You may have gotten a notification from Google about a service called 'Inbox by Gmail'. In this article I'm going to explain what it is, how it's different from Google Mail, and how to decide if it's something you should try.




What is it?

Inbox by Gmail is a different interface for viewing, managing, and sending email in Google Mail. If you enable it, you'll have a choice between using inbox.google.com (Google Inbox) or mail.google.com (Google Mail) when you want to check or send email. There are also two separate mobile apps: Inbox and Gmail. Inbox is designed to be different from Google Mail in two ways: it treats your messages more like tasks to get done (rather than correspondence) and it fully incorporates the Google's minimalist Material Design interface.


How Does It Work?

Inbox treats your incoming mail differently than Gmail does. It groups similar emails together in Bundles, which you can have Inbox treat in different ways. Maybe you'd like to get a summary of all your promotional emails at 7 PM each evening, for instance, rather than having them arrive throughout the day. Bundles are like Gmail's labels and categories, but lumped together.


Inbox also limits your options for how you can deal with any given email:

  • You can delete it
  • You can mark it as 'done'
  • You can 'Pin it" as important
  • You can snooze it, like an alarm clock, until a certain time.
It eliminates questions about where emails should be filed or how they should be labeled; you just need to decide "Is this done? Do I still need it?" and that's it. By treating your emails more like tasks, the idea is that you can process them more efficiently and your inbox will spend more time being empty.


The video below (made by my brother, actually; no joke) gives a good overview.




Should I Use Inbox by Gmail?

Probably not. Here are a few indicators that Inbox by Gmail might not be a good fit for you:

  • You really like having your email organized into folders or labels and you don't like the idea of messages just going into a giant pile of 'Done'.
  • If your email inbox is usually full of messages when you leave work for the day.
  • Inbox by Gmail is probably a bad choice for common email accounts, like info@tetonscience.org, because it requires everyone to be bought into the Inbox philosophy of processing your email.
  • You use a lot of advanced features in Google Mail, such as the Boomerang extension, highly customized filters, or mail forwarding.
  • You really like previewing your emails in a preview pane, like in Outlook; Inbox doesn't have a preview pane.

That all being said, I, personally, love Inbox. I've been using it for two years now on my personal account, and I'm never going back to regular Google Mail. If you're a follower of the Inbox Zero school of email management, Inbox is an amazingly effective tool for processing your inbox efficiently and still being able to find old emails quickly. These two articles from Lifehacker and Gizmodo do a good job of summarizing most of the Inbox advantages. Inbox will provide summaries of upcoming trips. Inbox makes it easy to delete mass amounts of promotional email with two clicks. Inbox will suggest replies that you might want to send to given emails. 

If you do decide to give Inbox a whirl, you'll need to copy your Google Mail signature (available in your Settings) over to Inbox so that it shows up there as well.