Community & Support

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Interview: Using email as a task manager

February 8th, 2016

Andy recently did an interview with Mike Vardy at Productivityist. Mike is well known for being dead against using email as a task manager, so Andy went to defend the approach (you can decide who fared better!).

Among the points raised were:

  • Inbox Zero, in isolation, does more harm than good
  • Slack is not the solution to a busy inbox. It just moves the problem from your inbox to Slack, and that becomes the new overbearing place.
  • ‘Snoozing’ functionality just creates a tidal wave ahead of you, as we keep re-snoozing things.

You can read the original post, or listen below:

Clear the Inbox with Every Task

February 8th, 2016

Our newest team mate, developer Remi, has completed his first project: archiving every email that you give a due-date, status, or project. This makes it much easier to clear out the inbox. You can turn this on in the Preferences, by checking “Archive threads when added to a project/status/deadline” under “Inbox & Search Results”.

aapref

We’ve also added a hovering finish button to every item in the inbox, so you can quickly process emails from there (rather than having to open the email).

hoverfinish

In addition, Remi fixed up a series of annoying little bugs, not least the very annoying presence of the ‘Zactive’ label (which is needed for the upcoming mobile release, but we’ve done a better job of hiding it).

This is available now in Chrome (for ActiveInbox 5.2.35], and we hope to have it in Firefox & Safari next week.

Firefox Restored

February 8th, 2016

The short version: we finally got approved by Mozilla, so ActiveInbox for Firefox is working again. You can install it from our Install page, or from Mozilla Addons directly.

And sorry. Truly sorry. It was really frustrating at this end precisely because we knew how much it was annoying all of you on Firefox.


The long version… This was a *really* painful journey (but the Firefox moderators were as helpful as they could be, so this isn’t to be harsh to them).

At the tail end of 2015, we began in earnest to try to get approved to be featured in the Mozilla Addons store. This was necessary, because Firefox was going to disable all extensions that weren’t. It took us the best part of 2 months to finally get there.

Personally, this feels like a rushed decision on their part. Chrome doesn’t need to do this, because it’s more secure by design (it sandboxes extensions). Thus the Firefox moderators are forced to scan, as humans, all our source code to look for potential risks. This means approval takes, at best, several days. For us, this is particularly painful, as a Gmail change can happen instantly, and we like to be able to fix it up within 24 hours – something that simply won’t be possible.

Why did it take us 2 months? ActiveInbox is a big, complex pile of code; and some of the security guidelines that Mozilla goes by are quite generic. Without geeking you out too much, in places we were breaking their broad rules, but not in a way that was actually dangerous (the nuance being unique to Gmail). In the end, we tried our best to acquiesce to their rules, and bent ourselves into all manner of shapes to make it work with the additional limitations.

I’m hoping that in the future, they might reverse this policy, because they’re planning to adopt a model more like Chrome’s. In the meantime, I’m hoping that now we’ve been approved once, future approvals will at least be less painful and fast enough to be workable.

Making tasks a little lighter [ActiveInbox 5.2.25]

November 5th, 2015

I’m very pleased to say I’m still getting a chance to tinker in the code (see my last post, Dusting the Furniture). It feels a bit like the early days again, where my life was just listening, coding and blogging :)

There are two new features I’m testing (and that’s an important nuance – I really want your feedback!).

Auto Stripping ‘Waiting On’ when someone replies

One reason I hesitate to mark every email I send as ‘Waiting On’ (blocked), despite it being an incredibly useful fail safe for if they don’t reply, is I know I’ll often forget to clean out my Waiting On list. I fear the build up of crud.

So to alleviate this, if a reply comes into your inbox, and the conversation is marked as ‘Waiting On’, then ActiveInbox will automatically remove the ‘Waiting On’ status and the Due Date.

Importantly, it only does this if you actually read the email, and it gives you a chance to Undo it – so nothing silently falls out of your system.

autostrip

Blocked (Waiting On) items are visually down-played in your task lists

If you’re waiting for a response, it implies you’re blocked – so we’ve made Waiting On items look a bit more ‘disabled’.

This is especially useful in your Today list, where you have a hodgepodge of different types of things – so you can immediately spot what needs unblocking.

Finish – or update – a task more easily from the task lists

I’ve added a set of commands that appear when you mouseover a task, so you can instantly update it, or click the tick to Finish it.

Again, it’s an effort to make things more lightweight, by very quickly finishing things.

mousemove

My concerns – that I’d like feedback on…

The Auto Strip might be a scary thing. Even with the clear notification box and Undo, it’s possible you wouldn’t notice it had removed Waiting On, and you’d lose faith in your system. It’s also possible that clicking ‘Undo’ becomes a real pain, if most replies don’t really stop you being blocked.

  • You’ll notice a ‘more’ option on the notification, that lets you just remove Waiting On but not the Due Date, which might feel a bit safer.
  • I guess we could also not invoke the removal if the reply is just a few word acknowledgement (like ‘Thanks!’), which are going to be the most common false positives.

