Inbox by Google

I switched from Yahoo Mail to Gmail back in 2006 or 2007; it took awhile to come to grips with it, but I loved some of its conveniences and never switched back. I kept the old Yahoo Mail account as a backup just-in-case account, but I only check it every week or so.intro-logo I'm always hesitant when trying new Google products. I didn't try Google's Wave product when it was introduced (and which died a relatively quick death). The company's offhand attitude and abandonment of its Google Reader users really set the warning flag. I don't plan on keeping any notes in Google Keep. And as for Google Play's takeover of my beloved Songza service -- well, I'm not holding out any hopes for that. Songza did exactly what I wanted from it and I'd have cheerfully paid them for the service. I simply don't trust Google to do anything I expect, even if I did pay them.

But I have been trying out Inbox by Google for a month or so and I'm liking it. Based on what I've read, Google really wants to push users to Inbox and I thought, well, let's try it. They may one day turn off Gmail and users will wake up with Inbox. So it makes sense to start coming to grips with it now.

What I Like

  • Inbox's guiding philosophy is to view the email inbox as a to-do list. For any item in the Inbox, you must Do, Delete, or Defer. Viewing emails, newsletters, promotions, Facebook notifications, listserv digests, etc. as tasks has been a standard tenet of productivity literature since David Allen's first book. But while email clients helped me move emails around and write them or reply to them, they didn't really provide a framework to help me process them more quickly. Inbox, as I've been using it, is really helping me process (that is, delete or archive) emails in a more sane manner.
  • Inbox groups emails into pre-defined bins like Promos, Updates, Purchases, and so on. Their groupings are pretty accurate and it's easy to move an email from one group to another. What I like best about the groups is that it's easy to scan them and delete them all in a single stroke; this bulk management of emails saves me a good deal of time.
  • It's also easy to define my own group (in Gmail-speak, a label or tag).
  • I love the feature that lets me create reminders to myself right there in the Inbox and then set them to appear at any date/time or to recur. In the past, I'd have used the FollowUpThen email reminder service (which I pay for) or SaneLater (which I stopped paying for) or Google Calendar or GQueues. (Geez, do I think I need a lot of help in my life or what?) Instead, the Reminders are quick and easy to set, they appear in my iPod's Google app and Notifications, and my inbox is clear of any emails I used to keep there as reminders.
  • It's dead easy to snooze emails so I can deal with them later. Snoozing an email is like setting a reminder. It makes keeping a clean Inbox a breeze. Previously, I'd have forwarded the email to FollowUpThen and archived the original mail. Inbox's Snooze feature is much neater and more convenient.
  • Inbox delivers the grouped email once a day -- 7am. So if I get any new Facebook notices or Promos or Updates, then Inbox holds them back from appearing till the next morning. I have found that rather authoritarian management of my email to be liberating. I'm one of those sad people who likes to check his inbox every 5 minutes. But knowing that these bulk emails are by default not urgent, and that they'll show up in tomorrow morning's email anyway, means my Inbox stays mostly empty. Personal emails from Liz or friends appear instantly and so I don't need to plow through other emails to get to them. So during the day, I'm more likely to receive only emails that will be of  immediate interest to me.
  • (You can, of course, look inside Inbox's Social, Promos, Updates, etc. folders and see the emails that have arrived and that are being held for the next day. I prefer, in most cases, to let Inbox deliver them to me in a batch at 7am.)
  • You can set three default snooze times for a reminder or an email; I use 7am, 2pm, and 7pm. When I open up Inbox in the evening -- BAM -- I'll see all the reminders and snoozed emails that I couldn't deal with earlier in the day. At this point, I deal with them by reading them, taking action, or deleting them. The Inbox becomes my to-do list -- which is the way I've always used it.

What I Wish Were Better

  • Google's material design of Inbox looks nice in the browser, but the performance is not as snappy as in Gmail. Even on my Chromebook, Inbox is a visually stuttering application. However, using Inbox on my iPod is a treat and cements the idea for me that Inbox is optimized for mobile rather than the browser.
  • Still haven't figured out how to filter an email so Inbox can automatically send it to the Trash. I still have to create those filters in Gmail. I also had saved searches in Gmail; the search facility in Inbox never seems to work as I expect.
  • Some operations are simply easier in Gmail for me. I am taking part in an online course, so I'm receiving a ton of notifications throughout the day on new posts to the course's Facebook group. Processing 20 of these messages in Inbox just takes too many clicks. It's far quicker for me to zip into Gmail and process the emails rapid-fire.

I went all-in on Inbox over the Christmas break, avoided Gmail, and it was the best way to learn Inbox quickly. I also recommend reading Computerworld's JR Raphael's post on adopting Inbox. The second half of his post, where he talks about workflow, convinced me to give Inbox a try.

