 at 2:34 pm

    Is it just me or do iOS notifications for Inbox not clear if the email is opened on a different device?

  9. Timothy Tomato
    April 16, 2016 at 4:50 am

    My only issue with inbox is the "low priority" folder. What it deems low priority and isn't is shaky at best. I've missed some legitimate, important emails that has been whisked away by that flag. It's enabled by default so I had to turn it off completely to "re-train" it. You also have to be careful with the bundles because if you use, say, the Mail app on your iPhone - some of those bundles (like low priority, travel, etc) won't even show up if the configuration isn't perfect. I've found it's better to config the bundles and settings in Gmail and use inbox as the reader. Gmail still has the more robust options for configuring your google mail settings the way you want it.

  10. fcd76218
    April 15, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    "You won’t know if Inbox is worth making your primary email client unless you spend some time with it."
    Just from your description of Inbox I know it is not for me. Both GMail and Inbox try to do too many things for me. They just get in the way. I don't want my mail sorted into somebody else's idea of categories. I want to be able to setup my own categories. I want to be able to sort my mail by sender, or date, or topic, or any combination of the three. Unfortunately, Google does not allow any of that. They think they know better than me how I want to handle my mail.

    • Akshata Shanbhag
      April 16, 2016 at 2:51 am

      Inbox does give a convenient starting point to sort email, but it's true that it's not for everyone. Looks like using search operators to filter mails from a particular sender and such is your only option for now. I wonder if there are plugins out there for sorting emails differently.

      • Fondor
        April 17, 2016 at 9:31 am

        Haev a look at sanebox

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