Archive for the ‘gmail inbox’ tag
ToutApp Comes to Outlook, Brings Its Message Tracking and Inbox Organizing Power Along With It [Windows Downloads]
Windows: ToutApp, one of our favorite tools to keep your Gmail inbox under control unveiled an Outlook plugin today that offers many of the same features for those of you who choose to (or are forced by your employer to) use Microsoft Outlook on the desktop. The new ToutApp for Outlook lets you see when recipients have opened emails you’ve sent them, compose a message but delay sending it until a scheduled time, and makes composing messages faster thanks to built-in templates for different contacts. More »
You’ve never made a mistake, right? We certainly never have.
It’s a pretty big bummer, however, when those mistakes results in lost sales and wasted leads. Especially if those mistakes were totally avoidable!
Before you joined your first “social network,” you were already using a tried-and-true social network that all your friends had joined, that never tweaked your privacy settings without asking, and that worked incredibly well. It was called email. In recent years, modern email clients like Gmail have turned your email account into a more powerful social tool than ever, capable of nearly anything you can do on Facebook—and it protects your privacy while you’re at it. Here’s how to turn your Gmail inbox into the most powerful, private social network you’ve ever used. More »
Y Combinator’s Paul Graham recently begged entrepreneurs to consider “frightening ambitious startup ideas,” like building a better search engine or replacing universities. “Any one of them could make you a billionaire,” said Graham. “That might sound like an attractive prospect, and yet when I describe these ideas you may notice you find yourself shrinking away from them,” he said. “Don’t worry, it’s not a sign of weakness. Arguably it’s a sign of sanity. The biggest startup ideas are terrifying.”
Among those terrifying ideas was rethinking the inbox, and in particular, the Gmail inbox. Although there has been much complaining about the sorry state of email, very few companies are addressing the situation. It’s just too hard. But there is an interesting startup to watch in this space, which happens to be thinking about the bigger picture. The somewhat stealthy Fluent is not shy about its vision either, offering a tagline that boldly proclaims it’s offering “the future of email.” But can it deliver?
For starters, if anyone can ever disrupt email, why not three ex-Googlers who spent years working on Google Wave, among other things? Jochen Bekmann, Cameron Adams and Dhanji R. Prasanna have the technical expertise (seriously, check the bios), and unlike the shuttered Wave experiment, Fluent is an entirely more functional and more attractive product. While many scoffed at Wave’s confusing, engineer-driven design, Fluent is the opposite. It’s simple, streamlined, and easy to use.
Currently, if you had to compare Fluent to something, then “the future of email” looks a lot like a web-based version of Sparrow, an email client which has been achieved some popularity among the Mac/iOS crowd. But Fluent brings a lot of new ideas to the table. Plus, it’s dreaming a bit larger, too. By starting with a web app, the team is building a front-end email client which could address users on any platform, desktop or mobile. Mac, PC or Linux. Phone or tablet. Or refrigerator…or so jokes(?) the company via blog post.
“Email hasn’t been innovated in 20 years,” explains Adams. “But in the last decade, there’s been a lot of change in how people communicate.” Communication is now more informal, more social. But while social messaging – like Facebook messages or Twitter direct messages – is good for quick one-on-one conversations, when you want to talk about multiple things, it’s easy for streams to get cluttered. Gmail helped with this by introducing threaded messages, but as you read, write and reply to email, there’s still a lot of context switching involved.
Fluent operates differently. Composing, replying, reading, archiving, deleting, searching, starring and “to-do”ing email can all be done within the one stream-like interface, no switching needed.
The Mobile Experience
While not there yet in terms of implementation, the company has a decidedly mobile-first mindset when it comes to using Fluent on smaller screens, like smartphones and iPads. The concept video (below), makes using Fluent on mobile seem more akin to navigating through a fun Twitter app than parsing an inbox. Swipes, gestures and touches let you perform tasks quickly, with optimizations for the screen size in question.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves with all the drooling.
