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I got a Inbox invite (hat tip to Dawid Róż @dav4dav4) and spent a day with it. The same day, I got the Material Design upgrade for Gmail. Let’s review it.

Screenshots/Gallery

I tested the mobile version; the web app works the same.

Task-oriented e-mail

Inbox changes how e-mail works. E-mails are now tasks.

First off, e-mails are bundled into categories (Travel, Purchases, Finance, Social, Updates, Forums, Promos) — the last four of which were available in Gmail before if you used inbox categories (the tabs). The difference is, all the messages are bundled in the inbox. All the categories show up as one entry in the inbox view. Also, “humans” get their own entries. When you click on an entry, it expands and all the threads in this category. You can also bundle other labels in the inbox, provided that there are any filters that send them here (as filters are one of the main elements of Inbox)

Actions

There are four actions you can perform on each message. They are:

Pin

A pinned message appears outside of its bundle. It can’t be sweeped away, you must explicitly mark it as done.

Mark done

Marking a message done is equivalent to archiving it in Gmail. If you had a workflow that involved archiving things you don’t need anymore, you will find yourself at home in Inbox.

Snooze

A snoozed message disappears from your Inbox for the time being. It will appear at the time you set. Helpful for decluttering your inbox while not getting rid of things you need to come back to later. The catch: no notifications at all — you must check your inbox yourself.

Move to…

Inbox’s algorithms are pretty good, but sometimes you may need to move messages to a different bundle/label. This lets you do just that.

Right-handed people do, left-handed people postpone.

This is something funny I was taught by Inbox. You see, I am left-handed. I primarily use my phone with my left-hand (though I use a normal/“right-handed” computer mouse). For me, the best way to swipe things away is right-to-left. That’s how I am usually doing it in Gmail. I can do it both ways, it registers as an archive.

Inbox, however, has two distinctive swipe actions: if you swipe from the left side, the conversation is archived (marked done). However, if you swipe from the right side, it will be snoozed.

Reminders

There are also Reminders. Reminders are just email-less items appearing in Inbox. They don’t serve any special purpose. Some of them, however, contain hints — for example, the contact data of the place mentioned in your reminder (if there is any).

Reminders can be snoozed, but again: there are no notifications.

Material Design Galore

One of the parts that made me get interested in the first place is Material Design. I believe in its principles. As mentioned earlier, I also have access to the Gmail app with Material Design (version 5.0). So, I can compare them both.

Both apps look nicely; however, Inbox is prettier. Multiple things look and work better in Inbox than in Gmail. The app feels nicer overall — mainly because it was redone from scratch and not just upgraded from something that’s around for YEARS. Gmail works pretty much the same as it did on Friday.

Final Thoughts

I really loved the experience. But will Inbox ever be my main e-mail client? No — at least not today.

Inbox is either minimalistic, or an unfinished piece of software. It lacks a few important features — for example, you can only send HTML mail, and you cannot have a signature. Moreover, you can’t have multiple From: addresses.

One thing I noticed is, Inbox defaults to Reply All. No questions asked. We all know what Reply All leads to.

Moreover, I like e-mail the way it is. I have very comprehensive labels, which are much more helpful and granular than the bundles. I have also developed a perfect Priority Inbox setup: Gmail knows exactly what I care about and need notifications for.

Finally: I currently do my GTD in Evernote (via The Secret Weapon plus Reminders). It’s nicer, at least for me.

Aside: The Four Themes of Android

Modern Android has FOUR different themes that can be encountered by the user. Just look at this madness:

Internal Name Description Modern usage
Theme the original theme of Android, last updated in Android 2.3 very old apps; games (for compatibility with older versions)
Theme.Holo the Holo theme, the main theme of Android 3.0 through 4.4 most apps currently in Play Store
Theme.Material tne new Material theme, introduced in Android 5.0 newly updated apps
Theme.DeviceDefault the (ugly) theme specific to this phone’s manufacturer (eg. Samsung) Settings and other apps written/modified by the device manufacturer

(The new themes are backported to old versions in the Android Support Library.)

You can easily find apps in all four styles on a typical Android device. Apps looking differently. Nobody cares about consistency in the Android world…

Screenshots/Gallery

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