Inbox by Gmail Review - Email Service

Manage the ins and outs of Inbox by GMail

Inbox by Gmail
Inbox by Gmail. Google, Inc.

Editor's Note: Inbox discontinued its free services. This article remains to help you understand that overall service. 

The Bottom Line

Inbox by Gmail aims to help you manage not just email but the information in those emails with automatic classification, a to-do list, deferring emails and breaking out photos, itineraries and shipments.
As helpful as all these tools can be, they can also confuse and overwhelm, especially at first.


  • Inbox by Gmail offers a different and often very helpful take on email
  • Emails are automatically classified and dealt with in bulk easily
  • Reminders and deferring messages help you be productive
  • Inbox by Gmail can suggest short replies to get you started answering emails


  • The classifying and bundling, though configurable, can be confusing at first
  • Inbox by Gmail does not suggest signatures or longer texts and snippets for replies, does not include email templates
  • Offers “merely” 15 GB of online storage, shared with Google Drive to boot


  • Inbox by Gmail offers an alternative interface to a Gmail account (which comes with 15 GB of storage, IMAP and POP access as well as mobile apps).
  • Gmail as an underpinning means you also profit from its spam filtering, 2-factor authentication for security and integration with many third-party tools.
  • Messages are automatically categorized in up to seven buckets: financial messages, social updates, forums, promotions, purchases, low-priority messages and updates (including newsletters).
  • Inbox by Gmail can group messages by category (in a “bundle”) to clean up the inbox, optionally only popping messages to the inbox once a day or week.
  • 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.
  • In addition to these categories, Inbox by Gmail will break out trips (established from flight and hotel reservations, for example). For purchases, it extracts shipment information.
  • Images and attachments in general are also easily accessible from the inbox as previews, slideshows and zipped downloads. For sending and saving large files, Inbox by Gmail integrates Google Drive.
  • You can 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.
  • When you cannot—or do not want to—deal with a message (or category) immediately, Inbox by Gmail lets you defer them until later or when you get to a certain location.
  • A to-do list is included with email. When you create a new item, Inbox by Gmail tries to predict what you will enter, and when it discovers a to-do item in an email, it will suggest you create a reminder for it.
  • For common emails (requests and suggestions, for instance), suggested replies offer shortcuts to answering (and might help overcome inhibition).
  • You can use many of the keyboard shortcuts familiar from Gmail with Inbox to operate email on the web even faster.

Expert Review - Inbox by Gmail

If one email inbox is good, are two better? Or eight?

Putting Modern Email’s Tools to Use for You

Inbox by Gmail, aptly named, sets out to help you tame the daily deluge that is email by helping you organize. To do so, it not only gives you the tools—say, labels and filters—; it not only teaches you how to use them; no, Inbox by Gmail puts the tools to work for you without any work by you.

How does this look and work, you wonder?

Inbox by Gmail Sorts and Buckets Emails Automatically

Instead of a list of messages or conversations sorted by date (like the one found in Gmail), Inbox gives you a list of thematic buckets grouped by date. As they arrive, emails are automatically sorted into the buckets.

You can freely enabled any of seven categories. Promos and Finance are particularly useful. One lets you quickly dismiss ads and promotional newsletters when you first want to catch up with other, more important matters while the other highlights one kind of potential importance, bills and financial information. Social collects Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and maybe even MySpace still while Updates and Forums are for newsletters and mailing lists in somewhat haphazard a manner.

Reliable Categorizations Overall

In general, Inbox by Gmail’s algorithms are good at placing emails in the buckets that make most sense for them. Beware of the Low Priority bucket maybe, it seemed to attract personal emails for me. I’m sure that says more about me than it says about Inbox—or, perish the thought, the senders.

Back at a bucket with which Inbox is good at catching, Purchases not only breaks out items you have bought online (with images) and links to purchases automatically, it also tracks shipment information in a handy manner.

One special kind of purchase many make online is booking flights, trains, hotels, hostels and what not one needs to see the world. In Inbox by Gmail, you will automatically see, well, a picture of the place you’re going and the relevant emails collected under an itinerary bucket. Of course, Inbox also extracts and distills flight plans, hotel check-ins and the like.