It Is Not An Alternative To Gmail, Just A Better Front-end
Today, Fluent is not an alternative to Gmail – it’s a cloud-based email client. The platform supports Gmail and Google Apps, and more email services will be added in the future. The company doesn’t plan to hand out their own email addresses (which could be truly disruptive to Gmail), preferring to operate as a new front-end to whichever inbox you use. Eventually, it will support IMAP and Exchange, too. There are no plans to innovate in terms of email protocols, however, as Graham suggested, despite the team’s Google Wave backgrounds.
That being said, Fluent still has major potential. Fluent’s interface is elegant, presenting conversations as threads which you can step through with clicks or the familiar Google shortcuts (j, k to move forward and backward, e.g.).
But unlike most email systems, which require you to click to open a message, type, then hit “reply,” you can reply from the main inbox view in Fluent. That makes reading through your emails in Fluent more like scrolling through your Facebook News Feed and leaving comments. Want to reply? Just type in the “reply” box beneath the email thread, then hit send. As with Gmail, you can also star items from the main inbox view.
What’s New: To-Do’s, Attachment View, Instant Search & More
Also unlike Gmail, it only takes one click to turn an email into a to-do item. (In Gmail, you check the email, click “More,” then “Add to Tasks.” In Fluent, you click the check mark.) Starred emails, to-dos and your Gmail labels are all available from the left side of the screen (or at the bottom in the current mobile view) for easy access.
There’s also an attachment view which lets you visually search through emailed files, filtering for documents, images, zip files, audio, or video. These concepts are not new (remember Xoopit?), but they’re implemented in a way that makes you thump your head, wondering “why hasn’t someone done this before?” (For what it’s worth, Sparrow is also rethinking attachments in other ways that make sense.) Adams says that the attachment view, as it exists now, is only “a taste” of what’s to come.
“People use email as a de facto backup system, but accessing those files is quite hard,” he says. “We want to make it more like a file system.” In the future, Fluent will let you cluster files by version, organize them with labels, easily search them and let you filter them by time, person and filetype.
Even more impressive than all the above is Fluent’s instant search. This is potentially the service’s “killer” feature. When you start typing in Sparrow or Gmail’s search box, you’re given auto-complete suggestions in a drop-down beneath the search box. Although Sparrow’s are pretty smart, in Fluent you’ll see actual emails matching your keywords appear instantly. The drop-down box’s suggestions show matching contacts, allowing you to find either a contact or email from one search interface. Fluent’s search feature doesn’t wait until you’ve completed a word, it’s truly instantaneous. Fortunate enough to test the service myself, I can confirm that despite its early, wobbly, private beta: Fluent’s instant search is crazy, crazy fast. It’s like Google Instant for your inbox. Which, of course, then begs the question: why isn’t Google doing this? (Apparently, Google+ Circles integration was the priority there.)
Other features in the works include a better contacts management experience, showing a timeline, history, and pattern of your communications, an email summarization feature which will aggregate and summarize things like social media updates or mailing list threads, plus other more common additions, like support for email signatures. Eventually, an open API will be available, too.
Can Power Users Switch?
Could a Gmail power user switch to Fluent today, assuming stability? Of that, I’m not sure. Here’s why:
- At present, it lacks a true “priority inbox” functionality which many power users have come to rely on, instead favoring the stream-like view.
- There isn’t an easy way to see important mail (i.e., “important” as determined by Gmail’s filter) or just important + unread, for example, which are often critical tools for getting through a large number of messages. Right now, “priority” mail is tucked away under a label, for example.
- It’s psychologically challenging to adjust from an inbox segmented into sections (important, unread, starred, etc.) to one where emails are simply listed chronologically, starred and non-starred all mixed together in one view. (Obviously, these concerns apply more to some Gmail users than others. It depends on how you prefer to view your inbox.) But the company plans to integrate priority mail deeper into the system, while also being more transparent about why things were marked priority, too. And a follower-like model for contacts will allow you to manage who gets flagged as “priority” in the future.
- More critically, though, I’m concerned that the “compact” view in Gmail still achieves a better at-a-glance view of the inbox than Fluent’s compact view does, which is not nearly as compact and loads more emails dynamically as you scroll down. This seems to be thought of as a feature, but I’m not convinced. I’d like to see some 40 or 50 emails in one view before worrying about it “loading” more.
In other words, despite its good looks, Fluent is still walking a fine line between favoring pretty over powerful. Your mileage, as they say, may vary. And all this is subject to change.
