You get a lot of email, right? And it’s not just the ever-growing snowball of spam: social network notifications, reminders, invitations, newsletters, bills... if your inbox is anything like mine, it’s overflowing with stuff. Not junk, but not just regular personal correspondence, either.
It makes sense. Email is the one true common denominator of the Internet. You never have to worry about not being able to reach someone because they’re not on this or that social network—everyone has email!
To help deal with the ever-expanding collection of not-junk email we all receive, Google has just unveiled Inbox. It’s a new Gmail app designed to sort, filter, and present your mails in a whole new way.
The story behind the story: Inbox is made by the same team that makes the Gmail app, but it’s not a replacement for it. It uses all your Gmail data, but the normal Gmail app will persist, and in fact, will soon be updated to support mail from other sources like Exchange and POP3. Inbox is Google’s stab at using all the data-mining intelligence of Google Now to sort, filter, and present your mail in a more organized fashion.
It’s your email, it just doesn’t look like it
Inbox takes your mail and organizes it into “bundles." It’s sort of like auto-arranging your mail with labels or folders. For example, all your receipts for purchases are bundled together. And all your shipping notices. And your travel confirmations.
You can add reminders, too—they’re standard Google Now reminders, and show up in your Google Now feed in addition to Inbox.
Subject lines often aren’t enough info, but full email text is often too much info. Google’s compromise is a feature called Highlights. Key information is pulled out of the content of your email and presented on cards. That may be the addresses and phone numbers of meetings, or key flight information for travel. It's a way to minimize the need to pull up the full contents of an email just to reference one key bit of information.
Google will pull in information from its vast information database to help you out, too. For example, if you have a reservation at a restaurant, it may include a map to its location. Or the phone number for a business you have a reminder to call. It calls these extra bits of info “Assists.”
Hit the snooze button on your email
Much like Mailbox and other new-age mail clients, Inbox acknowledges that not all email is critical. There’s a fuzzy place between “archive this” and “leave it in my inbox.” So, like many popular new mail clients, you can “snooze” mail to get it out of your inbox, but only for a while.
Inbox is invite-only
For now, Inbox is available only by invite. You can mail email@example.com to try to get on the list, but the best way to get in is probably to cozy up to a friend who has the app. Users are supposed to be able to invite others. Certainly, Google doesn’t have any problems with server capacity, but it may be trying to limit the number of users as it collects feedback. Or, it’s just trying to artificially make the app “viral” and make false scarcity. If the app proves popular, it will no doubt be available to everyone before long.