Getting to inbox zero
Feb 20, 2013 (Mint - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The idea of having zero unread emails in your account is a nearly impossible goal to attain, and an even harder one to maintain, and that probably explains the number of programs and apps that promise a better way of handling email.
Mailbox is the latest and possibly best app for this, and it's available for free right now. The catch is that they are only letting a few users at a time join the app, so there's a waiting list of thousands. This has gotten a little worse lately because of the buzz Mailbox is generating, but our number came up recently, and after having used it a little, we'd suggest you get in the queue.
Your first view of Mailbox is a very annoying countdown timer that lets you know how many people are ahead of you in the queue, but once you finally get started, you'll see that it's a combination of to-do list and email inbox.
The Gmail-only Mailbox makes great use of gestures to help users decide how to deal with their emails, and to set a priority level to each mail. You start off in your inbox, and you can swipe to the left to have mails saved for later -- later today, tomorrow, in a month, or even a specific date. A swipe to the right archives the mail. You could move the mail to tasks instead, so a mail reminding you about a deadline, for example, could be marked as a task so you get a reminder about the work at the right time.
The app makes scheduling so simple that it's great for dealing with a large load of emails, and it's also much more readable than the default email application.
Mailbox might not bring you to inbox zero, but if you get a lot of mails that you don't need to respond to urgently, this is a good bet. In case you don't want to wait in line, there are other great options too, on all platforms. Our picks --
While Gmail on Android is a largely smooth experience, MailDroid is more versatile and easier to use. Some of the cool features include custom mail rules to auto-reply to mails in specific situations, password protection for mailboxes, and Dropbox integration to automatically save attachments. MailDroid looks very stark, even a little unappealing, but the pared down design makes it easy to use.
Setting up your email is simple enough, and the ability to set up email rules is really powerful. This isn't for everyone, but for power users who are happy to tinker around with the settings, particularly if you get a lot of work-related mail. The average user who just wants a nicer-looking, smoother mail interface is better served with the Gmail app that comes on the phone, but if you need to set up auto-responders, mail forwarding and rule-based filtering, MailDroid delivers. The app is free with ads. If you don't want ads, it costs Rs.1,021.
Unlike Mailbox, Inky is largely unknown, mostly because it's a desktop email solution. You can use it for free on your Windows or Mac PC, and it's one of the best ways to handle email on a computer. The app creates smart views automatically to let you see notifications from social sites such as Facebook and Twitter in one view, e-commerce updates in another, and so on. You can do this manually in your email, with better results, but most of us don't make the effort. Inky takes that extra step for you.
One feature that everyone will love is that its smart filters can also take smart actions if you want. Everyone gets a lot of unsolicited newsletters -- Inky filters them all into a "smart view", and can even dig through the mails and find the unsubscribe links for you!
Like Gmail, Inky also scans mail and tries to learn what's important, and provide an inbox view with important mails on top, though like Gmail's Important mails, this one is a little hit-and-miss. Overall, with its stylish interface and smart filters, Inky is a PC must-have.
Before Mailbox, the most hyped email app was undoubtedly Sparrow, which you can buy for Rs.170. Sparrow has an attractive interface and gesture-based features. More than that, Sparrow made it really easy to use labels and folders, and the interface is designed around mobile phones. Swiping left lets you reply, tag, archive or trash, while you can also bulk-edit using a button on the top of the screen. It also connects to Facebook to get profile photos of people to show with their mails, which is a nice touch, but one big issue is that there's no push notification to let you know about incoming mail. The other issue is that since Google acquired Sparrow, the app has stopped receiving updates, and if it stops working at some point, there's going to be no support for it.
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