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My favorite email application, Mailbox, is shutting down in February, so I’m scrambling for an alternative. Fortunately, Mailbox’s trailblazing features have been widely adopted by many of its competitors, so there are plenty of options. My favorites are Google’s Inbox and Microsoft Outlook (yes, Outlook works for iPhone and Gmail users).

Mailbox pioneered a strategy for tackling email overload that has dramatically increased my productivity: We should get to inbox zero every day, even if it means postponing answering messages for later. Instead of sitting idle in your inbox, a user “swipes” a message out of the inbox and it re-appears if it goes unanswered or if there’s a better time to compose a thoughtful response. 

See also: Why Google Doesn’t Hire Based On Ivy League Credentials 

So, for instance, I may wait a week for an editor to get back to me on a story pitch before sending them a reminder email. Instead of staring at the message for a week in my inbox, Mailbox pioneered a “swipe left” feature that allowed users to quickly schedule a time for an unanswered message to pop back into the inbox. 

The swipe-based user interface became so popular that top tech companies, including Google and Microsoft, overhauled their email apps to incorporate this new design into their own revamped mobile apps, Inbox and Outlook, respectively. 

To quantify which app was the quickest at getting me to inbox zero, I created an experiment with 20 mock emails and timed how long it took me to get through them with Dropbox’s Mailbox, Google’s Inbox, and Microsoft’s Outlook. Mailbox was the fastest. 

  • Mailbox: 5:08 seconds
  • Google Inbox: 7:15 seconds
  • Microsoft Outlook: 9:08 seconds

But, now that Dropbox is shutting down Mailbox, it seems like Google’s inbox will be the fastest email application.

I’ll still end up with both Outlook and Inbox on my iPhone. Outlook has some nice features, including Dropbox integration (a backup service I use to store and transfer files). Also, it can be frustrating to use Inbox for some emails, such as when I need to switch a recipient to CC. When one email application fails for some simple reason, it’s nice to have a backup.

I’ll be porting over to Gmail’s Inbox this week. And, if another great technology comes along, I’ll be sure to try those too, to find the best apps to tackle one of our most persistent enemies in modern life: the inbox monster. 

Image courtesy of Dropbox

Gregory ferenstein

Former Staff Writer for ReadWrite. I started my career as a freelance writer in 2009 covering business innovation, did peer-reviewed research on Silicon Valley,(2016), architected bills in Congress (2017), and ran economic field experiments (2019).