Today, I still access Gmail when I need to process a big batch of emails quickly. But Inbox rules the roost for the moment. Until Google says otherwise.


Update, January 11, 2017

I've gone back to using Gmail plain. Inbox's best feature was the scheduling function, but I have already duplicated that with FollowupThen. Inbox was just too slow, even when using it in Chrome on my iMac, even when using it on my flipping Chromebook. I often had to click on a mail two or three times for it to display as the clicks never seemed to register; Google's Material Design took so much time to load I got impatient. The only time Inbox performed at an acceptable speed was when I started using Kiwi for Gmail Lite; even so, I found myself flipping over to Gmail to process mails more quickly. Inbox by Google will have to offer much faster performance before I'm willing to switch again.

Green Eggs and Ham
by Dr. Seuss

Tom has finally made his peace with this book, but it took a while.  He used to enjoy having it read to him right up to the point where our hero is finally forced, by ‘Sam I Am’, to try the titular dish.  Then Tom would grab the book and throw it across the room.  He had heard what happened after that, and didn’t like the message the book was trying to impart.  So, for Tom, this was for a while the tale of a proud individualist who even having been forced into a train wreck by a pseudonymous terrorist, possibly working for Big Ham, then lost at sea, would still not give in and submit to the ham agenda.  

As someone who finds that part of ‘Cars’ where Lightning McQueen is forced to stay in a small town and learn about values to be a paranoid nightmare in the tradition of 'The Prisoner’, I must say I rather supported Tom’s stance.  However, it’s probably for the best that he’s now started to let us read the book to the end.  Like Winston Smith in '1984’, he now loves 'Green Eggs and Ham’.

What their return to health will look like: As the INTJ returns to health, they will shift their focus away from petty details and regain their big-picture mindset. They will develop an increased concentration on goals and long-term projects, which will bring them steadily closer to what they want out of the future. A healthy INTJ is an INTJ who can synthesize and carry out long-term projects – in as efficient a manner as possible.

No, in common with my father, my friends and people I know professionally, the desperate desire to find something to say and not sound like an idiot just makes you do jokes all the time. Jokes are a nervous reflex. Sometimes you can end up being irritating or seeming facetious or like you’re showing off, and all you’re trying to do is justify the fact that you spoke at all. I’ve come to understand that charm isn’t being funny. Charm is finding other people funny.

There’s this book club phenomenon — my mother-in-law is in a book club and now my wife is in a book club — and so I’ve heard any number of people say they get the “gist” of books. They haven’t read the book. They say, “I read enough to get the gist.” Just, no. Don’t. I can’t engage in that conversation. You don’t get the gist of Jane Austen. You either read Jane Austen or you don’t.

'Don't Be a Moron'

I was having lunch with a friend who’d survived a heart attack a couple of years ago. When I asked him if he had any dietary restrictions, he shared the story of going to his doctor post-coronary with a written list of questions about what he should or shouldn’t eat going forward.

The doctor took a look at the list, then ripped up the paper and threw it in the bin.

“Here’s my dietary advice,” said the doctor. “Don’t be a moron.”

“What do you mean?” asked my friend.

“I mean,” replied the doctor, “use your common sense. Eat heart-healthy food most of the time, and if you really fancy the odd bowl of macaroni and cheese, enjoy it.”

While I was a little taken aback at the bluntness of the advice when I first heard the story, I’ve come to realize that it’s a fantastic response for pretty much any kind of question people have about how to live their lives.


‘Don’t Be a Moron’

The next time you meet some person who is utterly captivated by some undertaking that completely mystifies you, give him the benefit of the doubt. Hold back on your instinctive imputing of excess spare time and hang the obsession in a tickler-file in the back of your brain to pull out and think about in the shower or the post-office line. If you’re very lucky, a little of that delight may rub off on you, too.

I noticed that touring — which is wonderful in some ways — is absolutely confining in other ways. It’s so difficult… you just can’t think about anything else. You try your hardest: You take books with you and word processors, and you’re definitely going to do something with the time. And you never do. It’s so easy for it to become your exclusive life, this one and a half hours every evening that you play. And I just thought, “I’m losing touch with what I really like doing.” What I really like doing is what I call Import and Export. I like taking ideas from one place and putting them into another place and seeing what happens when you do that. I think you could probably sum up nearly everything I’ve done under that umbrella. Understanding something that’s happening in painting, say, and then seeing how that applies to music. Or understanding something that’s happening in experimental music and seeing what that could be like if you used it as a base for popular music. It’s a research job, a lot of it. You spend a lot of time sitting around, fiddling around with things, quite undramatically, and finally something clicks into place and you think, ”Oh, thats really worth doing.” The time spent researching is a big part of it. I never imagined a pop star life that would’ve permitted that.