Nithin Bekal

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Google Inbox

19 Nov 2014

After a week of using Google’s new Inbox app, I have realized that for me, it is primarily going to be more a reminders app than a mail client.

I’ve been using Zero Inbox for a while now, so it’s a pretty useful improvement to my workflow, but nothing revolutionary. Inbox is a pretty opinionated way to manage email, so for people who don’t follow Zero Inbox, it might seem a bit awkward.

Since this is not available to Google Apps accounts yet, I haven’t been able to try it on my more active work email. That would have been a much sterner test of how much Inbox improves my workflow.

It’s a great reminders app

More than the mail client, I’m more excited about Inbox the reminders app. Inbox gives reminders the same respect that email gets. When you think about it, emails are to-do items, just like items on your reminders list, so why put them in different places?

Gmail had a tasks feature, but that was barely usable. Google Now has reminders, but that too hasn’t received the attention it deserves. With Inbox’s reminders, Google might finally have figured out the ideal place to put task items.

The snooze feature brings back emails or reminders to your inbox at some time that you’ve chosen. Don’t like the “get groceries” item staring at you while you’re busy looking at work related reminders? Just hit snooze, and ask Inbox to remind you about it in the evening.

This has helped me a lot in keeping things organized, without feeling too overwhelmed by seeing too many tasks at once.

Inbox vs Gmail

Inbox’s mobile interface seems like an huge improvement over the Gmail app. It’s a lot more intuitive and clean. It doesn’t feel very much like an email client, and that will take some getting used to, but I’ve lately been using Inbox as my primary mobile email client.

In the case of the web interface, things are a bit different. The interface is much cleaner than Gmail, but sadly, this doesn’t cater to power users as well as the Gmail interface does.

This is understandable for an app that tries to simplify the experience by taking away rarely used features. But people like me are going to miss the powerful shortcuts and go back to Gmail.

Thoughts

With Inbox, we might have got a better to-do app than an email client, but at the same time, handling emails has become much more streamlined too. Apps like Boomerang are starting to look unnecessary now that the email client provides the same features.

I’m happy to see Google pushing people towards Zero Inbox. With Google nudging them to mark emails as “done”, Google might finally be able to get people to move things off their inbox once they are done with the mail. I look forward to the day when people no longer exclaim, “why do you have no emails?” when they see my inbox.

The mobile app is certainly a much needed improvement over Gmail. On the web client, though, it has some way to go before I’d consider using it as the default.

As with any Google product, I’m not getting too attached to Inbox. You never know when they will decide to shut it down.

Hi, I’m Nithin Bekal, a software craftsman with over 7 years of experience in shipping web applications. I mostly use Ruby, but lately have also been exploring Elixir. Co-founder of CrowdStudio.in, and helping organize Rubyconf India. Tweet to me at @nithinbekal.