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Experts Weigh in on Google’s Inbox

When Google unveiled its new email app Inbox earlier this week, hopes were raised yet again that maybe — just maybe — somebody has figured out the solution to email overload.

Plenty of email solutions have come and gone in this arena, each promising to reset that perennially dirty word — paradigm — and improve the experience of the Internet’s long-reigning killer app: email.

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Google’s Inbox, the company says, is an attempt to rethink email from the ground up. Designers are hyping it as the successor to Gmail, which debuted 10 years ago, and the email solution for the next decade.

Inbox was officially unveiled Wednesday for iOS, Android and desktop web browsers. As of now, it’s invite-only. But already the first wave of reviews from consumer technology publications are starting to surface. The gist: Inbox takes a next-generation approach to email management, with a less text-heavy and more graphical interface than Gmail — plus automatic labeling, social media integration, attachment previews and intelligent search.

So what are the expert opinions? Over at ZDNet, power user Larry Dignan did some hands-on testing by piping his typical workday email barrage — 700-plus messages — into Inbox. He praised the app’s ability to sort emails via text analysis and categorize them automatically (Purchases, Social, Updates, Forums).

“What Inbox really does is give you that good feeling you get when you cross something off a list,” Dignan writes. “Yes, your inbox is still a disaster and so are you, but there’s something cathartic about swiping dozens of messages into the dustbin quickly.”

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Over at Yahoo Tech, Alyssa Bereznak appreciated the app’s smart search functions: “You can type in any sort of normal human phrase — for instance, ‘Tim’s cell phone’ — and the specially tuned search will know to bring up any seven-digit number associated with the name Tim (even if the word ‘phone’ isn’t explicitly mentioned in that email).”

PC Mag, meanwhile, gave Inbox for iPhone 3.5 out of 5 stars, and recommended that power users stick with Gmail (5 stars), which  is ultimately more flexible and customizable, if you put in the work up front. Casual users, though, should appreciate Inbox’s proactive approach: “In the iPhone version, Inbox gives you simple swiping gestures for marking mail as done, a useful snooze tool, intelligent sorting, and a few other neat tools that make managing email a little easier.”

I haven’t tried Inbox myself yet — invite is still pending — but will remain skeptical until otherwise convinced. Like a lot of people, I pretty much live out of my existing Gmail account, and feel like I’ve delegated about 90 percent of my memory to Calendar. The thought of rethinking everything again is just too scary.

But then, I thought that 10 years ago when I migrated to Gmail. There’s no stopping progress, I suppose.

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