Inbox by Gmail Review

Pros and cons of Google's Inbox service

Screenshot of the Inbox by Gmail logo

Google, Inc.

Inbox by Gmail looks and functions much like Gmail and is integrated with it tightly, but it has some core differences — mainly, how emails and other info are organized and acted upon. Google debuted the service in October 2014 and continues to bill it as "the inbox that works for you." Major updates to Google's regular Gmail interface in mid-2018 brought in much of Inbox's functionality, and Inbox usage continues to lag behind that of the regular Gmail interface.

Pros

Fans of Inbox count many reasons they continue to use it:

  • It has a clean interface that's easy to navigate
  • It connects to your Gmail account without any additional setup.
  • Some tasks are handled automatically.
  • It reminds you to reply to emails.
  • Messages can be snoozed so you're alerted about them again later.
  • It suggests short phrases when you're replaying to emails.
  • It auto-suggests text for you to type based on the context.

Cons

  • The classifying and bundling, though configurable, can be confusing at first.
  • Mail storage is limited to 15 GB and shared with Google Drive.
  • Email users who already have a system in place for managing their emails often find Inbox unnecessary and cumbersome.

Google Inbox Features

Inbox uses four main categories to keep your information organized:

  • Bundles are groups of emails that Google's artificial intelligence algorithms deem similar.
  • Highlights show you the most important part of a message without your having to open it.
  • Reminders are to-dos built into the email interface.
  • Snooze lets you ignore a message for the time being, but will remind you to revisit it later.

You can use Inbox by Gmail in a web browser as well as through the Android and iOS app on Android and Apple devices.

Bundles

Screenshot of bundled trip information in Inbox by Gmail
Viewing Trip Information in Inbox.

Messages are automatically bundled in up to seven sections, which Inbox uses to better organize your mail without any interaction required from you. Messages are stored in folders called Trips, Purchases, Finance, Social, Updates, Forums, and Promos. You can disable these bundles and make additional ones.

Instead of a list of messages or conversations sorted by date, Inbox presents a list of thematic buckets grouped by date. As they arrive, emails are automatically sorted into the buckets.

For example, Promos gathers ads and promotional newsletters so that you can focus on more important emails. Finance highlights bills and financial information. Social collects emails from Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. Updates and Forums are where mailing list emails are stored. Inbox by Gmail stores flight and hotel reservations in Trips, and receipts and shipping/delivery notifications in Purchases.

You can act on all messages in a bundle swiftly. If a message is in the wrong bundle, moving it will train the categorization engine. You can also add your own bundles to Inbox; these will show up as labels in Gmail, and Inbox lets you filter mail to them by sender, recipient, subject, and message text.

Screenshot showing how to share trip information bundled with Inbox by Gmail
Sharing Trip Information From Inbox.

You can share bundled messages with others. For example, Inbox can share all the information it's collected in Trips about upcoming travel plans (for example, date, location, hotels, and other reservations) with your group.

Highlights

Screenshot of a highlighted email in Gmail
Previewing Images in Inbox.

The Highlights feature comes in handy for emails that have image attachments, flight status information, reservation details, order updates, and other similar items. When you scroll through such emails, you can see peeks of what's inside and even open links, all without having to open the email.

For example, if you have an email with a few image attachments, you'll see them as a preview before you even open the message. In fact, you can open the images without marking the email as having been read.

The same is true with other highlighted items, such as website URLs. If Inbox detects a link in the message, you can click VIEW ARTICLE to immediately open that web page without having to go into the email.

Snooze

Screenshot showing how to snooze an email in Inbox by Gmail
Snoozing an Email in Inbox.

Inbox can snooze messages to re-notify you at a later time. Instead of marking a message as unread so that you'll see it again later, snoozing will notify you again as if it's a new message. You can pick any date and time to have a snoozed email show back up in your inbox.

If you select multiple messages, you can snooze all of them at once so that each of them will return to the Inbox folder at the time specified.

Screenshot of emails snoozed by Inbox by Gmail
Viewing Snoozed Emails in Inbox.

When you snooze an email in Inbox, it gets removed from the folder it was in. You can view a list of snoozed emails in the Snoozed folder. From there, the email is treated like any other; you can reply to it, delete it, forward it, etc., but you can also edit the snooze time and date or remove the snooze altogether, which will return it to its original folder.

Reminders

Screenshot showing how to make a new reminder in Inbox by Gmail
Making a Reminder in Inbox.

If you send messages to yourself for reminders, you can use the Reminders portion of Inbox to take the hassle out of sending an email to your own account. Just snooze it to go off whenever you need it to, and it will arrive in your Inbox like a message.

For example, you might set up a reminder to email your boss at 4:00 p.m. today, to empty your Trash folder every week at 7:15 p.m., to go grocery shopping this weekend at 9:00 p.m., etc.

Screenshot of a list of reminders in Inbox by Gmail
Viewing Reminders in Inbox.

Reminders are stored in Inbox's Reminders category under other folders such as Drafts and Sent. You can have reminders snoozed until a certain date and time so that you'll get notified of them; if you don't set a snooze time, they'll be stored in the Reminders folder and pinned to the very top of the Inbox folder.

Clicking Mark done next to reminders will turn them from blue to grey. You can also delete them just as easily as you can emails.

How Pinning Works in Inbox

Screenshot of pinned emails in Inbox by Gmail
List of Pinned Emails in Inbox.

Any email can be pinned in Inbox by Gmail. Pinning a message will keep it in the Inbox folder, even if you mark the thread or entire bucket as done.

Emails that have been pinned are easy to spot at a glance because they have a blue pin off to the side. You can also isolate only pinned emails with a tap or click of the pin button at the top of Inbox.

What 'Mark Done' Does in Inbox

Screenshot of the Done folder in Inbox by Gmail
List of Inbox Emails Marked as Done.

Every email in Inbox has a checkmark you can click or tap to mark the email as done. This sends it into the Done folder, and out of the Inbox.

Marking an email as done in Inbox is the same as archiving a Gmail message, Gmail has no Done folder and uses the All Mail folder instead.

More Features and Productivity Hacks

Images and attachments are easily accessible from the inbox as previews, slideshows, and zipped downloads. For sending and saving large files, Inbox by Gmail integrates Google Drive.

Inbox by Gmail also suggests replies based on the context of the email. For one email, you might get buttons like Will do!, Will do, thanks!, and You got it.; for another, you might have options like Thank you for the information!, Thanks for the heads up., and Received and understood. Click on one (or hit the Tab button on your keyboard) to have it inserted into the email for you, from where you can edit it, delete it, add more text, or send the message as is. (Note: With its latest update, Gmail offers this functionality, too.) In fact, you can use many of the keyboard shortcuts from Gmail with Inbox to interact with email even faster.

For each bucket in Inbox, you can choose whether new messages should show up immediately as they arrive or just once a day (for example, at 7:00 a.m.) or once a week (Mondays at 7:00 a.m.).

When choosing an attachment to send with an email, the Attach window slides out to the right of Inbox, where you can pick from recent attachments, files from Google Drive, or files from your computer. Once you've added an attachment, you can switch between having it be inline or attached as a separate file.