Inbox vs Gmail: Why I Made the Permanent Switchover

Inbox vs Gmail

While writing a recent article for TechCrunch about empty states in app design, I came across Inbox by Gmail — the app which rewards you with a sunny sky when you hit inbox zero.

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Before we start, I wanted to offer you a bonus upgrade of 25 Gmail tips you can use to get super-fast at reducing your inbox to zero.

Just click the button below to access your Gmail tips.

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Done that? Now, let’s get into the Inbox vs Gmail comparison.

Inbox vs Gmail: The Full Comparison

I’m probably a little late to the party, and as much as I love Gmail I feel that Inbox is a smarter and more intuitive way to process a bulging inbox.

Vinay covered why task snoozing is so powerful over on his Abstract Living blog, which made me want to try an app with the same mechanics.

If you’re anything like me and have these traits, you’re probably going to get a lot out of Inbox:

  1. Around 5% of your emails warrant a reply
  2. Less than 10% of your emails get opened
  3. You forget to create tasks in your to-do list from emails
  4. You spend too long hitting inbox zero (the very definition of ‘busy work’)
  5. You find it hard to separate useful emails from trash with your current app
  6. You need reminding often before you start working on a task
  7. You want to see a blue, sunny sky pop up when you clear your inbox.
  8. You like good things

Inbox vs Gmail Inbox Zero

Delightful, right?! It looks even better on the iPhone because it animates slightly. After 20 minutes of looking for a way to record my iPhone’s screen and buying some junk app which doesn’t actually do it, I’ll leave that to your imagination.

If you want more content on Google products, see the posts Google Drive Tips and Dropbox vs Google Drive.

But first, getting back on track: here’s Inbox vs Gmail (The Showdown).

You can pin the most important emails to the top of your inbox

In a similar way to how Gmail has stars, Inbox has pins. In my opinion, pins are more useful. While you could filter Gmail to show only starred items, that’s more friction than I’d like, and, unlike Inbox, starring doesn’t actually… do anything else.alt

A pinned email sits at the top of your inbox and looms over you, preventing you from reaching the blue sky until you do something about it. If you need something to be at the top of your list before you ever get round to it, you’ll be a lot more productive with pins than stars.

It’s not just that, either. Pins become exceptionally useful when you get round to batch archiving.

You can batch-archive emails in one click

While I was still a Gmail user, I was always looking for ways to quickly process all of my unimportant emails — you know, things like notifications you’ve already read or offers you’re only occasionally interested in.

In Gmail, I tried ‘select all, unselect a few, archive all, next page, repeat’. I tried furiously bashing keyboard shortcuts, hammering through my inbox like it was a fearsome beast to be destroyed.

In Inbox, you can click the tick icon above each group to sweep all unpinned items

Inbox vs Gmail Pinning then sweeping


Snooze important, non-urgent items to bounce back later

Just like how Any.Do has a task snoozing feature (which has started running my life as of this week), Inbox has the same for emails.

You can snooze an email ’til the evening, tomorrow, next week, or pick a custom time. Snoozing essentially moves it to another category, away from your inbox, then bounces it back over whenever you want to deal with it.

Snoozing an email in Inbox vs Gmail

Counter-intuitively, I’ve found that putting off tasks until later has made me more productive. That’s because I’ve at least ‘touched’ them. Leaving them as unread and letting them slip further down was something I was prone to do with Gmail, even for exceptionally important things.

While snoozing can be a good way to get a quick reminder, there’s a way with Inbox that you can create to-do list items from your emails.

Create one-click reminders from inside your inbox

Inbox is pretty smart. It parses your received emails for action items — things like ‘send me the images’ or ‘call my assistant’ — and offers you to add them as reminders. While it’s regrettable that these can’t be sent off somewhere like Any.Do with an integration, I check my inbox often enough to be able to act on them anyway.

Reminders Inbox vs Gmail

The minimalist UI had me scrambling around for a while trying to figure out how to actually add a reminder. Turns out that when you pin an email, you get the option to add a reminder of why you pinned it and what needs to happen next.

