Community & Support

Where we make ActiveInbox with you

Understanding the 3rd March morning downtime

March 3rd, 2014

Hi everyone,

My deep apologies for this morning’s downtime.

It wasn’t actually a problem with the app. Instead our server’s security certificate – the one that allows you to log into ActiveInbox securely – had expired and the new certificate had not come online.

This meant that some ActiveInbox features were disabled (principally the To Dos and Notes).

Renewing certificates is an annual process, involving multiple vendors, and to be totally transparent, is one area that we don’t have a deep expertise in. I accept total accountability for the failure.

As a remedy, next year we’ll engage a consultant with the required expertise to handle this for us, to prevent it happening again.

Clarifications

Delayed Communication

We didn’t first tweet it until 11am GMT. This is all rather mundane detail, but to be as transparent as possible… This morning I elected to work from home for a few hours, where there’s currently no internet, to allow me to deep-dive into some product work without distraction. Normally this is fine, but obviously today everything went wrong. Lisa, who’s not technical, finally realised the breadth of the situation at 10:30 and rose the alarm with me, at which point I came into the office. All problems were resolved by 12:30 GMT.

I’m totally empathetic that the lack of communication was particularly difficult, and as a remedy:
1) I’ll make sure my personal mobile is pinged if the server is unreachable.
2) Lisa will be emboldened to raise the flag sooner in future.

ActiveInbox’s Feature Dependency on the Server

ActiveInbox is in fact already modular, so that when the server communication is lost, the only things that *should* be disabled are To Dos/Notes/Ranking (i.e. the bits that absolutely need the server).

I gather that on Firefox especially, for some people ActiveInbox’s functionality loss was more severe. I’ll be extensively checking the failure mode.

I’m also going to increase our ability to communicate in-app during downtime, especially for notification that everything is ok again.

ActiveInbox 5.0 is going live

February 18th, 2014

(If you were on the Beta, please go back to the mainstream release to resume automatic updates).



After a year of trying and refining new features (with your feedback – thank you!), we’ve finally clicked the last couple of pieces of the jigsaw in place… ActiveInbox 5.0 is ready for all existing users.

What were those last two pieces? Speed & beauty!

ActiveInbox now feels instantaneous

Tom has been incredibly busy ripping out the battered, rusty old engine of ActiveInbox, and putting a brand new sports engine in its place.

I can’t stress how big a change this is… It’s not a simple bit of optimisation work (although we did that too), it’s 22,000 new lines of code.

So now when you load Gmail, click Action, set a due date, or change something in Active Results, it happens in the blink of an eye.

Beautifying ActiveInbox

A caveat: everyone who’s tried the beta has initially had a shock when seeing the changes. It takes about a day to get used to them. So when you upgrade, if you have an urgent desire to tell us about a visual tweak, please please sleep on it first! If it still bothers you after a couple of days, then let’s discuss it :)

With the help of the very talented James Beer of Logo Logo, we began making the interface absolutely coherent and so a joy to use (not just pretty!). I won’t bore you with every little detail, suffice it to say we did obsess over the little details.

Colour and Icons Have Meaning

Generally speaking, blue means ‘do something at your leisure’, and red is for the urgent Today or Overdue.

Also, if you set colours for labels in regular Gmail, ActiveInbox will make use of them.

We Defined ‘Task’ and ‘To Do’

We used to prevaricate on what to call a conversation that has a status/due-date, mostly calling them “to do”s or “active”. We’re now, rightly, calling them what they are: Tasks.

And by freeing up the phrase “to do”, we were able to stop using the ugly phrase “Next Steps”. Now a conversation can have a checklist of To Dos.

The Group By and Sort By menus are hidden until needed

We’ve been hearing that the Group By and Sort By dropdowns were confusing for new users, and were also just visually distracting for everybody else

So we did the kind thing, and tucked them into a menu icon where they can be expanded only when needed.

Other Things You Should Know

We removed the noisy/distracting cube that opened the Action Bar for each row in the Inbox. Instead, you now check the rows you want to change, and click the cube on the header bar.

Coming up next…

I’ll be mostly handling support for the next few weeks, smoothing out any remaining kinks.

I also want to keep tweaking the experimental Focus Mode based on your feedback, but we’re pretty much feature locked for the next few months. It’s time to spread the word a little!

