It’s been a long time that we’ve known that Inbox by Gmail is going away, and to be honest, I understand the decision to deduplicate the development time required to keep two apps and sites updated (Gmail/Inbox). However, I’ve never actually taken the time to describe in detail the missing features that never made it over to Gmail, and they’re the things I like the most about using Inbox. So here goes!
Missing from Gmail (In no particular order)
When Inbox first launched, one of my favourite new features was bundles. The ability to put emails that are still in your inbox in to different sections, still sorted by date and conversation thread, was just unbelievably powerful. Having the further ability to keep bundled emails from showing up in the inbox right away was another amazing feature that kept me from being distracted by ‘Promo’ emails more than once a day, and let me create any number of other sub-sections of email that wouldn’t interrupt me or be visible in my email until I wanted it to. There are ways to work around this in Gmail with Priority Inboxes, but it’s nowhere near as powerful or customizable.
The other really neat thing about Inbox’s design when it comes to bundles is being able to open a bundle and have it expand but have all the other bundles/emails stay in context and in order, without disappearing off the screen. It never felt cramped or busy, and you always knew exactly where you were, and the design was the same on desktop and mobile, so it was very difficult to lose yourself in your email.
Swiping (sweeping) away all the emails in a bundle in to read was also very useful, and one of the big selling points of Inbox when it was released. Having an email set as ‘Done’ or not ‘Done’ in the Inbox was also nice because you didn’t have to worry about the read status of an email when it was done, but coming back to Gmail this month, I have hundreds/thousands of unread emails that I now have to mark as read (and will need to manage on an ongoing basis rather than just archiving them).
Another feature with bundles that was one of the premiere features of Inbox was for things like trips. Having your flights, hotels, rentals, events, etc. that are part of a trip all automatically show up in one bundle was SO convenient. This going away is going to make travelling and keeping track of emails quite a bit less convenient (could potentially be worked around with a custom label for a trip, but nowhere near as easy).
This feature has been a beautiful thing the last few years, keeping a bundle with a list of saved links right next to your emails, and having a share extension on Chrome (desktop) and on iOS (mobile extension). Not only will it be very tough not being able to use this feature, but there’s no easy way to view this list outside of inbox, so I had to manually open and copy each of these links because I don’t know where I’ll be able to find them in April.
With Inbox (mostly, but not only) on mobile, it is simple to drop an email in to a bundle. Now, these are just labels in Gmail (as they always have been), but it’s way more steps to label emails on mobile in Gmail. I realize it’s just a different metaphor, but if you file your emails with labels, it’s really difficult to do regularly on mobile, whereas it was really easy and intuitive on Inbox.
Having reminders show up (and be created in) Inbox was also a super convenient feature, and I’m probably just going to use reminders less now that it’s no longer going to be integrated in to my email.
To wrap this up, since the first day Inbox was released, I have used it exclusively and preferred it to Gmail in almost every possible way (especially the ways described). It is very sad that it is going away, and I honestly have likened it to Google Reader going away, in that my use of email will probably be forever changed with the disappearance of Inbox.
Inbox made me hate email less when I needed to use it, and it will be sorely missed.