Use smart Responses on Android and iOS

Last month Google announced over on the official Gmail blog that Inbox for Mobile would be getting some special treatment. It came in the form of facilitation for slothfully lazy individuals like myself.

When Inbox thinks that you’d be fine to fire off a canned response, it shows you three options underneath when you open the email.

Inbox vs Gmail screenshots

I can only speak for myself, but this really helps me get around to answering emails I’d probably not reply to otherwise.

On the web version, Inbox also offers templates. These are similar to the canned responses on Gmail you can enable through Labs.

Click the plus, and then open the template menu. Inside, you can manage your templates: add new, edit, delete, etc.

If you find yourself typing the same emails over and over again, or copy-pasting a template from your computer, just add a new template instead to save yourself some time.

You can process your inbox at lightning speed, even on mobile

Inbox vs Gmail Swiping

Here’s a demonstration of what happens when you swipe an email left or right on Gmail vs Inbox. On Gmail, swiping right brings up the option to archive it, and left gives you the hidden menu.

Inbox’s reaction feels far more natural to me. Swiping right archives the email, and swiping left snoozes it.

You can still keep using the Gmail/Zapier integration

Since Inbox is just basically a new user interface for Gmail, you can keep on using your Zapier integrations with the warning that stars no longer work. Stars aren’t a feature Google decided to continue with Inbox, so we’re going to have to wait until Zapier‘s workflow automation platform supports it.

For now, you can still use integrations involving tags. Why don’t you try these?


There are a few reasons why Inbox might not be perfect for you

While writing this article, I realized that there are probably a lot of people who are already deeply ingrained in their Gmail workflow that would have a hard time making the switch. Here are some problems with Inbox that might hold you back:

  1. If you don’t use a Gmail/Google Apps address. Unlike Gmail, which lets you receive emails from Yahoo, Hotmail and the likes, Inbox is a little more strict. There are, however, some workarounds.
  2. You’d rather permanently delete emails than archive them.
  3. You hate the sun and sky
  4. You hate good things

If I’ve convinced you to make the switch, you’ll have to download the Inbox by Gmail app for Android or iOS first. You can’t just go to it on the web (for some arcane reason).

Let me know why I’m totally wrong (or right) in the comments below and we can have a fight (or a hug). 🙂

Bonus upgrade: Get our 25 Gmail tips and become an overnight power user

Since Inbox is built on top of Gmail, you can use a lot of tricks designed for Gmail with Inbox. That means you can use this list of 25 Gmail tips to power up your Inbox experience.

Click the button below to get your Gmail tips.

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I agree totally Email is necessary these days = the easier the better. Like the reminders and other features so far. Hope mobile version works as well. Thanks for the review

Do you get a lot of emails from outlook/ms Exchange folks? I find it irritating that Inbox doesn’t recognize outlook meeting invites (.ics) the same way Gmail does. It’s the only thing that might push me back to gmail.

Hey Ingo,

When you pin an email, you’ll get the option to add a reminder which functions like a task. You can see your reminders in the sidebar. 🙂

Does that help?

Great article Ben, you have convinced me. I am going to give it a try now. Before I do, must ask:
The info you provided in the article is applicable to Inbox on both mobile and pc?
Do I keep both gmail and inbox on my mobile?
Delete 1? If so, when?
Please enlighten me.
Thanks Michelle

Hey Michelle,

First you have to enable Inbox on mobile (at least that was how it worked when I first started using it), then you can login on your PC. If you’re happy with Inbox, then there’s no need to keep Gmail around too, you can delete that app (or keep it and not use it) as soon as you decide to stick with Inbox.

The article’s about Inbox on PC and mobile too, the app’s 95% the same, the only difference is that the mobile interface has swipe gestures for archiving and snoozing.

Did that help?


The only thing pushing me back to gmail at this moment is I can’t filter my emails into sub labels easily without having to scroll the entire label list.

