There’s a new breed of email apps trending these days. These apps are designed to help users get productive with their inboxes and ultimately reach inbox zero. They have several common denominators, including gestures, action-based functionality, scheduling, and integration with other productivity tools like tasks and calendars. They make for a good compliment to project management apps such as Clarizen, Wrike, or JIRA, making your work life that little bit more manageable.
A growing number of these email apps have been released to the public, signalling evident interest in this approach to email. I’ve managed to round up ten (10) email apps that fit into this trend, some of which you may or may not have heard of before. Let’s take a look at these email apps and see what they have to offer users in need of a more effective and flexible solution to email.
Triage doesn’t want to replace your email client, whatever that may be. As stated in our in-depth review, Triage can’t create new email, search through folders, and tag/star email. It simply acts as a tool to help you stay on top of your inbox by fetching new email and letting you decide what to do with it.
Triage works best for users who want to focus on sorting and organising new messages. You can choose to reply via Triage, archive it for later, or get rid of it completely. Swipe upwards to delete a message from both Triage and your inbox, or downwards to simply archive it from Triage but leave it unread in your inbox.
Mailbox took the community by storm when it promised a completely different approach to email management and collaboration. As such, its main features include gestures for easy management, email scheduling/snoozing, and lists. Moreover, the company behind the app partnered with file sharing giant Dropbox, which imminently led to Dropbox integration and was made universal with the release of the iPad version.
While Mailbox is lightweight, user-friendly, and exceptional in helping users reach inbox zero, it’s got its limitations. It’s exclusive to Gmail/Google Apps accounts with the promise of further support for other services and devices as the company grows. If you use other email services and are simply not a Google fan, you will have to consider other options. You can read the full Mailbox review.
Mail Pilot is another universal email app that hopes to remove the stress from managing email by changing your entire perspective of it. It does this by turning your inbox into a to-do list and identifies email as either incomplete or complete. New messages are labeled as incomplete until you’ve completed all tasks related to it. You can then scrub it off and move on to the next message.
Other features include full support for all IMAP-based email accounts (e.g., Google, iCloud, AOL), review on a future date and time, and organising messages through lists. It doesn’t support push notifications though, so this may be a deal breaker for some. Moreover, Mail Pilot is priced at $14.99 though, so be sure to read up on the app’s feature list and functionality to gauge if it’s worth spending on.
Following the idea of email as actionable items, Dispatch aims to make managing your inbox easy and swift, even while you’re on the move. Swipe across messages to mark as read, star, archive, delete, or label as junk.
What sets Dispatch apart is support for 22 third party apps, which is pretty impressive. On the other hand, it has a handful of limitations that have turned potential users off: no plans for push notifications and attachments to new mail, no support for POP/Exchange-based accounts, no search, unified inbox, landscape mode, alias support, and the list goes on. Read the full iPhone.Appstorm review for our take on this $4.99 app.
Previously branded as “Taskbox,” Boxer is a completely redesigned app with new and interesting features. It’s now a powerful email/todo app built to boost your productivity and get you to love email again. Beautiful interface, wide support for various email accounts, and integration with cloud services like Dropbox are just some of its highlights.
Boxer’s most notable feature is the list of actions you can take when responding or acting on an email. By swiping right on a message, you can “like” a message, add quick customisable responses, convert emails as to-dos, and even request for help with a particular task or project email. It’s twice as powerful yet priced affordably.
Next in line is Evomail, a universal gesture-based email app built with Dropbox and Box.net integration, ability to snooze emails till a specific date, and viewing entire conversation histories. You can also utilise folders for thorough organisation over your inbox and push notifications to keep you updated on incoming mail.
Evomail has recently released an Android version of the app, which will make a lot of non-iOS users happy. My only issue with the app is how buggy the unified inbox can be sometimes. Hopefully, this gets sorted out soon.
Cloze is a catch-all for both your email and your social notifications. Everything, from Facebook notifications to your email, can be read and sorted within a noise-cancelling environment where it is easy to swipe, filter, bookmark, and store information from your messages. In short, the unified inbox is where Cloze’s strength lies, and it has worked for users who want to manage both email and social networking in one place. Check out the full review.
Mail+ is another hybrid that focuses on integration between email and the calendar. It supports IMAP-based email accounts (e.g., Gmail, Yahoo, AOL), is gesture- and action-based, and can easily create tasks, contacts, and calendar events all within the app. You can search for email within folders and subfolders, add a passcode for extra security, and work on landscape mode if you’re on an iPad.
If you want further support for Outlook, Exchange, Lotus Notes, and other email services, you can opt to pay for Mail+ for Outlook ($5.99) or Mail+ for ActiveSync ($19.99).
To achieve inbox zero, email processing shouldn’t take up too much time and effort. Mail Ninja makes sorting and cleaning up your inbox easy and fast. To quote from their web page, the app “is fun, almost like a game,” and sure enough the demo video attests to that.
Gestures are the core functionality of the app. Pull down to search or update your inbox, pull harder to compose a new message. Swipe left from the inbox to trash a message and right to archive. Within the message, swipe left to delete, right to archive, and down to reply. Shake the phone to undo any actions made and swipe diagonally from the bottom left to go back.
The last member of today’s roundup is AltaMail, an advanced email client that features multiple email account support, the ability to act on multiple emails across multiple email accounts, swipe actions for easy email management, and email rules to auto-reply, auto-delete, auto-file, and flag messages. It’s also got other advanced features under its belt, such as powerful search, direct printing to most WiFi and shared printers, email attachments management, and reminders.
A Continuous Work In Progress
Based on the email apps covered, it’s evident that mobile email continues to be a work in progress as it gradually evolves from a mere portable inbox to a full-fledge productivity tool. I look forward to seeing these existing apps improve as they continue to break tradition and provide better solutions. Likewise, I’m excited to see new email app contenders that have something new to bring to the table.
Let me know in the comments your favorite action-based/inbox zero/gesture email app or what other app should be on the list.
Update: This post was originally published on September 18th 2013. It was updated on June 30th 2015.