In a previous article I mentioned about some basic tips I’ve picked up for using GMAIL, in this article I wanted to take that further and talk about a fantastic extension to GMAIL which I’ve been using. This tool is called ActiveInbox.
If you’re a regular GMAIL user then all of this should be pretty familiar except for that toolbar running horizontally across the very top….that’s what the ActiveInbox extension adds.
Notice at the top we have the following options:
- ‘Take a tour” – shows a user guide
- “Today” - shows emails which are due today*
- “Next” – shows emails you want to work on next*
- “Action” – shows emails which you have flagged as needing you to do something
- “Waiting on” – I love this one, emails where I am waiting on a reply
- “To do” – global access to all of these lists
- “Projects” – easy access to emails I’ve flagged as belonging to a certain project (see later)
- “References” – similar to the projects concept but I use it for grouping quotes, proposals etc **
(* I don’t really use those two much)
(** “References” isn’t enabled by default but shows how you can customise the basic offering)
ActiveInbox does all of it’s magic by creating it’s own set of readable GMAIL labels – this means that you can still access information categorised as (say) a “quote” from outside of GMAIL (where the browser extension does not work). It also means that if you decided to ditch ActiveInbox, you still have your labels set up so you don’t lose any information.
That nesting feeling…
This is lovely – you can nest (say) projects or references. For instance, I run the Por80 conference (blog here) so I have a PORT80 label set up under projects. However, I have a project for localhost (the free quarterly events) – this helps keep everything organised. I’m probably not explaining that very well…see this screen shot:
Here we see the projects dropdown extended as well as the sub projects under port80 – notice how I’ve grouped emails relating to the individual localhost events. I like being organised
Also, do you see that there is a number and a pin icon next each project? The number is not the number of emails in there – but the number of “active” emails (e.g. ones you are waiting on/need to action etc). The pin allows you to indicate that the project is important and puts it at the top of the dropdown – this’ll get handy as I’m quickly adding a lot to the list.
Note: the sharp eyed amongst you will notice that there are two top level Port80 projects and think that is odd. Yes, that was before I realised you can nest them. What I need to do is to review emails on the old Port80 project and re-categorise them and then delete that old label.
But you can do all this with labels?!
Yes, I suppose you can but I like having the tool bar to give me easy access to the information. When GMAIL labels first came out I went crazy with labelling things and I get myself all confused – ActiveInbox has brought order back in from that chaos.
How do I use it?
I like a pretty clear inbox so what I tend to do when scanning my inbox is either:
- delete an email
- archive it
- respond to it now (and flag it as “waiting” if I’m expecting a response)
- Flag it as “action” if I need to work on it (but am not doing so yet)
This way my inbox stays under control.
Extra email toolbar
I mentioned flagging as action or waiting above – how is this done? Well, when you are in an email conversation ActiveInbox adds another toolbar (see below):
GMAIL users should notice we now have an extra set of buttons which ActiveInbox has installed.
I can easily indicate this email to be NEXT/ACTION/ or WAITING ON.
I can indicate a due date.
I can assign it to a project (or projects).
I can assign it to a reference (e.g. I like to group all emails where I quote a price to a client or a lead).
(You can also export items to your Google calendar to schedule when you’ll work on them and you can add private notes).
I don’t really have many issues with it – GMAIL can be a bit slow sometimes but, sadly, that just seems to be GMAIL recently – not sure how to solve that.
I would like it if ActiveInbox had a tool on the (say) iphone or in a desktop email client to make it easy to access the meta information which they add but, as I say, I can sort of get the job done by navigating labels – it’s just it could be prettier in an app.
One issue which people might hit is that the information you organise with ActiveInbox is for you only – you can’t really share this with a group – it’s about gaining control of your inbox.
The is a free version of ActiveInbox as well as a paid for version and I’m sorry if I’ve listed stuff above which is only in the paid for version. However, the cost is a paltry $25 a year so we’re really not talking big bucks here.
If you’re a user and have any tips, please shout out.
p.s. I’m showing my SPAM folder in the above screenshots…I’m not really looking for MILF in my local area!