last week I wrote about gmail’s new priority inbox. This time out I’m going to rave about otherinbox, a non-google service that also helps me manage the deluge. OIB is similar to priority inbox in that it categorizes the mail I receive, but it expands on the google product’s rather austere approach.
in my post about priority inbox, I described the battle most email users face against “opt in spam.” this is the mail you get that you vaguely remember agreeing to receive. or perhaps you missed an opt out for “mail from valued partners.” anyway, it’s clogging the pipes of your email processing machine. google adopts a strict black and white policy with this stuff. as I described, it unlevels the playing field by elevating messages it thinks you value and sticking everything else into the equivalent of a read later folder.
priority inbox, meet organizer
otherinbox’s organizer product takes a gentler approach by recognizing shades of grey to non-priority mail. when you sign up (there are versions available for gmail, google apps and yahoo), OIB goes through all your mail and sorts it into standard buckets – business, entertainment, finance, etc. going forward, messages from these known senders is directed into those same folders. I’m not sure how it works in yahoo, but the service appears to use whatever part of gmail that operates the filters to skip the inbox and go straight to folders. you can opt to mark as read or keep unread.
sometimes OIB can be overzealous – you want to see some messages it stashes away for you. on the senders page, just uncheck that sender and OIB will stop sorting them (see below for more on the OIB site UI). you can also change folder assignments on the senders page. or just change the OIB labels in gmail – the service will automatically change assignments for that sender in a folder.
otherinbox added a cool feature last month – the ability to create an unsubscribe folder. tell OIB what messages you don’t want to see anymore and not only will they not show up in your inbox, OIB works in the background to get you unsubscribed!
you can access your categorized mail through the folders in gmail, but it’s worth checking out the my.otherinbox.com site for other things you can do with your inbox spam:
[UPDATED 9/2012 with current dashboard for OIB organizer]
return to sender(s)
for several months, I thought this was all there was to OIB, because this was the page I came to when I logged in. note the lack of a link to the senders page. I kludged some way to free a few senders from sorting, but pretty much ignored OIB after that. I started thinking about ways to use OIB when I was writing up my post on priority inbox, and read that the key to using OIB effectively was the senders page: a page I had never seen before!!!
[UPDATE 9/2012: it’s now much easier to navigate the site and find the senders!]
customer support told me the senders page should be the landing page when logging into the service, but I had always landed on the messages page above. the senders page also has some nice video tutorials for procedures I had pulled my hair out trying to figure out.
the OIB site can be pretty frustrating. clicking the life preserver icon for help brought me to a 404 page until I checked it just today to find it much improved with a FAQ and video tutorials. don’t get freaked by the “defender” branding – I guess that’s what OIB’s product was called before (more of the OIB story in the link below). I’m excited that just as I am starting to really use OIB, it’s getting more buzz (and funding) so hopefully will be more polished.
the times needs more food metaphors
as the writer in the nyt should have pointed out, priority inbox is like peanut butter. it’s essential, but it can be hard to swallow by itself. OIB is like grape jelly. it makes priority inbox complete. maybe this should have been a tom cruise metaphor instead, but I like peanut butter.
- Detailed pivot story of how OtherInbox changed its product over time (austinpreneur.com)
- Your Inbox Needs Help, Use OtherInbox (maketecheasier.com)
- OtherInbox Escalates the Battle Against Annoying Newsletters (nytimes.com)