New product aimed at making life easier

JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin
JPCT 150713 Alan Stainer. Photo by Derek Martin

If you have followed my column for any length of time, you will have noticed that I love trying out new things. Especially if they purport to be improvements on existing things. Anything that can make life easier gets a big thumbs up from me!

A few weeks ago I started hearing about a new product that was entering its beta phase. It was called simply, Inbox. It was invite only, which always sends the curiosity levels rising and yes, I got an invite.

Inbox as it turns out, is made for and by Gmail. It is an alternative to the normal Gmail website and app that you will be familiar with if you are one of the countless millions that use Gmail.

So what, I hear you cry, is the point to Inbox?

Inbox has several things going for it. One of the first ones you will notice upon using it, are bundles. Inbox basically bundles related emails together, allowing you to scan through vast swathes of emails at a glance. So for instance, if I get multiple notifications from Facebook, Google+, Twitter or any social network, they all get bundled under a heading called Social. Similarly, if I have bought things on ebay, Amazon or wherever, they get bundled under Purchases.

The great thing about that, is that every email or bundle of emails can be filed away quickly and easily by clicking on the tick that appears next to them. That marks them as done and is a very effective way of sorting through all of the old stuff in your inbox.

Another great feature to Inbox, is that many things can be viewed without even opening an email. if you are expecting an email with an important attachment for instance, you can simply open it without the bother of opening the email, thus saving you time. Pictures appear as thumbnails, flight reservation emails appear with links to check in, online orders have links to track your order, etc. In all it is a huge time saver.

As well as emails, Inbox allows you to easily create and pin reminders for yourself. As soon as you start typing a reminder, Inbox will offer suggestions for you. Again another time saving feature, because more often than not, it will prompt you with something you actually want. Also it allows you to do funky things, like call a contact right from the reminder, select a time and date for the reminder, snooze reminders and so it goes on.

That is the features covered, but there is more to tell. Looking at the design side of things, Inbox is a breath of fresh air. Unlike many sites (and apps) which appear cluttered, Inbox is uncluttered, clean and easy on the eye. Emails display beautifully crisp and sharp, making reading much easier. The menus are nicely hidden away until you need them, which saves a lot of screen real estate (yeah, jargon). I do have one niggle, but it is a minor one. Currently there is no way to set an email signature. If there was, then I would take Google’s advice and go all in with Inbox. However, as it stands I use Inbox to read emails and the regular Gmail client to send them. I fully expect this to be resolved before Inbox comes out of beta, but I would love it to be resolved sooner rather than later.

If you would like to give Inbox a go now while it is still in beta, just go to and send Google an email requesting an invite.

Alan Stainer