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Win the inbox war: Four utilities fight email onslaught

Rick Broida | Aug. 1, 2013
Managing your inbox can feel like a full-time job, which is problematic given that you need all your time for your actual job.

Unlike most of the inbox-relief options in this roundup, Inky relies on actual software: It's a desktop email client stocked with tools for better email management. However, that could be its downfall for some users: If you're already vested in, say, Outlook, switching might not be a convenient (or even desirable) option.

It is compelling, though. Inky works with both IMAP and POP mail accounts and gives you the option of a unified inbox for as many accounts as you want to connect. Even better, it automatically filters certain types of messages into a variety of handy "Smart View" sub-inboxes: Daily Deals, Personal, Social, Subscriptions, Maps, and even Packages.

The Packages inbox could help business users who constantly need to track package deliveries via confirmation emails, while the Personal inbox helps you zero in on important messages that might otherwise get lost in the business shuffle. I especially like the Notes inbox, which is where the email reminders you send to yourself get stored.

Inky looks almost too elegant for business use, and its heavy reliance on icons (not all of which are intuitive) steepens the learning curve. Thankfully, there's an excellent guided tour that walks new users through the interface, and you can mouse over just about anything to get a pop-up descriptor. I found it much easier to navigate after expanding the side dock, which displays text labels alongside the icon for each section.

To help make sure the most important emails get noticed, Inky attempts to guess which ones are most relevant to you and tags them with a blue drop. The darker the drop, the more relevant the email—though you can easily fine-tune the results by clicking the icon. This should help ensure that messages from clients, coworkers, and other key people get immediate attention.

As PCWorld's Yaara Lancet points out in her review of Inky, the program has a few bugs, but it still "shows immense promise and has real potential in revolutionizing the way you use email." I'm not sure I'd give up Outlook for it, but I'll agree it's one of the best desktop mail clients to come along in years.

Frustrated by the roiling tornado that is your inbox? Mailstrom (get it?) aims to help you regain control by analyzing its contents, sorting the results, and giving you some tools to reduce the flow of mail. Admittedly, you can accomplish much the same thing using filters and targeted searches, especially in Gmail, but Mailstrom saves you the trouble.

The service, which operates in your browser, works exclusively with IMAP accounts, though for the moment you're limited to three of them. I added AOL and Gmail accounts, then waited a few minutes to see the results.


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