Google Inbox is shutting down at the end of March, and like millions of other users, Wavebox Founder Thomas101 is making the move to Gmail. Here's his story...
Google Inbox, launched in 2014, was touted as a total reinvention of email from Google. It changed the way we thought about email, making it a list of tasks that needed to be done. We were treated to new tools like snoozing emails, reminders and bundles. It took me a little while to get used to it but once I moved my mindset to the Inbox way, I was hooked. In fact I was so hooked I felt like I needed more. So much so in fact that started writing a desktop app for it which over time has now evolved into Wavebox.
Once Google announced their Gmail redesign at the beginning of 2018, I knew that Inbox's days were numbered. Some of those shiny new features I was using every day were now in the standard Gmail, and it didn't make sense for Google to continue working on both. In September 2018 Google announced that they would be saying goodbye to Google Inbox at the end of March 2019, I wasn't surprised, but I was a little disappointed.
But alas, you have to move with the times. After all, Gmail has got a swanky new UI and I've spent the past few months figuring out how to replace Inbox with Gmail in a way that works for me. So I thought I'd share my story with you, perhaps offer a little insight and maybe a few tips along the way. Not all of these will work for everyone but hopefully you might pick up a useful trick or two.
Making the Move to Gmail
You've probably been nudged a few times by Inbox to move back to Gmail and if you haven't already now is the time to get started. If you just want to give it a try or play around before committing properly, I'd suggest having a play in your browser first (rather than in Wavebox).
If you want to dive in headfirst or are ready to make the change, you can either convert your Gmail account to Goolge Inbox, or run Gmail and Google Inbox side by side.
- Convert your Gmail account: Simply right-click on any Google Inbox icon and pick the green 'Convert to Gmail'.
- Add side by side: Right-click on any Google Inbox accout and pick 'Add another service', then choose 'Gmail' and follow the wizard.
I chose to add Gmail alongside Inbox at first so I could compare features, but the choice is yours!
🤔 When adding or converting a Gmail account, you'll be asked which Inbox Type you're using. If you're not sure, or want to play around just pick any. We'll fix your notifications and unread badges later in this article! If you want some more details about them now, check out this handy KB article.
1. Gmail Inbox Types
If you haven't opened Gmail in a while, then you'll notice that it looks familiar, but a little bit material-UI-ish. Kind of half way between old Gmail and Google Inbox. The first thing you need to do is figure out which Gmail inbox type you want to use. If you used Gmail before the days of Google Inbox, that might dictate which is already selected. It offers a number of different types that aim to organise your emails slightly differently depending on what's most important to you. You can find out which type you're currently using and change it by opening your Gmail settings. In Gmail, click on the settings cog (top-right), followed by 'Settings' and then the 'Inbox' tab.
When I first made the switch back to Gmail, I wasn't sure which Inbox type I wanted to use so I tried a few:
This adds categories along the top of your Inbox and tries to organise emails depending on what category it thinks they belong to.
I initially chose this because the categories are really similar to the Google Inbox bundles - Promotions, Updates, Social and so forth. I loved the idea behind this, but in all honesty I felt like the poor visibility of new emails really hampered my day. If emails are a list of tasks to do, then I was seriously worried about missing some because they were hidden away.
This keeps my unread emails at the top of my Gmail inbox, with my read emails a little bit further down - super simple! To me, this felt closest to the Google Inbox experience. It kept everything new and pending at the top, and let me focus on what I needed to do. I used this for a few days and then it stuck!
There's also Important First, Starred First, and Priority Inbox to try. I would recommend playing about and seeing what works best for you - maybe take a few days with each.
Inbox Type in Wavebox
Once you've settled on your Inbox type, you'll need to tell Wavebox what kind of notifications and unread badges you want to see.
To do this, right-click on your account icon in the toolbar and select 'Account Settings'. Then locate your 'Inbox Type' setting for your Gmail account. Make sure you match the Inbox Type you're using in Gmail, to the one that you've set in Wavebox.
For more help with changing your Inbox Type, take a look at our helpful KB article.
2. Completed & Pinned
The little green tick in Inbox was so satifysing to hit! But unfortunately it's missing from Gmail. The nearest replacement I found was to hit Archive, which removes an email from your inbox - job done! By the way, if you need to find it later, it's kept under your "All Mail" label on the left hand side.
Your pinned emails aren't automatically carried across from Google Inbox. However Gmail does have a similar feature that allows you to 'Star' emails, and once you've starred an email, it appears in your "Starred" items on the left hand side. My guess is that you're going to be doing a lot of archiving and starring from now on!
Bundles are something I've struggled with and to be honest it's something I haven't found the perfect solution for yet. For me bundles fall into two categories...
Unimportant Bundled Emails
These are unimportant messages that I just want grouped together. Things like purchases, promotions and so forth. Normally when I notice a group of these I can take a cursory glance and sweep them away. I thought the Default inbox type with its categories would work, but I couldn't grasp it. Instead, for this one, I've just learned to live with it. When emails come in I deal with them straight away and they're gone.