On the topic of spreading the word, if you wish to write a review on the Chrome Webstore (or tweet out, or write something on your blog, etc.) it would be INCREDIBLY appreciated! We’ve never really done promotion, it’s all been word of mouth, and as our customer base grows we can afford more resources to develop faster – so it’s a very virtuous circle :)

FAST Beta now for Firefox (with Chrome updates) [4.0.5.66] [4.0.5.68]

February 12th, 2014

We’ve finally got the FAST Beta ready for Firefox, AND have hopefully fixed all remaining critical issues in Chrome. (Again, if anyone suffers crashes with .66, please let me know asap in the comments).

You can get it for both browsers from http://www.activeinboxhq.com/install_custom.php

New Icons for Today/Overdue and Due Dates

I’m anticipating this to be slightly controversial but…

It’s been pointed out several times that as we philosophically don’t support deadline times*, the icon of an alarm clock is misleading (*we believe that if it has a time, it’s an event, and thus it belongs in GCal).

Thus we have switched to a calendar icon.

I’m not sure how I feel yet, I’m giving it a few hours to bed into my mind and get used to it, but I’d love your feedback (after you’ve had time to get used to it!). It’s unusual for something to go from idea into the public product so quickly, but I wanted to get your opinion asap.

Update 13 Feb 10:30 GMT: Loading Loop Bug Found

It seems one of my optimisations has caused an ‘eternal loading loop’ in the Radar (especially for Today), in some conditions that I haven’t fully figured out yet. Dale Holden has helped quite a bit so far, and I’m trying to figure out which optimisation caused the break. Hope to have it fixed by lunch time GMT.

Update 13 Feb 12:00 GMT: 4.0.5.67 Released

I hope this update fixes the loading bug above. Hurrah, it does!

Update 13 Feb 15:30 GMT: 4.0.5.68 Released

To try and fix Willem’s ongoing crashing issue, I created 800 tasks to test the most extreme case. This includes optimisations for those extreme cases.

Turn emails into tasks from the inbox in FAST Beta [4.0.5.64]

February 10th, 2014

Hello all!

I’ve just released a new update to the FAST Beta, 4.0.5.64.

Restoring our Action Bar in the Inbox

I had hoped that we didn’t need to put our Action Bar in the Inbox, and it was removed early in our FAST Beta (partly because it was never 100% stable).

But it became clear from your feedback that at least some of you really needed it, so Tom & I found a way to bring it back.

There’s no longer a grey cube in each row, but if you check emails, you can click the cube in the regular Action Bar to give the emails a status, due-date and project.

A more robust Action Bar when composing drafts

Historically, we’ve had a problem where if you Compose an email, add a label & note using our Action Bar, then close the Compose frame and re-open it later as a Draft, the label & note is lost.

I found a much much more reliable method for handling this situation, included in this update.

Just to warn you, it still has a remaining weakness: if you refresh Gmail before re-opening the Draft, the label & note will be lost forever. I will solve this soon.

Speeding up the To Do & Note system

Troy & Mr Nelson were still suffering crashes despite all the earlier optimizations. I did some research, and concluded we could further optimize the To Do & Note system.

So, erm, I did!

You should notice it most when first loading Gmail, and if you were still suffering crashes going into the inbox in 4.0.5.63, they should no longer happen. (If you suffering any tab crashes at all, please let me know, as these are the last remaining critical issue stopping us launching it to everyone).

Dodge, dip, dive, duck and dodge… ActiveInbox 4.0.5.62

February 6th, 2014

Gmail made a change today that stopped the ActiveInbox Action Bar appearing in conversations.

We actually spotted it early thanks to several reports from you guys on Twitter, but it took us longer than usual to fix it (partly because we’ve temporarily got two versions of ActiveInbox: the mainstream and the FAST Beta release).

But 7 hours later we have the fix ready!

Mainstream users
(if you’re not sure what you are, you’re mainstream!)

* You need 4.0.5.62
* Chrome should have auto updated. If you refresh Gmail, everything should work now. (If not, go into your Extensions list and tell it to to check for updates, then refresh Gmail).
* Firefox should update if you go into your Extensions/Addons list, and ask it to check for updates.

If in any doubt, you can go to http://www.activeinboxhq.com/install.php and upgrade from there.