I’m worried that the AutoStrip line is visually too intense (although it needs to grab your attention). If you agree – AND you find it useful – then we can play with different designs.

I have a sense that the current mouseover command line is pretty visually unpleasant – cluttered. If you agree, you could maybe suggest a cleaner approach.

Please let me know in comments!

Dusting the Furniture [ActiveInbox 5.2.24]

October 28th, 2015

Hi everyone,

It’s been a while since I’ve had my head in code (most of this year in fact!) – Tom & Adhip have had the reigns for mobile work and a few major new features in the pipeline. But I decided to have a littel dabble…

See Notes & Checklist where you most need them

I’ve moved the Notes & Checklist to be between the last message, and the Reply box. (They’re also still on the Action Bar, so available at all times).

infobox

We felt this was more useful for two reasons:

  1. You’re most likely to want to update the checklist/notes after reading the latest message
  2. You’re most likely to need the checklist/notes while writing a reply.

(If you don’t agree, this is controllable in the Preferences!).

Go distraction free by hiding the Inbox

If you’d like a temporary break from incoming emails, you can now ‘collapse’ the inbox, using the triangle pictured. This will also hide the Inbox count in the sidebar – so you’re competeley unaware of what’s happening in there :)

no_inbox

Just a few little clean ups

I made a few tweaks to visually improve the Reply box, most noticeably putting ‘Send Later’ next to ‘Send’, so that ‘Waiting On’ is very easy to reach.

cleaner_reply

In Other News

Having had the great misfortune (read: Andy’s big strategic mistake) of having to discontinue our first mobile attempt, we’ve reached a major milestone: the new one, where we’ve built the entire email client from scratch, has just entered the earliest stage of beta. 60 people so far :-)

If you’d like to be part of this program, please sign up on the Mobile Beta page.

Assigning Tasks to Colleagues in Gmail – ActiveInbox Gmail Hacks

August 27th, 2015

Startup Stock Photos

Have you ever wished you could assign a task to a colleague who also uses Gmail?

Wished you could know for sure that when you send someone an email or bcc them they don’t forget it or overlook it.

There’s a fairly simple but effective hack to do this in Gmail using ActiveInbox that’s come from our ever creative community.

Read the rest of this entry »

ActiveInbox Tip: Choose which task list appears above your Gmail inbox to remind you what’s next

June 2nd, 2015

This is a series of posts helping you to make the most out of ActiveInbox.

ActiveInbox is all about having your tasks lists available in the place you check everyday, all day – Gmail.

The first thing you see when you open up Gmail is your Inbox, so you probably want to be reminded of any urgent tasks right there and then.

That’s why we give you a list of your most urgent tasks just above your Inbox by default. This is your ‘Today’ list – it is all the emails you’ve marked with a due date that expire today or are overdue.

Every morning you can rank and prioritise these critical tasks by dragging and dropping them as you would in a normal list.

But ActiveInbox is all about flexibility. So:

  • Want to keep things simple and your Inbox at the top?
    • Click the radar button and drag your Today section below the Inbox in the left hand panel.
      radar-edit-gif
  • Don’t use due dates very often?
    • Put your Action list above your Inbox by dragging it over from the right.
      ezgif.com-optimize (3)
  • Have too many tasks that are overdue?
    • Remove overdue tasks from your today view in two clicks by going to the ActiveInbox preferences and scrolling down to the Active Results section where you can un-check the option.
      ezgif.com-optimize (1)

Send Later update

March 30th, 2015

You’ll be pleased to know that we’ve finally tracked down why some people were experiencing issues with Send Later – and we’ve fixed it.

What has happening was that a handful of our customers were using it on an industrial scale to schedule thousands of emails all at the same time. This was overloading our servers and causing everyone else’s scheduled emails to wait in a queue behind these few people’s newsletter releases.

Sincere apologies to those of you who may have experienced some emails being sent later than intended.

It shouldn’t happen again so if it does please make sure you drop us an email about it at support@activeinboxhq.com.

Thanks!

Andy

Achieving Inbox Zero – infographic

March 23rd, 2015

Achieving Inbox Zero in Gmail - ActiveInbox

Gmail Tip: Using Multiple Email Signatures in Gmail

March 18th, 2015

Gmail has only one signature you can use, and it will add itself to all your emails and replies, every time. It is not exactly well designed or flexible for businesses.

If you’ve ever used the desktop version of Outlook you’ll know how easy it is to add different signatures to an email.

But you can also have quick access to multiple saved signatures in Gmail.

All you need to do is enable the Gmail ‘Lab’ (an extension) built by the Gmail team themselves, called Canned Responses. You can simply enable it from Gmail’s settings.

The good news is that once you enable the Canned Responses lab you can achieve everything that Outlook offers with signatures, and more.

You can even use it for quick access to saved emails that you frequently send to people, or set up filters for incoming messages that can send an auto-reply using one of your canned responses.

canned-filter

Set up Canned Responses

Read the rest of this entry »

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