Inbox by Gmail Review: E-mail as To-do List


Back in 2004, I was the beta invitees of the first iteration of Gmail, although at that time I still didn’t consider e-mail as part of my life yet (I was a middle schooler back then). Gmail, has undergone serious changes, froma simple HTML webmail, to HTML5 webmail back in 2010, including tabs in 2013. For me, E-mail client is a lifesaver. Until 2012, I still routinely go to webmail, and I don’t know how many tabs I opened at a time. Then, I volunteered to close beta test my first lifesaver: Mailbird. I fell in love with Mailbird as Windows mail client, unlike Outlook nor Thunderbird, it feels lightweight and has clean UI. Mailbird is the first app which gave me a new perspective to handle e-mail: Inbox Zero. For 2 years until Oct 2014, I can count how many times I opened Gmail webapp: 5 times, only to make new filters for incoming e-mails.

To sum up: E-mail client has saved a lot of my times to search, open, read, and reply e-mails for this 2 years. As long as the e-mail client has sync the e-mails, I can do all of the above without any internet connection.

Now, here comes a new challenger.

Inbox by Gmail

Google likes to experiment and now they provide a new, experimental webmail called Inbox by Gmail. If you already have the invitation, of course you can go to What does it do? You can see it in action URL above.

Before, I still think that incoming e-mails as incoming message. New inbox notification, open the message, read, (optional) reply, then archive if I don’t need it anymore. Only important e-mails remain in my inbox in my Mailbird.

Inbox by Gmail try to change my perspective. While most email clients and even Gmail webapp treat e-mail inbox as “list of messages”, Inbox treats e-mail inbox as a “newsfeed of to-do lists”. Does it make sense? Fortunately, yes.


First is Bundle. Bundles work almost the same with Promotions, Updates, Social tabs in Gmail, but they go to some extent: smart categorization. In Gmail webapps, e-mails contains promotion or advertisement go to Promotions, purchase receipts go to Update, and credit card billings go to Primary. In Inbox, advertisement still go to Low Priority, purchase receipts go to Purchases, and credit card billings go to Finance. It’s just that smart that I love it very much.

E-mail types Tabs
Gmail (webapp & mobile)
Inbox by Gmail
Amazon Advertisement Promotions Low Priority
Steam Promo Promotions Low Priority
Purchase Receipt Updates Purchases
Credit Card Billing Primary Finance
Flight Ticket Primary Travel
Account Registration Updates Updates
Quora, Tumblr, LinkedIn Social Social
Mailing list Forums Forums

Second, swipe right to Mark as Done. E-mails are considered as to-do list, so when you’ve read it and you don’t have any business with that mails anymore, you mark them as done. It’s the same as archiving e-mails in Inbox Zero perspective, but somehow Inbox add it even further. Rather than swipe each e-mail to mark them as done, you can swipe the bundle to mark all the e-mails inside the bundle as done. It’s as the same thing as: click the filter, click mark all, then archive all marked messages. Inbox simplify how I manage my e-mails and everytime I mark them done, I feel like I have done one task of my “to-do list inbox”.

Third, swipe left to Snooze. Most of the time, important e-mails which require attentive reply are just marked as starred but I forgot when to reply those important messages. Snooze feature change that by making a reminder when to remind me to reply the specific message. I may forget that I have messages unattended, but Snooze will remind me at one time that I must reply the message. Nice feature.

Fourth is Pin. It behave almost like mark as starred in Gmail features, but it feels more like a “saved to Pocket”. Pinned e-mails contain all e-mails that I have pinned so that I can easily access when I needed to reread the messages. Unfortunately (but also fortunately), applying pin is not considered as marked as star in Gmail, so those pinned e-mails are still not starred in my Mailbird, but in my phone Inbox, it’s pinned.

Inbox as Newsfeed? It’s Plausible

Before, I never thought to see my mail inbox arranged like a Facebook newsfeed. With Inbox, now I see my inbox like a newsfeed. E-mails organized like a timeline, e-mails with attachment have the attachment previewed in the newsfeed. It’s hard to explain with words, but screenshot can explain it more clearly.

The Verdict

So, do I like it? Yes, very much! Although Google insisted that Inbox to be used in conjunction with Gmail app, I already uninstalled my Gmail app from my phone. Its sole purpose has become my mobile e-mail client, while for my desktop I still run my Mailbird. I can say this for sure: Google has successfully made me change my perspective to see e-mails as to-do list organized neatly, instead of bunch of messages organized chronologically. Do I feel improvement in productivity? Yes, I do. How you manage e-mails is very important and the right e-mail client will certainly help you a lot.

Inbox will only useful for people whose routine is to read and reply e-mails, and it will be not as useful as it means to be when used by people who just want the invitation without the need for routine e-mail operations.

P.S. Don’t ask for invitation. I still have some left but they are already reserved.