That said, the overall workflow, the ease of to-do’s, and the clever attachment view are all powerful enough features that Fluent could easily grab early adopters in search of alternative solutions. As the startup shakes out the kinks (and there are kinks – scaling, stability, syncing), it’s a given that it will at least attract a Sparrow-sized audience, if not larger.
WHEN CAN YOU HAVE IT?!!
The saddest thing about Fluent, the so-called “future of email?” It’s not ready for you to use yet! When asked when it would be available to a wider launch, co-founder Jochen Bekmann told me, “we hope to be able to open wider in a few months, mostly depending on whether we have funding to pay for servers and refined some of our features.”
Wait, “depending on whether we have funding to pay for servers?” Hurry up with that funding, investors. (Fluent says seed round talks are “pretty far along,” thank goodness, and should have some news on that front this summer). A staged rollout will soon follow.
Since I can’t show off my *actual* inbox, here are some sanitized screenshots. My iTunes folder:
Compose screen (it pops up over current window, in this case, my empty to-do’s section):
What’s the best way to manage our conversations across all the websites and social networks we’re visiting? William Mougayar, founder and CEO of Engagio, says that it’s through a Gmail-style social inbox — after all, that’s the interface we use to handle most of our communication already (not that everyone’s happy about that), and heck, it’s the way many of us read our social network updates already.
Now Mougayar is taking that approach a step further. Instead of accessing their Engag.io inbox in a separate website, users can install a Chrome extension, then read Engag.io as a separate folder within Gmail itself.
I installed the extension earlier this morning, and yes, I can report that Mougayar isn’t kidding about it being Gmail-style — each social network message or update looks like an email, and each conversation is threaded, just like their email counterparts. You can reply to messages from within Gmail, as well as sharing, viewing, and “liking” them. It’s also pretty much identical to the existing Engag.io interface, but again, the new context makes a difference — it’s no longer a separate website that you have to visit, but instead just another folder in your inbox that you have to keep up with.
Engag.io can integrate with Disqus, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Hacker News, Tumblr, Foursquare, LinkedIn, and more. I only wish it had a Priority Inbox like Gmail, so that it wasn’t dominated by random people tweeting my articles. (I love people tweeting my articles! It’s just not that awesome to browse those tweets in an inbox format.)
The company is tackling the discovery problem in other ways. Today it’s also unveiling a Engagement Discovery Dashboard, where you can find friends and follow their conversations as well. This turns Engag.io into a social network, of sorts, rather than just a tool for managing your presence on other networks. (In concept, it sounds a bit like FriendFeed, though the interface is completely different.) Mougayar says that this is a good way to find the “signal from the noise” amidst social network fragmentation, because the fact that an update led to a larger conversation is a good sign that it’s interesting and relevant.
Together, Mougayar says the updates mark a new phase for the company: “It’s almost like Engag.io 2.0.” It’s also adding support for managing multiple accounts from one network, which can be particularly useful for brands and other businesses.
The company has raised $540,000 in seed funding from Rho Canada with participation from Real Ventures, Extreme Venture Partners, Bullpen Capital, Fred Wilson, Mike Yavonditte, and other individual investors.
My weekend blog post routine includes posting links to a handful of tools or great content I ran across during the week.
I don’t go into depth about the finds, but encourage you check them out if they sound interesting. The photo in the post is a favorite for the week from Flickr or one that I took out there on the road.
Good stuff I found this week:
Ming.ly – A personal relationship manager that aggregates your contacts from Gmail, Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter into a searchable merged address book that allows you to update and communicate on social networks without leaving your Gmail inbox.
Pinstamatic – Allows you to add locations, music, quotes, calendar dates, Twitter profile links, sticky notes and websites to to Pinterest.
Meetings.io – free and simple way to meet face to face online without the need to install software, join a social network or add contacts
Welcome to our weekly edition of what’s hot in social media news. To help you stay up-to-date with social media, here are some of the news items that caught our attention.
What’s New This Week?
