How many people really use the archive button in Gmail?
Sure, there are productivity experts who advocate archiving or deleting emails through the day to reach the fabled “inbox zero,” but most people don’t get close. Me, I was always proud just to stay on top of my unread emails. Like many people I starred the emails I needed to deal with later but never saw the point of moving them out of my inbox and into a hidden archive.
Yet clearly Google wants us to do something with that button. It’s right there in the middle of the app.
Having a core feature that many people don’t understand is a design flaw. That’s not to mention how many people are buried under thousands of unread messages.
Google knows this. That much is clear when you look at Inbox by Gmail, an alternate email app it has been quietly working on for several years.
Inbox has many cool features, such as AI-generated reply suggestions and a more fluid design, but the best part is how it reworks the system for sorting old messages. With a few subtle changes, Inbox pushes users along a clear and painless path toward inbox zero.
Here’s my inbox from earlier today, with four emails in it:
How does Inbox get you to inbox zero?
First, it replaces the archive button with a done button. Archive and done may serve similar functions, but done is an easier concept to understand. Likewise the checkmark icon for done is easier to understand than the folder with an arrow in it for archive. I don’t care about archiving, but I love marking things done.
Second, Inbox makes it easier to clear emails out of the inbox. Where you have to click multiple times to clear emails in Gmail (open an email and then check archive or select an email and then select archive from a dropdown menu), you can clear single or multiple emails with a single click in Inbox. Just press the check box that appears next to every email and every group of emails and in every opened email.
Third, Inbox gives you a great new option for emails that you’re not ready to deal with yet. Press snooze and an email will leave your inbox for a specified amount of time.
Finally, Inbox gives you a wonderful visual reward when you clear out your inbox. Here’s how it looks on desktop:
How can you not want to get to that tranquil image? And what a great feeling it is to open your email and see nothing but this.
Since signing up for Inbox a couple of weeks ago, I’ve found email a lot less stressful. I used to star emails to keep track of them, but now I just leave them in the inbox until I’m ready to clear them out. Now my inbox is a to-do list, but it’s a manageable one that I find easy to complete.
Note: Getting your inbox down to zero for the first time requires a bit of a workaround. You’ll want to go into the old Gmail app, select everything in the inbox (try searching “in:inbox” and then clicking the link to select all emails that match this search), and hit archive.
As I said, Inbox also does other cool stuff, most of it geared toward making email less overwhelming.
“The world has changed a lot since 2004,” Gmail product manager Alex Gawley told Tech Insider in March. “We felt that there was an opportunity to rethink [email] and think about what might an inbox for the next 10 years look like.”
The AI-generated suggested replies? I haven’t used them much, but they’re fun. Bundling related emails (e.g., receipts)? Love it. Integration with calendar, flights, etc.? Still figuring it out but like the idea. The simplified user interface throughout? Big fan.
The small downsides I’ve found are that it’s a little trickier to send from multiple accounts and that it doesn’t have an integrated calendar view. Perhaps those are coming in time. In any case, who cares?
Gmail has finally lost its crown to a new app. The new winner, Inbox, just happens to be made by the same company.