Some things getter better with time, but email hasn't been one of them. Today employees send and receive an estimated 110 emails a day, according to the Radicati Group. That's expected to increase to 125 by 2015.
For years, email software has failed to keep pace with our changing tech lifestyles and messaging habits. We now have to contend with a deluge of Facebook updates, social invites and alerts. Some of us have shunned our desktops and manage an inbox via an iPad or smartphone screen. Email hasn't gotten easier to manage -- it's gotten harder.
But things are starting to change. Well-known email providers and start-ups have been busy building innovative inbox solutions to meet changing needs. The past year has seen an influx of messaging tools and services to help us put more love into our love-hate relationship with email.
More good news: Most of these solutions are free and work with existing email providers so you don't have to start using a new inbox UI. Some tools put your bloated inbox on a diet with an eye toward achieving inbox zero status. Others analyze email and categorize messages, separating business messages from social. Then there are email solutions that deliver an at-a-glance overview of your inbox so you can more easily identify and delete swaths of email quickly.
Google rolled out its own email overload cure for Gmail users in May, bringing automatic filtering to incoming messages. When email hits your Gmail account, Google analyzes it and files it into a corresponding tabs at the top of your inbox labeled Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums.
A division of AOL called Alto has a service that will analyze a Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL or .Mac account and group your entire inbox into neat piles of similarly categorized messages. Gaining this unique perspective you can quickly identify Stacks (as Alto calls them) of newsletters, social updates and long-forgotten correspondence and either delete them or not.
But mobile is on the rise, and email access via tablets and smartphones will soon overshadow desktop access. Thirty-eight percent of email is now opened on a mobile device, compared to 33% on a desktop and 29% via Web mail, according to Litmus, an email marketing and analytics firm.
Two new mobile solutions, Boxer and Mailbox, both deliver powerful sorting and archiving tools you'd expect only with full-blown Web-based or software email clients. Mailbox is a slick email client for iPhones and iPads. Swipe a message to the right, and Mailbox archives it. Swipe a message to the left, and Mailbox saves the email for later. Swiping a message to the right and holding deletes it.
Dig into our overview of 10 new email products to help you stay more productive and keep you from being pinned under an avalanche of email.