As soon as Mailbox was unleashed, like so many other people, I quickly downloaded the app and got in the 150,000+ access queue. I had already signed-up via the web, but for whatever reason that reservation did not follow me, and I had to start over. After a couple weeks of waiting, I was finally offered entry into the system I eagerly awaited.
Hopefully some of my trials and tribulations will help other folks better understand how Mailbox functions sincer there is not a lot of information available right now. The good folks behind the Mailbox twitter account are great at responding to people, but sometimes people need more in-depth answers than what happens inside of 140 characters.
Before I continue I must confess: I am an email client junkie. I do not know why but I really enjoy testing and playing around with new email clients. I am forever in search of email client utopia. Although I have come close a couple times, in the end I always end up returning to my old [bad] habits.
The built-in Mail.app, while decent, does not have the same polish I would like, nor does it natively support Gmail’s labeling system. It was for those reasons that I snatched up Sparrow as soon as it became available on iOS. Unfortunately, like with so many other services, Google bought Sparrow and promptly dismantled what was probably the best third-party iOS email client.
Although the Gmail iOS app is decent, it is not a fully native app, opting for a Web View-based app instead. This makes it a bit slow and clunky, and it feels uncomfortable. Plus, even though it supports multiple accounts, it fails to offer a unified inbox view, which is almost a necessity these days.
So Mailbox was released and I was jazzed about yet-another-iOS-email-app to try, along with the idea of turning email into a task management system. I started playing around with Mailbox and was pleased with the clean user interface. The unified inbox, snoozing, and archiving system the Mailbox team has built is very exciting.
But I ran into an adoption problem: existing Gmail labels are inaccessible from within Mailbox.
For me, this is a deal killer as I have a number of filters designed to apply labels and skip the inbox. Although that appears to violate the spirit of Mailbox, it is the way I use email. I need access to those labels; luckily there is an easy solution.
Upon initial launch, existing Gmail labels are not accessible but there is a simple way to make those labels viewable. Simply go into Gmail->Settings->Labels and move all labels so they are nested underneath the [Mailbox] label. This turns them into Lists in Mailbox parlance. The app will automagically see the new labels and create new Lists.
If your existing Gmail label setup is something like this:
Merely move all those labels so they nest underneath the [Mailbox] label as so:
Now all those labels are accessible as Lists from within Mailbox. It may be necessary to force-close Mailbox after moving the labels, because this appears to force the app to rescan for new Lists. Jump on over to Mailbox->Settings->Lists to reorder Lists into a desirable order. Personally, I go for alphabetizing my Lists since it makes it easy to locate the List I need.
Here are some additional notes about List use within Mailbox:
I did perform a number of fairly exhaustive tests but under limited circumstances and with only a finite set of Gmail accounts. I hope this information I found helps some folks better understand Mailbox, and how it manages Lists and Gmail labels. As I find more quirks, I will update this post to reflect the new information.
Mailbox is a truly revolutionary yet simple app. I am sold on the email-as-task premise and plan to stick with Mailbox for the foreseeable future, especially since DropBox acquired the app. I anxiously await an iPad and OS X app sometime in the near future!
This post is part of the thread: Email – an ongoing story on this site. View the thread timeline for more context on this post.