I love Google Inbox. It has many clever features and I've really enjoyed giving it a try. But at least for now, it's missing some things that are too important to pass up.

Like many bad relationships, my affair with Google Inbox began with me pursuing the object of my affection. When I first saw mentions of a whole new Gmail interface in the tech press, I knew right away that I wanted it. I must spend about a third of my waking hours using Gmail and love its many powerful features. An even more improved version? I couldn't wait!

When I got my invite, I went all in with Inbox, just as Google says you should. There's a lot about Inbox to love.

The Good:

1. The look

You can try spiffing it up with a theme, but it doesn't really help: Gmail is ugly. This had never especially bothered me until I switched to the simpler and more elegant look of Google Inbox. I'm going to hate leaving that behind.

2. The snooze button

It's an important email, you don't want to forget it but you just can't answer right now? Inbox has an easy-to-use feature that snoozes the message and then sends it to you again at a more appropriate time. I realize Boomerang does the same, but I could never get in the habit of using it--something about it just didn't quite work for me. On the other hand, I use the snooze button almost every day.

3. Bundles in the inbox

I was an enthusiastic adopter of categorized email as soon as Google rolled it out. It generally made me much more efficient and saved me tons of time dealing with promotional messages I really don't need to read. The only problem is that I can easily go far too long without checking anything other than my primary category. Inbox gently nudges you to check other categories by placing groups of them in your inbox every now and then and telling you who the most recent messages are from. It's great to have that reminder.

4. No need to open some emails.

If all you need from an email is the attachment, Inbox saves you time by letting you open it right from your inbox. Same goes for tracking numbers in your-package-has-shipped emails and travel itineraries. These are similar to the "cards" in Google Now. Not the world's biggest time-saver, but quite handy.

The Bad:

1. No access to Contacts

Inbox, like Gmail, will auto-fill a contact's name in the "to" field of an email. But often enough you need access to your Google contacts (or "People" as they're called in some Android versions), to do things like remove an outdated email address, add a new person, or create a group. It's easy enough in Android, but there's only one way to do it from a desktop or laptop: Open Gmail and then click from "Gmail" to "Contacts" at the upper left. To make it more ridiculous, if you have Inbox, the system will suggest that you go there instead.

2. No easy way to view prior emails from a sender

One feature I love in Gmail is that you can hover your cursor on someone's email address and a box pops up that allows you to add the person to your contacts, add them to Google+, or best of all, view previous emails from that person. That last feature is so handy I was about to send it in as a suggestion when it appeared. It's missing in Inbox.

3. No Canned Responses

I use these often in Gmail because there are many occasions when I have to send emails that are highly similar to ones I've sent before. Rather than write out the instructions for posting content to a website I manage each time I send them, I can let Canned Responses do it for me, inserting a pre-selected piece of text into my message. It's significantly faster than cutting and pasting. But you can't do it in Inbox.

The Very, Very Bad:

4. No signatures

Since Inbox draws so much information from Gmail, I'd been assuming for the last couple of months that it was incorporating my Gmail signature at the end of each message, just as Gmail does. That signature is important as it contains my contact information as well as a link to my blog, Marriage & Other Adventures.

I found out the hard way that I was wrong a few days ago when an interview subject who was supposed to call me sent a frantic email saying he didn't have my number. "Wasn't it in my email signature?" I asked. It turned out there wasn't one. In fact, he'd been wondering why a professional writer didn't have an email signature.

Surely, surely the geniuses at Google wouldn't have left out something so fundamental, something the simplest email program on almost any phone can do? But they have, and it's a dealbreaker. I can't type or even cut and paste my signature into every email I write. Until they fix this, it's back to Gmail for me.

Published on: Jan 9, 2015
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