Hands On With Google Inbox: Useful Email Triage Tools For A Mobile Workflow

Google’s Inbox email app is now available, and we have access to the limited release, which is being distributed via Google’s tried-and-true invite system. While many will have to wait to check it out for themselves, our first impressions might help you decided whether you want to even try chasing down an invite.

First, this is a good-looking app that benefits from Google’s new commitment to Material Design principals across its apps. Animations are pretty, there are bold primary colors everywhere that let you know exactly where you are in the app, and icons and controls are both well-designed and very clearly indicative of what they represent. My only complaint as to the look and feel are that the “Done” section header had me clicking on it repeatedly, as it’s often used as a button in mobile software to let users exit back to a main page.

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As to functions and features, I was able to test this on a personal account only, since it isn’t yet enabled for Google Apps deployments, which means it wasn’t exposed to the full hell that is my work account. Still, the benefits were immediate and apparent – Google easily separates ‘real’ and automated emails, into several categories using functionality similar to the ‘Categories’ it launched for Gmail previously.

These are color- and icon-coded, making it easy to survey at a glance and find exactly what you need, and to dispatch with the rest in a single swipe for each category.  You can also swipe on any individual message or group to send it to either your Done pile (akin to Archive) or snooze them for addressing later. You can set the snooze to remind you of the message or group at a predefined time and date (the app offers quick suggestions and full custom scheduling) or at a place of your choosing, using geofencing.

Three sections define your email, including the main Inbox, the Snoozed section and the Done group, and you can reach these using a pull-out sidebar menu. Here you can also access all the new categories, as well as your legacy email folders. A Plus icon in the bottom right corner lets you quickly compose an email or a reminder, and comes complete with quick access to your most recent inbox contacts (either those you’ve emailed, or those who’ve emailed you).

inboxMy first impressions are that the above features are genuinely very useful – the client got the emails I care about to the top of my screen without me having to mess with any settings, and the compose button’s smart contacts list meant I could address stuff that needs addressing without even digging in.

The Snooze and Done functions give you a smart single swipe email management system, which is better than those present in other apps like Mailbox in my initial experience. Snooze is particularly useful, since it’s a very granular “later” button that might actually result in me addressing them in due time.

Time and more email volume are needed before I can truly pass judgement on Inbox, but it already seems a worthy competitor to the native Gmail app for managing Gmail on my iPhone, which qualifies as an impressive start.