Google Inbox: The Good, the Bad, and the Dreamy

Being among those who have received an invitation to use Google’s Inbox service, I feel obligated to write my own review of its interface. It is basically that, an interface to the existing Gmail, not that I had expected anything different. I am not in the habit of reading long reviews, and as such, will not be writing one.

The Good

First of all, listing what’s great about it.

Clean

Google Inbox Menu
It clears away the clutter of your day-to-day mail, and much like Gmail’s not-so-newly introduced tabs, will tuck away emails that belong together. You even have the option to create your own labels, and based on the emails under that label, it will bundle those together for you, too.

The interface gives you a clear overview of the stuff you have in your inbox, allowing you to jump to those that are of more interest to you, more quickly.

Relaxed

Yes. Relaxed. Receiving tons of mail a day, specially when most of them are work-related can be very stressing. Specially considering that I aggregate many different mail boxes under my Gmail account. As such, having the irrelevant stuff put one side and the relevant neatly grouped together would be very relaxing.

Action-based

The new Inbox is very action-based. It allows you to quickly decide whether or not you have taken action on a given mail, or if you want to create a reminder for it and “snooze it away”.

Ubiquitous Interface

The interface is very ubiquitous. Your inbox looks exactly the same on your Android, your iOS, and on the web. The way you interact with the mails stays the same.

Clean Compose

The compose dialog is very much like it is in Gmail. Except you have the option to directly compose mail to your most-frequent correspondents and also create reminders from the same toggle menu.

Overviews

You will get overviews of what the email contains. If it is an email of your travel itinerary you will get an overview of it without ever having to open it. Receipts are also the same.

The Bad

I am also going to write about things that I feel are missing from the Inbox application.

Browser Compatibility

The first thing you will notice is that the Inbox can only be opened in Google Chrome via the Web. If you are a Mac user like me, then you most likely do your most routine work on Safari. This has made me move to Chrome or at least leave it open to be able to check my mail regularly.

IMAP Support

Once you mark an email as done, it will no longer be synced with your IMAP client. I don’t know why. I have all these rules set up in my Mail application under OS X that will move the mail to different IMAP folders, but once I mark the mails as done, they no longer appear in my Mail app. I checked and there is no option to have a “Done” folder be made visible to IMAP clients.

This is a REAL bummer for me, and I might even leave off using Inbox for know because of it.

Send as

When you have different accounts aggregated under Gmail, you would be disappointed to realize that you can no longer choose the account/alias to be used when sending an email under compose, and you will realize that when you reply to an email, it will be sent via your current Gmail address.

This is very bad considering that I would not like my colleagues to mistakenly send emails to my personal inbox. I will have to be notified of the email, and should I decide to actually make a reply, I will have to log in to my actual mail box.

Select All

There is no select all action anywhere. If you want to clear your messages from your Trash, you will have to manually select all of them. If you want to select all updates and move them to a certain folder, you will have to manually select everything.

Mark as Read

There is no “mark as read” action anywhere. You will have to open each email to mark them as read. This is particularly counter-productive considering the whole overview option which lets you scan the contents of the email. Suppose I have a batch of receipts. I already know the contents, because I was given a glimpse of it all, but I will have to open them individually.

Emptying the Trash/Spam Folders

You cannot empty your trash or spam folders. You will have to remove all of the emails manually, or wait the designated 30 days for the emails to be removed automatically. If you remove an email from Spam, it will actually go back to your Inbox.

Invalid Rendering

There have been emails that have been split into multiple mails, even though they look just fine in Gmail. This one is a real bother.

The Dreamy

There are some stuff that would make my life and the lives of many others I know much simpler should them be made available in Google Inbox.

Collective Action

So I am a developer and it would not be too hard for me to write ¬†CSS selector that would select, say, all “Approve Comment” actions in the mails relating to my blog’s comments. If I choose to have them bundled together, wouldn’t it be super great if I could have a button that would run “Approve Comment” on all emails?

Custom Overview Contexts

Again, it wouldn’t be too hard to define custom overview pieces from certain emails, take the comment example¬†from above.

Aggregated Data Overview

If Inbox would do the same thing it does for the inbox folder across all folders, and then I could easily apply ordering and rules to the emails, and have the emails moved to the appropriate folders, while Inbox would show them to me in their proper format, it would be my all time favorite.

Conclusion

I think for now, Inbox cannot be a full-fledged replacement for your Gmail, at least not on the desktop. If you want to use a mail client alongside Inbox, right now it is not the answer. I don’t know if Google is hoping to overtake your use of mail and guide you to its web interface — because ultimately it will be more beneficial to Google — then it should at least offer a wider range of support to the browsers its users are going to use.

Also, some of the points I have mentioned above are entirely too critical at least for a power-user like myself, and I don’t know if I am yet ready to make the full-time switch.

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