Sometimes all the productivity tips in the world are not enough to address overblown inboxes. What’s required is not just better processes but better tools. IT entrepreneurs are often victims of email overload and unsurprisingly several have built apps to address their own problem.
If you’re looking at a big speed gain you should consider reviewing email on a smartphone or tablet. It’s far faster to swipe with your finger than to point and click with a mouse. (Keyboard shortcuts in Gmail are also a great way to move quickly.)
The mobile-first strategy is apparent in the newest batch of tools, some of which only have a mobile interface. They can be split into two types.
The New World
Looking for a better way to deal with inbox blow-outs on your native mobile email app? A handful of email apps built for power users promise a faster way to process your email into response, archive, delete or forward.
The Mailbox app sets itself the goal of redesigning email, a “30-year old technology”, for a mobile world. Messages can be dispatched to trash or archived with a swipe. The app shows conversations in an instant-chat format for faster scanning.
One bold move is to give into the natural urge to turn an inbox into a to-do list. Emails can be snoozed for processing later. Mailbox was recently acquired by Dropbox, so stay tuned for a possible tie-in with storing attachments.
Mailbox is only available for iPhone and iPad, and works with a limited number of email providers (Gmail, Google Apps, Apple iCloud and Yahoo).
The Dispatch app is perfect for the stenographer in all of us. More than just a new “action-based” interface, Dispatch works with a TextExpander app so you can throw together a sentence with a combination of regularly used snippets.
It also integrates with 22 web apps such as Evernote, Asana, Omnifocus, Things and Skype, as well as the iPhone’s native app Reminder and Calendar. Shortcuts can turn an event quickly into a calendar appointment or schedule a call with Skype from a number within the email.
Dispatch is compatible with IMAP-based email accounts, and has been tested to work with email accounts from Gmail, Google Apps, iCloud, AOL and Yahoo!
Dispatch is only available on the iPhone, with no plans for other platforms or an iPad app.
Boxer claims to be the first gesture-based email app and has a couple of neat features that make it easier to identify senders. The app pulls photos from Gmail, LinkedIn, Facebook, Gravatar and Apple Contacts so you can see who has sent you an email, supports labelling and folders from the big mail apps, and has an integrated to-do task list across all inboxes.
One unique feature is that Boxer has added the ability to Like an email you have received so a sender knows you have seen it.
Boxer works with Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, AOL Mail, iCloud, Google Apps, Hotmail/Outlook.com and Exchange.
Like Dispatch, Boxer has integrated with several popular web apps including Salesforce.com, Evernote, Box, LinkedIn, Facebook and Dropbox.
The Heavy Artillery
If this is the first time you have tried to clean up your inbox, a fancy new interface may not help deal with the backlog in your inbox. Time to call in the big hitters which can cleanse tens of thousands of emails at a time.
Legendary tech journalist Walt Mossberg of the Wall Street Journal claimed to cut through 22,000 emails in half an hour with one app.
These apps are for occasional use to deal with email overload, which might be daily or once a week. Both are browser-based, although a mobile version is in the works for Swizzle.
The Mailstrom app looks for patterns in your Inbox and presents you with options to process emails in bulk. View messages by sender or size, group them by subject or time, and pull out notifications from social networks.
Mailstrom makes it easy to quickly unsubscribe from mailing lists and to set up rules for dealing with emails in the above categories. It analyses your email patterns to show you your heaviest senders (and most ignored),
It works with Gmail, Google Apps Email, Outlook, Apple, Aol, Exchange IMAP and any other email service that supports IMAP.
LifeHacker has a great how-to that runs through the basics.
For an alternative try Sanebox.
Cost: US$4.95/month (US$49.95/year)
Where Mailstrom analyses all your email, the Swizzle app is focused on marketing communications, which can represent an awful lot of incoming emails. Every newsletter you subscribed to has added you to a list of ongoing emails. The Swizzle aims to give you some visibility of marketers’ involvement in your inbox and knock those marketing messages into line.
The Swizzle gives users a big unsubscribe button to get rid of older email newsletters and compiles the rest into a daily digest. It also recommends other newsletters based on your existing preferences.
Swizzle works with Gmail, Google Apps, Yahoo! Mail, AOL, Mac.com, Me.com and Microsoft Web mail services.
For an alternative try Unroll.me.
Image credit: Dispatch