Important Bundled Emails
These are important messages that I deal with throughout the day, but don't neccessarily need to see straight away. These are normally things I've set bundles up for specifically. An example being Github notifications. A few times a day I'll run through them or if there's a huge influx I'll check it out, but I don't want to be constantly interrupted. For these I've setup a label and a filter to automatically tag specific emails.
4. Snooze, Nudges, Smart Replies
These are features that have made it from Google Inbox into Gmail and work pretty much the same! You might need to hunt around the UI a few times to retrain your muscle memory as to where they are but you'll soon get used to it!
What I've Found Useful in Gmail
As I've explained so far, many of your favourite Google Inbox features are available in Gmail too. But there are plenty more new features to discover and this sort of makes the whole migration thing worthwhile. Here are just some of the Gmail features that I've been using so far:
Compose Pop-Out Windows
Shift+Click on compose in Gmail and you get a whole new separate window. If you're writing 4 or 5 emails at the same time, then this can make life so much easier. You can drag them around your desktop, minimise them until later, or just go window crazy! As far as I'm ceoncerned, this was missing in Google Inbox, so I'm glad to have it back in Gmail!
It's kinda like magic! I type something along the lines of "It was gr..." and Gmail suggests "It was great to see you today". Hit tab and it's there. It will also grab the receipent's name from the email address (so you only need to type "Hi.."). It's not always right, and depending what you do all day it may not save a lot of time either, but who knows my keyboard might last a few extra months! Enable smart compose
It's not 100% offline Gmail, but for patchy connections it lets you carry on writing and queuing emails up to send once you're back on the web. I've found it really useful when travelling and tethered to my phone - it's great knowing that Gmail isn't going to break at some point just because it can't connect. Enable Gmail offline
Marking Emails as Unread
It's the little things really, and I don't know why, but marking emails as unread helps me to prioritise. Why this wasn't available in Inbox I don't know, but I find myself reaching for the Unread button every now and again, and perhaps you may too.
What I've Missed in Gmail
Unfortunately not everything has found its way into Gmail. Some things I've learned to live with, others just drive me crazy every now and again! Here's a summary of the features I miss, with details on how I've managed to work around them:
Notifications & Bundles
This one applies more to the mobile app than the desktop. With Google Inbox, I could setup the app to not send notifications for certain bundles. This allowed me to de-prioritise some things when out and about. I don't need to deal with promotional emails while I'm travelling or busy with something else. I've yet to find any solution here other than to put up with it. 😬
As a responsible dog owner (Dexter the Dashund) I know it's important to give my dog his flea treatment regularly. Google Inbox had my back for this, sending me a reminder that I'd snooze every four weeks. I also had a bunch of other reminders running, which would nudge me to do random things from servicing the car to cleaning the gutters every 6 months (I know, I lead a very exciting life).
Google recommend using 'Tasks' or 'Keep' as a replacement for this, but neither have a tool for scheduling a reminder for a specific time or date, which means I forget about stuff (ok Dex, you can stop scratching now). 'Tasks' has become my shopping list and as for Keep, well I've stopped using it.
The Google Calendar mobile app has a feature to add a reminder, which if you set a for a specific time will come up as a notification on your phone. But one mistaken swipe or a phone restart and it's forgotten about.
So, my final solution to this is rather clunky, but works for me. In Google Calendar, enable daily agenda emails and then set events for reminders. I can set the events to re-occur, set notifications and even emails. Once they end up in my inbox, I can snooze them do them etc.
Inbox would also let you save a bunch of links to look at later, and there were browser extensions and other tools to make this quick and easy to do. I have to say, I'm back to the good old days of emailing myself. Not too bad as a replacement but not as swish!
All in, I find that Gmail makes my life a bit noisier compared to Inbox. I have to micromanage emails that I don't really want to, but this has had the positive outcome of making me unsubscribe from a bunch of unwanted mailing lists. I'm finding task and reminder management a bit more difficult, but I've managed to find ways around this and I'm sure if I look further afield I could maybe find some better tools. But Google is working for me right now, so I'm here to stay - and it works wonderfully in Wavebox too, of course. On the plus side, some of the new Gmail tools such as offline and smart compose are really coming along and I would miss those if I had to go back to Inbox.
Google Inbox in Wavebox
Myself and the Wavebox team have been busy making sure that Gmail works perfectly in the app. We added support for the new Gmail update when it happened (see this blog post) and we will continue to improve support with every release. Once Inbox shuts down (at the end of March) it will also stop working in Wavebox, so be sure to have added Gmail to your Wavebox and signed-in to your account. Here's how:
- In Wavebox, click on the '+' icon in the sidebar
- Click on the Gmail icon
- Follow the steps, choose your services and sign-in to Gmail
- Your Gmail inbox will show in the main Wavebox window
.....then don't forget to set your 'Unread' settings, as described in this article, so that your unread counts and notifications display correctly.