How To Use Shortmail, A Twitter-Inspired Email Service That Limits Messages To 500 Characters

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Shortmail wants to do for email what Twitter did for status updates: keep them short, sweet, and most of all, fit for our 21st century attention spans.

To understand Shortmail, all you really need to know is that it only lets you type 500 characters per email and organizes email chains into “conversations” organised by contact in a left column bar.

Like any new proprietary service or social network, its usefulness is contingent on your friends being willing to abide by a rule: in this case the 500 character text limit.

Your friends don’t need to use Shortmail, but if they email you at your new Shortmail address, they’ll have to keep messages short to avoid being “quarantined.”

Shortmail is threaded messaging, made simple, personal, and concise. It could make our lives a whole lot easier if we all jumped onboard.

Shortmail, for whatever reason, needs your Twitter account to sign you up. If you don't have one, you're out of luck temporarily.

Once you authorise your Twitter account, plug in another email address.

Here's your Shortmail home screen. It kind of looks like MobileMe's old mail app.

Tap Archive to get rid of a new email, or the + sign to respond to one.

When you receive messages, a number appears next to the name of a contact, and their name moves to the top of the left column. Just like the SMS app on your phone.

Click the contact in the left column to see a thread of messages, including the recent response.

Want to search for contacts or emails? Use the bar up top. You can even talk to search by clicking the microphone button.

When you email using Shortmail, people see a signature explaining that they need to keep things brief.

Is Shortmail going to take off?

It's hard to tell at this point since the service is still in early stages, but we love the concept.

We had having to read through epic emails. We don't respond to long emails as often, because we often save them to read later because they're so long.

Shortmail might not make it to the world stage, but something like it surely will. Services like Shortmail are starting to make email feel a lot more like snail mail.

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