There’s been a world of attention paid to the Mailbox app for iPhone and Gmail since it was announced. In fact, the wait list for access to the app is quite impressive.
Recently, after nearly forgetting that I had even signed up for it, my turn finally came around and I was able to hook it up to my Gmail account and take it for a spin.
The premise behind Mailbox is to make your email a better to-do list. First and foremost, that bothered me, because I have always maintained that email is a horrible tool for keeping a to-do list, and I don’t use it that way at all. I don’t want my email to be a better to-do list, because I have a to-do list that has nothing to do with my inbox. However, I also understand that, my protestations to the contrary, I am in the minority here. Most people seem to continue to try and use their inbox as a to-do list, and if a tool can help them, that can’t be all that bad. Mailbox accomplishes this by allowing you to “swipe” an email, moving it out of the inbox until “later”, which you then define as tomorrow, next week, 30 days from now, etc. This is nice. It solves the one big reason I don’t use my inbox as a to-do, new mail keeps piling on top of the stuff I’m supposed to remember to do. Since you’ll be able to move things that you need to read, respond to, or act upon out of your inbox, only to see them reappear when you do need to actually do something with them, they won’t get lost in the pile of new mail.
This, of course, assumes you actually do something with them when they do appear back in the inbox. Since the “alert” on the iPhone continues to show you the number of messages in your inbox, as opposed to just unread messages, at least the phone will be nagging you a bit now. 😉
I can see where this would actually be quite useful. Obviously, if your to-do list is elsewhere, it’s not quite as useful, but even having the ability to drop something out of your inbox to be read tomorrow on those days when you really just don’t have time, is nice. I might have considered using this full time just for that.
You’ll notice I said “might have”. Here’s comes the deal breaker, at least for me. Once I’ve finished what I needed to do with an email; replied, did some other task, etc. my only options within Mailbox is to archive it or delete it. I can’t label it. In fact, I don’t have any integration with Gmail labels as all. If I want to find an old message, I have to go to the All Mail archive and scroll until I find it. Personally, I use labels for everything in Gmail. That is how I organize my past email for easy retrieval. Yes, I could use the web interface to search within my Gmail archive, but most of the time I am not in the web interface, I’m using Outlook, an iOS device or even my Droid. I need to be able to go to a label and retrieve the messages in that specific “folder”.
So while Mailbox may be making it easier to use your email as a to-do list, it is making it harder for me to use it as an information store, the way I normally use Gmail on a mobile device. In the end, I just don’t think Mailbox is for me, which is sort of what I expected to discover.
If you aren’t a big user of labels, and constantly use your inbox as a to-do list, I suspect you might disagree with me. That makes sense, not every tool is for everyone. If you just love it, leave a comment and let me know what you do like about it!
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