Mailbox: Finally Reach Inbox Zero

It seems that everywhere you look someone has a suggestion on how to handle email. Unfortunately, a lot of people talk about email but few decide to actually change how email works. Mailbox is a new app which aims for users to rethink email and how it fits into your life. If you have researched ways to handle your email better you might have heard of Inbox Zero. It’s the ultimate clean slate when you reach zero emails in your inbox. Having no emails that beg for your attention helps free your mind to think clear and maybe even relax.

The release of the Mailbox app has been hyped on the tech news scene a lot since February. You even might be on the waiting list for the app. Are you currently struggling with email? Then keep reading to see if Mailbox really does put email in its place.

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Mailbox Will Not Benefit Everyone

First, let’s be clear that as of the writing of this article, Mailbox only supports Gmail. If you do not use Gmail as your main email service or are not willing to forward iCloud or other preferable email to your Gmail account, then the app is worthless. The Mailbox team has stated that there are plans to support other email providers in the future, but there is no time frame given and who knows if you would have to go through a reservation system — again!

Now you might have heard all about a reservation system and most likely have seen people complain in your Twitter stream that they are way high in line. How did my reservation end up? Well, thanks to discovering the development of the app early, I was able to secure a close position to the front when the reservation system started. So when first loading my app and entering my reservation code, I realized I was approximately over 14,000 activations away from having email change my life. At first I was bummed about how far back in the queue I was, but after seeing it skyrocket into the hundreds of thousands, I was content with my position.

Luckily my wait was not too terribly long, just a couple of days.

Luckily my wait was not too terribly long, just a couple of days.

For what it’s worth, it only took a couple of days to gain access to the app, and I happened to check right before my access was granted. Several users on Twitter have been complaining and laughing at the Mailbox team about their reservation system. When I first heard about it I was skeptical and bummed that I would not have immediate access, but it was easy to see that team wanted to provide a quality product, even if that meant doing things that were out of the norm.

Inbox Zero

Let’s dive in and actually see what makes this email client so special. There is one goal in Mailbox and that is inbox zero. The famous item that you might have heard before, and only thought it was a mirage since it never could actually exist within your inbox — but it is possible. In order to reach inbox zero, Mailbox utilizes list and scheduling actions which move emails out of your inbox and hopefully out of your mind until the time is right.

The sidebar has quick access to the different list you can set up in Mailbox, and the team has shared interest in help making your outgoing messages more productive as well.

The sidebar has quick access to the different list you can set up in Mailbox, and the team has shared interest in help making your outgoing messages more productive as well

A lot of the structure behind the way Mailbox works is loosely based on David Allen’s Getting Things Done (GTD) theory and how to rid your mind of all of the junk to actually accomplish tasks. A way to keep on top of your digital life is to keep on top of your inbox. By keeping a clean inbox and moving emails into their proper place, it should become clearer what you actually need to accomplish.

For Mailbox to work with your email it has to connect as a third party to Gmail. This is the main reason behind the reservation system for the app. The team did not rush things and allow access for everyone just to have their servers crash. Since your mail is being synced through Mailbox’s servers, there can be a slight delay before your inbox will populate with new messages. This can be frustrating since you might have just received a notification for the new message but have to wait a few seconds to see it.

When first loading the app, an instructional guide displays showing all of the gestures you can perform to arrive at Inbox Zero.

When first loading the app, an instructional guide displays showing all of the gestures you can perform to arrive at Inbox Zero.

After clearing out your inbox you will be rewarded with a picture and a message stating you are all done. The picture actually changes every day but is the same for every Mailbox user. The pictures are pulled from Instagram, and is a great way to feature some great and otherwise unknown photos.


So maybe you are thinking that Inbox Zero is a complete myth and no amount of acting on your inbox can help, but I will urge you to just keep hacking away for this next part. When viewing your inbox, Mailbox allows you to use swipe gestures to move your mail where you need it to go. There are four different swipes which are dependent on the length and direction.

When the total number of items in your inbox is relatively small, you can swipe all messages at once by using the bar at the bottom of the list.

Swiping to the right is for putting a message away indefinitely. This includes either archiving a message or deleting it all together. To archive messages, just perform a short swipe to the right and it will archive it away until you need to find it again. If you know you will never need the message again and would like to delete it then just perform a long swipe to right and the action changes to delete the message.

The scheduling features is a great way to defer items until you have more time to process the email.

The scheduling features is a great way to defer items until you have more time to process the email.

Sometimes you might not be able to archive a message because you still need perform on action related to the message or you might need to reference it in the near future. Just perform quick swipe to the left to schedule the message to show back up in the inbox later. Some of the time options available to schedule include later today, tomorrow, this weekend and more. After deferring an item, it will be moved out of the inbox and put into a later list. When the fateful day arrives that the email is scheduled to show up it will appear again to either to be deferred or acted upon.


In the end, this app may not be for everyone. If you already have control of your email and do not receive hundreds of them a day, then the power of Mailbox may not appeal to you. If you constantly struggle with cleaning out your inbox then it can be a game changer. Adding list support with scheduling and topping it off with good design makes Mailbox a top contender for third-party iPhone email clients. Although, I admit the market is small.

While Mailbox is currently free, the team has hinted that they would like to pursue a freemium model much like Dropbox or Evernote. There has been no word on the price or structure of this, but my hope is that app as it is today is the free price level, and maybe for users who need more or want another email service, there would be a pay option. If email has got you down, there is no better place to start than with Mailbox; now go forth and reach Inbox Zero.


By scheduling emails and using gestures to quickly process your inbox, Mailbox makes it possible to reach Inbox Zero every day.

  • Matt

    I used Mailbox now for a little more then 2 weeks – my conclusion:

    Great app – love the gestures and the whole scheduling idea.
    The only problem is, as long as we don’t have a desktop version, the scheduling of mails just works on your mobile: on the desktop scheduling implies to check not only your inbox, but also your “Mailbox later” folder.

    I hope someone comes up with a desktop version – because thats were I usually answer my emails.

  • Jeremy

    My only negative: Can’t use it until they support iCloud, which they said is on the way. I do love it though.

  • Joe Gillespie

    Personally, I think they missed the mark a little bit on this one. GMail was built around its search functionality, that’s why there are not even folders. Sure you can tag/filter emails so they end up in a common digital space, but I see that mainly as a function that enhances search.

    I would love to reach Inbox Zero on my work email which is on Lotus Notes. In Notes, the search functionality is poor and sorting and cataloging emails is (unfortunately) vitally important to keeping organized and staying on-task. But choosing GMail as the first (and right now only) provider is a mistake. The beauty of GMail is that even with an inbox of tens of thousands of messages, you can find the one you need in seconds with a couple of keywords.

  • Liz

    Mailbox will add support for other email clients as they grow! Exchange, .me, Yahoo, and more. For now the app works with Gmail AND Google Apps accounts.

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  • Robyn

    Just started using Mailbox and have been very happy with it. I am redirecting one of my other email addresses to gmail just to see how it handles it but I will be happier when it can take mail from my own domain as well.

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