Inbox Zero sounds like an impossible dream. The idea that you can keep your email inbox empty just doesn’t sound realistic amidst the constant deluge of mails that we all receive.
But it isn’t. There are many tools for Android phones that will help you take care of those LinkedIn reminders and Amazon recommendations, while ensuring you never miss that important message from your boss.
In this guide we’ll take a look at eight apps that can help you tame your inbox once and for all.
Recommending the Gmail app may seem a bit obvious as you probably use it already. But do you use it in the most effective way?
There are so many things you can do to improve Gmail. You can ensure that you’re using Tabs, which sort your emails into categories (and highlight the most important ones), and you can then create filters to automatically archive certain categories. You can also use Labels to further organize your inbox, or create filters to move or delete messages before you even see them.
Gmail for Android Tips
You have to set up a lot of this on the desktop, but there are some tricks that make the Gmail app work better too. You can browse through your inbox quickly by opening one email and then swiping left to open the next, like you’re reading a magazine.
You can search your emails easier by using operators. For instance, searching android in:sent will search for messages containing the word android in your Sent folder. You can find a full list of Gmail operators here.
And if you’re a member of mailing lists, or are being cc’d into group conversations that you’re not a part of, you can hit the Mute button to automatically archive any new messages in that thread.
Download: Gmail (Free) on the Play Store
2. Widgets for Gmail
If you’re happy with Gmail and don’t want to switch to another email app, then you can improve it further by installing Widgets for Gmail.
This small group of widgets includes a full screen inbox showing all your messages, or just those from specific categories. When tapped, mails open within the widget itself, so you can mark them as read, archive, delete them, or reply without ever needing to open the full Gmail app.
There are also replacement icons that include an unread count badge to illustrate how far away you are from reaching Inbox Zero.
Download: Widgets for Gmail (Free) on the Play Store
One of the core principles of Inbox Zero is that you should deal with your emails as quickly and efficiently as possible. In particular, this means responding immediately to any email that can be answered in less than two minutes. This is a job made much easier by Notifly.
Notifly intercepts notifications from apps like Gmail and Inbox (plus many other popular messaging apps), and shows them in a small bubble on top of your current app. They will even show up on your lockscreen. From there, you can reply directly or dismiss or ignore messages if you don’t want to be interrupted.
Notifly is great for shorter, text-based conversations, but if you have a longer message, you might still have to open it in your email client to deal with. Either way, it’s a useful enhancement to Android’s built-in notifications system.
Download: Notifly (Free) on the Play Store
4. Inbox by Gmail
Google’s other email app, Inbox, completely rethinks how email should be handled. It completely does away with the traditional, never-ending lists of subject headers to organize your messages in a more intelligent way.
Despite the name, Inbox doesn’t actually feature an inbox in the traditional sense. Instead, it shows you groups of emails bundled together first by time — emails received today, yesterday, and so on — and then by category or subject. It is the Tabs feature in Gmail taken to its logical conclusion.
In many cases the app will also work to ensure you don’t have to read some emails at all. It scans messages and brings any relevant content to the front — attachments, order tracking information, and links to online content are just a few examples of things you can view with a single tap, without ever needing to open the email it was included in. It also learns as it goes, so the more you use the app, the better it gets.
Download: Inbox by Gmail (Free) on the Play Store [No Longer Available]
5. Microsoft Outlook
If you’ve ever used Outlook on the desktop, you probably think of it as adding to your email burdens, not solving them. But Outlook on Android is different; it’s actually pretty good.
The app works with all your email accounts and has built-in contacts and calendar features, so it can function as a replacement for the Gmail app. The “Focused” inbox cleverly enables you to skip the junk and only ever see important messages.
Best of all is the ability to schedule emails by swiping them to the right. This removes the message from your inbox, and it will only reappear — with a new notification — at the time you choose.
It may not get you to Inbox Zero, but scheduling really helps make email less intrusive, especially when that work message comes in on Friday night and you can bump it to Monday morning with just a simple swipe.
Download: Microsoft Outlook (Free) on the Play Store
Boxer is an awesome app built to help you get through your email as quickly as possible. It has all the same swipes and gestures that every other email client has, but it turns them into the focal point of the app.
So while Gmail and the rest only allow you to swipe away one email at a time, in Boxer you can select multiple messages and swipe them all together.
And while those other apps mostly limit the swipe functions to deleting, archiving, or scheduling, Boxer lets you choose from 11 functions and assign to them four swipe gestures (a long and short swipe left and right).
These functions range from the basics like archiving and deleting, to turning emails into To Do list entries or forwarding them to your Evernote account, and even to sending pre-composed quick replies — you’ll never need to write another “Thanks!” email again.
Download: Boxer (Free) on the Play Store
Like Inbox, WeMail takes a different approach to email. But this app doesn’t group your messages by subject or category; it groups them by sender. It’s email reimagined as a messaging app, and it works rather well.
The inbox is still ordered chronologically, and conversations are kept in their own threads, but they are all kept together under the sender’s name. This makes it easy to instantly check your previous interactions with business contacts, ensure that emails from friends or family don’t get lost in the noise, and to archive every message from a sender in a single swipe.
WeMail also filters social and promotional emails automatically, and it lets you view any attachment you’ve been sent with a single button tap. It also strips out a lot of the HTML formatting in emails, so you can get to the content of the message straight away.
Download: WeMail (Free) on the Play Store
The idea is that you don’t leave anything in your inbox untouched — everything must be turned into a GTD task like an Action (a To Do list item, essentially) or a Project (a multi-task job that can contain Actions). Or, they should be forwarded to your Evernote account, or archived, deleted, or replied to. And this can all be done with the usual swipe gestures.
IQTELL is an app for the hyper-organized, and is an essential tool for everyone who loves Getting Things Done.
Download: IQTELL (Free)
Your Tips for Inbox Zero
Email is one of the oldest parts of the Internet, and in many ways one of the worst. It’s intrusive, and there’s just too much of it. But it doesn’t have to be like that. By switching to a different email app, one that suits how you work, or by just learning to set up your current app better, you can bring it under control in no time at all.
What are your tips for achieving Inbox Zero? Do you have a favorite email app for Android? Share your thoughts in the comments below.