Working with Mail and Buckets

Of course, the Inbox buckets not only collect mail, they also let you act on it—in one way: you can quickly mark all messages in a bucket done. Depending on your settings, the emails are either archived or deleted and will disappear from the inbox.

If a categorization is wrong, you can easily move individual emails (or entire bundles) to a different bucket. Inbox by Gmail should pick up on your action and place new messages more correctly.

Whichever bucket a message is in, Inbox adds a few commands to email’s typical set. In addition to replying, deleting and archiving, you can pin messages to the inbox and defer them for later.

Pinning and Deferring

Pinned messages always remain in your inbox, even when you mark a thread or an entire bucket done. Inbox lets you also focus the inbox just on pinned messages wth a simple click or tap.

Deferring is more interesting and possibly just as useful: when you snooze an email, it will be hidden from the regular inbox and buckets until a specified time—or place—is reached. This lets you put off messages with which you cannot deal right now, or have work emails only show up again at—work.

More Productivity Hacks

Speaking of having emails show up only when it is best for you, Inbox can nudge you into (possibly even more) effective email habits: for each bucket, you can choose whether new messages should show up (and push the bucket to your inbox’s top) immediately as they arrive or just once a day (at 7 in the morning) or just once a week (Monday morning). Way to procrastinate productively!

If the emails come with attachments, Inbox lets you preview them right from the inbox, and pictures show in a manner easy to browse. Integration with Google Drive makes it easy to both save received files to your Drive account and insert documents or images from Google Drive—even large ones—into emails you send.

When you are about to send an attachment, Inbox by Gmail lets you easily browse and insert recently received or sent files as well. Of course, you can also attach any file from your computer.

Any file? Unfortunately, Inbox by Gmail is limited to 25 MB in attachment file size; it does not offer Gmail’s large file sending option using Google Drive.

Suggested Replies to Get You Started

Even without a file to attach and send, concocting email's is hard, especially when you want them to be perfect and value the sender.

Would it not also value the sender to forgo your own perfection, and value them even more with a reply good enough delivered posthaste? How about your email service suggesting just such replies?

With sometimes amusing but often surprisingly helpful straightforwardness, Inbox by Gmail will offer small snippets of possible replies when it finds text suited to such a reply.

("Do you prefer Boards of Canada or Telemann" yields "Either is fine." and "What do you think?", for instance, but also "Whatever you want."; suggested replies for "How are you doing?" are all variations of "Fine. You?", and to meet up for a movie, Inbox suggests "How about 7:30?"—or to bounce back the question, of course. You got the idea.)

Reminders for Your Email

Have you ever forgotten to attach a file you meant to send? Sadly and unlike other email services and programs, Inbox will not remind you to do that; it does include other reminders, though.

If it detects language in a received email that sounds like a task for you (such as “Can you buy peanut butter?”), Inbox will suggest for you to create a to-do item. These reminders in Inbox, like emails, can be snoozed until a specific time (the due date) or location (the shop, say) is reached.

Of course, you need not wait for Inbox to suggest reminder items. Adding new reminders is easy, and Inbox will helpfully suggest the text (quite aptly sometimes); connecting new reminders to emails is surprisingly confusing, though (you need to start by pinning the email).

All in all, Inbox’s reminders are quite handy—and, thanks to email’s ubiquity, always in your face.

Basic Features: What Is Not New with Inbox?

Behind Inbox by Gmail’s, well, inbox is Gmail, of course. You get all of the free Google email service's solid basic features: POP as well as IMAP access, 15 GB of online storage, 2-factor authentication to keep the account secure and an interface to many 3rd-party services.

You can also switch between the Inbox interface and classic Gmail at any time. (We will get to why you would want to do that shortly.)

Your Own Buckets for Inbox by Gmail

In addition to the buckets that come with Inbox, you can define your own, of course; these act as buckets (without all of the native features, though) in Inbox, as labels in Gmail, and as folders via IMAP and in third-party applications.

While adding simple rules to place messages in buckets automatically based on sender, subject and message text is easy, Inbox does not come with a direct interface to Gmail's more sophisticated filtering system. Filters you set up in Gmail work in Inbox, though.

The same is true for other Gmail features, such as setting up existing addresses for sending, having your emails forwarded automatically or the auto-responder that you can employ to send replies for you while you are on vacation.