Hey Robert,

Yeah, for entrenched Gmail users it can be a pain to switch over and lose features. For me, I was never a heavy Gmail power user with labels and filters set up, so it was easy.

I cannot believe I’m switching back to old gmail after being completely sold to inbox for 3 months.

top 2 things I miss the most:

1- date! the way gmail displays individual email dates right aligned and with the numbers of ours ago is much better. Inbox is a mess in this sense

2- one click email search. In gmail you can just rollover over a name and a nice card shows where you can, for example, click on mails and have all mails elated to that person: one click. Try to to do that on inbox

There are nice features in inbox but i don’t think I will miss them as much as I miss those 2 things.

Before a go back I would like to have your input on this.


Hey Gustav,

Interesting points — I had noticed that these things are missing, but I didn’t miss them too much. For #2, here’s what I do in Inbox:

1. Hover over the sender’s name
2. Copy the email address
3. Paste it in Inbox search.

It’s not a click, granted, but it is pretty fast once you’re in the habit of it.

Let me know how it goes on the other side. 😉

Good article, which persuaded me to give inbox a longer try-out. However, I was specifically looking for a way to make sure my currently gmail starred items could be filtered in inbox so that I could make them into pinned items if necessary and that doesn’t seem possible. Which is a flaw IMHO.

Hey Mandy,

Yeah, that would be very good. I think Google’s aiming to phase Gmail out and get more people over to Inbox, so I don’t see them adding support for the two to integrate unfortunately.


Question about group emails. I have two groups at our church that I send emails to regularly, but have been required to send from the PC, as the Android app did not allow me to do so. Will the Android version of Inbox allow group emails to be sent?

Hey Michael,

I’m not sure what you mean by group emails but if you already have the thread going you can do ‘Reply all’. As for starting a new thread, in my experience you have to add the emails in again — there’s no ‘send to group’ feature (as far as I know!).

I think what Michael means is the same as my complaint about Inbox. I can’t send an email to a Group of contacts that I’ve created in Gmail. Granted I can’t do that from the mobile Gmail app either, which is major flaw.

Inbox does not support different signatures for different email aliases. Since i want one signature for work and one for my personal emails, this makes Inbox a no-go for me for now.

Hey, I’m also liking Inbox and want to make the switch. The to-do list approach to email seems really cool, and I’m in the boat where only a few of my emails actually need to be opened and sometimes I don’t notice them under a sea of promos and social media updates.

I have over 20,000 emails on my Gmail account right now and I’d like to mark them as Done to reach “Inbox Zero,” but there’s no way to do that. I went into the old Gmail website, selected all emails, and archived them, but Inbox sorts emails marked as Done based on the date they were marked Done instead of the date the email was sent, so now all messages in Done are sorted in reverse order. I now have emails from 2009 at the top of my Done section while I’d have to scroll through 20,000 messages to find anything remotely recent. What did you do? Thanks!

It’s wrong for Google to force this on people that are negatively affected by it! The gmail team has a huge problem of representation, and so failed to consider all social aspects of this.

First of all i am saying that i like your post very much. I am really impressed by the way in which you presented the content and also the structure of the post. Hope you gave us more posts like this and i really appreciate your….

The useful post here. Thanks for sharing. Following your posts
for a while and all they are super helpful. I am trying too
blog as well. Just started but hope to find my readers too.
Keep a good work.

I am a huge fan of inbox. I can’t believe it is being retired next month. I agree with what is written in this article but there isn’t enough emphasis on how many less clicks it takes to accomplish the same task in gmail now that some of inbox’s features have been added to gmail. Anyone know a guy or girl at Google to convince them to get rid of gmail rather than inbox?!? 🙂

I came across this article while looking for idea to make gmail work for me since they are retiring Inbox. I’m so disappointed that Google made that decision as I agree Inbox is SO MUCH better!

What I loved most was being able to delete all the JUNK email with two taps. Now that inbox is retired I have to select every one individually and then delete. HORRIBLE

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