FAST Beta users

* You need 4.0.5.63
* You’ll have to manually update, from http://www.activeinboxhq.com/install_custom.php

Stop crashes and Send button failures in FAST Beta [4.0.5.59]

February 4th, 2014

I’ve just released an update to the FAST Beta, available from the Custom Install Page.

My apologies that it’s taken a week since the last release. I really hoped the major performance increases in the last release would stop all crashes… But even though we drastically reduced the frequency, they were still happening. So I had to go back to the drawing board a bit and make some fundamental changes… I once again hope the efforts are successful :)

Performance optimisations for FAST Beta [4.0.5.58]

January 27th, 2014

I’ve just updated the beta, which you can manually upgrade to from the Beta Install Page.

The main goal was to speed it up as much as possible.

You might be thinking “But isn’t this whole beta already because of a faster engine? Why would you make it faster if it’s already so fast?”.

It may help if you use a car analogy! A Ferrari engine has the potential to be a lot more powerful than a regular Ford engine, but for the first 500 miles you have to drive really slowly while the new engine “runs in” .

And so it is with our 22,000 new lines of code… Despite being theoretically much faster, there were one or two new areas that weren’t fully optimised. They are now!


Oh, and in lighter news… I toned down the intensity of the red that a lot of you found offensive in the last release :)

Muchos fixos of the FAST Beta [4.0.5.57]

January 22nd, 2014

I really thought last week would be the final beta, but alas no, the bug fixes rumble on up the mountain!

It seems auto-update doesn’t work for manually installed extensions (I’m assuming a Chrome security thing), so for a complete list of what’s changed, and access to 4.0.5.57, please go to the Beta Install Page.

Beautifying ActiveInbox (4.0.5.56 Fast Beta)

January 16th, 2014

With the help of the very talented James Beer of Logo Logo, we set about on a project that wasn’t just about making ActiveInbox look pretty, it was about making the interface absolutely coherent and so a joy to use.

I won’t bore you with every little detail, suffice it to say we did obsess over the little details.

Instead I’ll focus on the most important changes you need to be aware of…

Colour Has Meaning

Generally speaking, blue means ‘do something at your leisure’, red & white is ‘today’ and red & black is ‘overdue’.

We Defined “Task” and “To Do”

We used to prevaricate on what to call a conversation that has a status or due date, mostly calling them “to do”s or “active”. We’re now, rightly, calling them what they are: Tasks.

And by freeing up a term, we were able to get rid of the ugly phrase ‘Next Steps’, instead being able to meaningfully say every conversation can have a checklist of To Dos.

Speaking of which, we also changed the colour of the “To Do & Note” box in conversations, to be more consistent with other colours in ActiveInbox (and perhaps more importantly, less gallingly-yellow).

The ‘Group By’ and ‘Sort By’ are hidden until needed

We’ve been hearing that the Group By and Sort By dropdowns were confusing for new users, and were also just visually distracting for everybody else :)

So we did the kind thing, and tucked them into a menu icon where they can be expanded only when needed.

When closed it looks like this:

And when it opens:

We moved the <- -> arrows to the right of the Action Bar (like Gmail)

This is because we wanted to make the Move Nexter (archive, spam, delete, etc.) and Status/Due-Date buttons the most important things, as they’re key to getting things done.

(Whereas the <- -> are for skipping rather than doing, and you even have the special ‘-’ Move Nexter if you just want to skip a single email as you flow through).

One thing we could do is put the <- -> buttons in a fixed position on the right hand side, like Gmail does, so they don’t flicker around when you add a long Project label.

This is possibly a controversial thing, so let me know what you think.

Lots of bug fixes in the Beta

I’ve also fixed almost every bug you reported over the last week about the FAST Beta, which I now believe is about ready for the stable release (but not quite – a few more days to be sure!).

I owe a particular thanks to mz, and Denis Cantu, who were kind enough to take phone calls and trust me with a screen share to fix a lot of the bugs. I can honestly say I would not have been able to fix several things without them.

Trying it out

Just go to our Beta Install page.

Mini Announcement: New Update for FAST Beta [4.0.5.54]

January 8th, 2014

I’ve just fixed a few bugs that you reported, noted in the Beta Install Page.

You’ll be pleased to know it also includes the experimental Focus Mode feature!

It’s now very close to production, so if you find any serious bugs please let me know urgently.

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