Google Inbox: 5 Things To Know - InformationWeek

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10/23/2014
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Google Inbox: 5 Things To Know

Google aims to reinvent email with Inbox. Here's a peek inside the invitation-only app, plus tips for using it.

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Google knows we have an email problem: the endless promotions from retailers, the droves of spam, and (hidden somewhere in that drivel) the stuff that actually matters, like messages from friends and family. That's where its Inbox app, Google's newest take on managing and using email, comes in.

Inbox, which debuted Wednesday, completely reimagines your inbox. The app doesn't replace Gmail on the Web or its mobile app, but it integrates with your account as an alternative way to organize and visualize your messages. While our online habits have changed since Google introduced Gmail 10 years ago, Google says, email hasn't evolved with us.

"We get more email than ever, important information is buried inside messages, and our most important tasks can slip through the cracks -- especially when we're working on our phones," said Sundar Pichai, SVP of Android, Chrome, and Apps at Google, in an announcement. "For many of us, dealing with email has become a daily chore that distracts from what we really do -- rather than helping us get those things done."

[Take advantage of Gmail, Calendar, Docs, and more. See 10 Great Google Apps Tips.]

Inbox organizes your messages into bundles, such as Social, Promotions, and Finance. It also highlights important information like event details and photos emailed by friends and family, and lets you control what you want to see -- now, later, and never -- through a series of new actions.

Inbox's radical new design and approach to email might not be for everyone, but it also could be the solution you're looking for. Here's a look at what makes the app different, and a peek into its features.

1. Inbox is invitation-only.
Anxious to try Inbox? You may have to wait. Google's limited release of the app is reminiscent of Gmail's launch and requires an invitation from someone who already has access. If you're lucky enough to get your hands on one, it will point you to either Google Play or the Apple App Store to download it. Inbox isn't available for Google Apps business users.

An invitation will also give you access to the desktop version at inbox.google.com, but only via the Chrome browser. If you don't have an invitation, email [email protected] to get on the list for subsequent invitation releases.

Inbox doesn't replace your mobile Gmail app or the traditional desktop site, it's just an alternative. Google says Gmail "isn't going anywhere" -- Inbox is just "a new experience designed and developed alongside Gmail."

2. It can feel overwhelming.
Inbox is modern, colorful, and a little overwhelming at first. You'll notice that your messages are grouped by date, with Today at top, followed by Yesterday, and This month. But that's where the familiarity ends: Inbox also corrals your messages into categories, which resurface as bundles of emails when you receive something new.

Two of these bundles include Social and Promotions, which you already had the option to use as tabs within the desktop version of Gmail. New categories that Inbox introduces include Finance, which files bills and statements; Purchases, which feature tracking numbers and receipts; and Travel, for updates from airlines and hotel confirmations. You can create your own bundles, too.

When you receive an email confirmation for a hotel you booked, for example, you'll see your Travel bundle bump to the top of Inbox and display booking details, such as the name of the hotel and dates you're staying there. Click or tap the bundle to view your new email, along with all the old stuff in that category.

Google might also highlight other information in your main Inbox view that's related to messages in your categories, such as

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Kristin Burnham currently serves as InformationWeek.com's Senior Editor, covering social media, social business, IT leadership and IT careers. Prior to joining InformationWeek in July 2013, she served in a number of roles at CIO magazine and CIO.com, most recently as senior ... View Full Bio

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Stephane Parent
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Stephane Parent,
User Rank: Moderator
10/29/2014 | 7:51:24 AM
Overlapping Bundles
I do hope the bundles are not mutually exclusive. I enjoy labels because I can categorize my emails different ways.

Looking forward to trying it out.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/27/2014 | 8:59:08 PM
A few days in...
After a few days of using Inbox, I'm beginning to get used to it. One feature that I don't mind (which actually surprises me) are the push notifications. When an email is sent to me from a contact (not a promotional or social email) I get a push notification alerting me -- gives email more of a messaging feel. Not everyone will like this, but it's handy especially if you're waiting for something important. 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/27/2014 | 8:55:54 PM
Re: old but still the same
@nasimson Agreed. A good first step were the tabs for mail sent to you, promotions, and social emails -- those have helped bring some order to my inbox. 
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
10/27/2014 | 8:53:28 PM
Re: Thumbs up.
@tzubair I'd love to hear your thoughts once you've spent some time with Inbox.
nasimson
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nasimson,
User Rank: Ninja
10/26/2014 | 1:32:02 PM
old but still the same
Email is one of those things that is very old (since inception of the internet) but has changed little over the years. Its good to see Google is redefining the email experience. Perhaps Yahoo & Hotmail will also put in some R&D and we'll some more innovation through competition.
tzubair
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tzubair,
User Rank: Ninja
10/25/2014 | 7:04:35 AM
Thumbs up.
Thanks for the orientation. I think I am going to love the Google Inbox. (Infact, just got started on it) I am happy with the feature of pinning emails that you are not done with.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
User Rank: Author
10/25/2014 | 5:41:59 AM
Re: Nice feature review
More the the point, I am unconvinced that Google even knows entirely what it's doing in that realm.

Case in point: I am an attorney.  Google has some sense that many of my correspondences involve law practice -- and uses this information to target ads to me.

Ads for attorneys.

*sigh*
Alison_Diana
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Alison_Diana,
User Rank: Author
10/24/2014 | 3:39:47 PM
Re: Nice feature review
Agreed! Perhaps it'll also help with spam since it will know the real "Chase" bill from the fake Chase mails that sometmes sneak through spam filters.
Technocrati
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Technocrati,
User Rank: Ninja
10/23/2014 | 7:13:16 PM
Re: Nice feature review

@Thomas   I agree.   I think this trying to anticipate the yearnings of a user through their email is a major waste of time.

The user as you mention just wants their email as simply as it was intended.

Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
10/23/2014 | 6:38:36 PM
Re: Nice feature review
I'm looking forward to try it out. But there's a limit to what summarization and UI can do for a problem that's defined more by your other activities. Sometimes people have time for email and other times they don't. There's no way for a computer to read your mind (yet?) and determine that. One easy fix for email is just to whitelist contacts and sending everyone else's messages into a different folder, to be read when you have time.
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