Google+ Hangouts On Air Now Available Worldwide: Google+ Hangouts On Air was launched last September to a limited number of broadcasters and is now rolling out to the rest of the world. This means “you can now go live in front of a global audience.” Here’s a reminder of what you can do:
Facebook Announces The App Center: The App Center is a new place for people to find social apps. “For the over 900 million people that use Facebook, the App Center will become the new, central place to find great apps”
What You Need To Know About Facebook’s IPO: Facebook’s initial public offering is expected to take place on May 18.
Discussion from our Networking Clubs: Thousands of social media marketers and small business owners are asking questions and helping others in our free Networking Clubs. Here are a few interesting discussions worth highlighting:
- Do you think of your blog as a social network?
- What are your favorite productivity apps?
- What’s your experience with Facebook Offers?
Google+ Notifications in Gmail Get More Interactive: You can now view, comment on and +1 Google+ notifications from your Gmail inbox. These updates will appear in your Google+ stream in real time and responses from others will appear in Gmail.
Google Offers Get Closer to Your Business: Android users in the U.S. can now find Google Offers from nearby businesses using the latest release of Google Maps. You will be able to “see all the Google Offers near you in list or map form, making it easy to get great deals from local businesses on the go.”
Twitter Tweaks the Tweet Design: “Now, when you hover over the newly redesigned tweet, you’ll always see options to reply, favorite or retweet in the lower-left corner against a grey background.”
Foursquare Adds a History Page: With the “new, fully searchable history page, you can easily jump to all your past check-ins from any month or year, and even filter them by who you were with, what type of place you were at, or which neighborhood, city, or country you were in.”
Groupon Rewards Launches Nationwide in the U.S.: “When you visit a participating Groupon Rewards merchant and use the credit card saved in your Groupon account, Rewards are unlocked after you’ve spent a certain amount predetermined by the business.”
Here are a few useful social media tools worth noting:
WP Pinner: A WordPress plugin that lets you manage your Pinterest account. “With this plugin you can easily auto-pin WordPress posts, schedule your pins throughout the day, auto-follow users to get noted and keep track of your account (CTR, clicks, likes, repins, reach, etc.).”
Lujure: An easy tool for businesses to customize Facebook fan pages.
Curate Me: A tool to help you stay current, find good things to share and get content ideas.
And don’t miss this:
Social Media Examiner’s Social Media Success Summit 2012 (online conference) just started. It’s not too late to join!
Join 27 social media experts at Social Media Examiner’s big online conference! Go here to learn more.
What social media news caught your interest this week? Please share your comments below.
Google has been slowly rolling out new features and closer integration between all of its products and Google+, and yesterday it was Gmail’s turn to get a few updates. Now, when you get G+ notifications in your Gmail inbox, you’ll be able to view, comment, and +1 those posts without leaving your inbox, and if you’re viewing a notification post and someone else comments on the post, you’ll see that reply in the message, in real time. More »
Now that Google Drive has built file storage into your Google account, it’s only natural that you’d like it to play nicely with your other Google apps. With a few tricks, it can—at least with your Gmail account. Tech blogger Amit Agarwal details how to set up a system in which applying a
GoogleDrive label to any email in your Gmail inbox will automatically save its attachment to Google Drive—syncing those files directly to your desktop. More »
Google started rolling out its new user interface for Gmail late last year. Soon, Google will migrate even those users who have, until now, resisted this change to the new design. Not everybody is in love with the new design, of course, so it doesn’t come as a surprise that a little cottage industry of new Gmail enhancement tools has cropped up over the last few months. Thanks to browser extensions like Gmelius, which came out of beta today, you can reclaim some of your sanity – and screen estate – once you switch over to the new design. Among Gmelius’ most useful features are the ability to customize Gmail’s navigation icons to show both text and icons, for example, as well as tools to remove Google’s people widget and Google chat from your inbox. Gmelius is available for Chrome, Firefox and Opera.
If you have friends or colleagues who like to write their emails in Comic Sans, you can also tell Gmelius’ to homogenize the look and feel of all your incoming messages based on the default Gmail settings.
Other useful changes Gmelius makes to your Gmail inbox include the ability to pin a link to Google Voice to the top navigation bar and add subtle row highlights when you mouse over your emails. In addition, you can use the tool to remove all ads from Gmail.
One nice aspect of the extension is that you can choose which one of these features you would like to turn on or off. You can download the extension here.