I’m incredibly proud – and a little nervous if I’m honest – to give a sneak preview of ActiveInbox 6 🙂

But first, preamble…

Our historic pattern of development with ActiveInbox is to add interesting new ideas, generated from talking with you all, until it starts to resemble a school noticeboard… And then we shake it all up with a big overhaul.

It’s not a stress-free approach, and today I’m pleased to announce this will be the last of the traumatic overhauls. Because we’ve got a new secret weapon.

Olly joined us a few months ago, and is the driving force of us becoming design-orientated.

Like cooking a great meal, the first job is to clean and prepare the work surfaces (which is what V6 is doing) so you can actually start cooking (and we’ve got an abundance of new developments coming down the pipe, all overseen by chef Olly).

And to stretch this analogy to breaking point, developer Remi is every-other-job-in-the-kitchen, pretty much single handedly bringing Olly’s vision to life while the rest of us work on mobile.

What’s New?

In essence, we’ve tidied up a lot of the rough edges.

The Review Bar has moved above the Inbox

The big change is in how you review tasks: we realised it’s best to have them kept under your nose at all times (which is what Radar used to do), but also it’s scary to be far away from your inbox. We think we have a pretty neat solution to this.


We finally cracked Waiting

Many years ago, we had a big debate about why Waiting On wasn’t quite perfect.

The main issue is that Waiting should be its own flag. Just because I’m Waiting on something doesn’t change whatever Status I’ve given it, it’s an additional piece of information.

And during my phone interviews with many of you, most of you said you add a Due Date with each Waiting item, “so you don’t forget to follow up”. It’s clear Waiting needed it’s own timed reminder, but Due Date wasn’t exactly perfect. By separating them, you can now do cool things like state the eventual Due Date is in 2 weeks, but you expect a reply from Alice within the next 2 days.

Finally, there are actually two very separate use-cases for Waiting:

  • You just need a reply, any reply. If you get the reply, you can safely automatically remove the Waiting flag. For this, we make it an option you can set per email.
  • It’s blocked until you’ve decided otherwise. E.g. you’ve asked a big question of several colleagues, and a simple reply like “Ok, I’ll investigate” shouldn’t automatically change anything. In this case, you want to manually remove the Waiting flag in the future.


Adding Tasks is a lot easier

You can now create tasks in quick succession to get things off your mind.


There’s no longer a need to choose between the ActiveInbox and Gmail sidebar

We simply blend them into one.


We’re giving things more meaningful names

Statuses are becoming Lists, projects are now Folders, and any custom things you have (e.g. contexts) are Tags.

It’s a less idiosyncratic way of thinking about things, which might even inspire your brain to optimise your workflow.

What’s Next?

We want your feedback for how you find the new beta, and anything we’ve overlooked (please please give it a chance, after the shock of change).

Would you like to try it?

  1. You’ll need to switch to the Beta channel, which means going into your Extensions list in Chrome and removing ActiveInbox, then installing the Beta version instead.
  2. In the Preferences, check “Enable Version 2016”, and refresh Gmail.

A Promise

Following the first few comments, there’s a few things I want to clarify!

  • This is a big shocking change, and I don’t want to thrust that upon anyone who doesn’t want it. We’re committed to freezing AIB5, dubbed ‘ActiveInbox Classic’, and keeping it available for at least 6 months – and if we can, forever. We’re very aware we’re only here because of you, and I don’t want to anyone to think I’m not being respectful 🙂
  • This hasn’t actually been rolled out as brutally as it might seem: it’s only gone to the 300 or so people who had previously opted in to the Beta channel. If you’re not happy about this, you can switch back to the Public channel, by uninstalling ActiveInbox from your Chrome extensions list, and reinstalling like normal.
  • I really like to release our Betas as early and publicly as possible, so everyone can see what we’re working on, but which means they might include show stopping problems (e.g. overlooked functionality). Although this is exactly the kind of thing we love to discover in the beta period, I can see it adds to the alarm. The important thing to know is that I’m listening, and already with the first few comments, I’ve generated an improvement list with 40 items on it.

Categorised in:

This post was written by AndyM

  • David Shalev

    Drafts still has a problem – often the Drafts folder indicates there are emails in it when in fact it is empty. Furthermore, can’t even open the folder unless refresh Gmail.

  • David Shalev

    Would be extremely helpful to be able to sort results in reverse chronological order. For example, I am sure I am not alone in letting action items become past due, but when choosing Overdue and Sort by Due Date, the results are shown with the oldest emails appearing first. Please please add an option to reverse the order to newest first. Unless I am mistaken, currently the only way to see yesterday’s Overdue items is to scroll all the way to the bottom of the Due Date sort, which is very cumbersome when a significant number are Overdue. Happy to be corrected if I am missing something.

    • Hi David,

      It’s an interesting problem.

      It generally makes sense to solve oldest first in a perfect world. You see a few Overdues, then Today, then things in the future. Seeing the newest first would be weird.

      But it seems your ongoing battle is with Overdue items. Specific requests like wanting to see Yesterday (which is why I added the ability to group Due Dates by day).

      Perhaps the bigger question is why is so much stuff building up in Overdue, and how can we make that much less likely/painful?

      Could you create a topic at getsatisfaction.com/activeinbox just to discuss the Overdue problem, if you think this is the real problem?

  • Anna

    Hi folks, I’m having some troubles using the new system. Any advice is helpful. In the previous version of AIB, I’d use multiple tags so that emails would fall into more than one folder listing, but I could sort to see items with one label and then at the bottom those with two labels. I’d like to do that again, but can’t seem to get the sorting to respond.
    For instance: I send print jobs out, and one tag says “approved for printing” and once I send it to print I add another tag that says “at print – awaiting delivery”. I also tag with “action” so it shows in the list, and “waiting on-indefinitely” so that I know it’s out to print and I’m waiting for it to come back. With the old system, I’d be able to sort to see the “approved for printing” tagged items above the “approved for printing” PLUS “at print” tagged items by clicking a sort on the side.
    The sort by folder doesn’t seem to assemble the tasks in my list in any sort of order. Is the sort broken? It’s drastically hindering my ability to stay on top of what is approved and what is out the door in my workflow. Can anyone help?

    • Hi Anna,

      I *think* I understand but I’m struggling without knowing the precise nature of your labels (are we talk about Lists/Statuses, or Folders/Projects, or a customer label type?).

      Could you create a topic at getsatisfaction.com/activeinbox, and include some screenshots.

      To give you a little confidence, it does sound like exactly the kind of issue I want to solve for you – I just need to perfect understand it.

  • Johan

    Hi, great ones! A suggestion: It would be nice to choose not to show pinned lists etc if no status is active. To clear things up and make jobs more present and visible, it would be nice to be able to choose to NOT show pinned lists/folders/tags if NO statuses is active. Check this image: https://hstrom.mangoapps.com/sf/ODM1OTNfMzUzMTUxMg – in this example the folders “Adlibris”, “Allmänna” etc shouldn’t be visible, because there are no “tickets” there. But “Bibliotekstjänst”, “Fältbiologerna” etc should be visible and pinned, because there are jobs to be done…

    With kind regards,
    – Johan.

    • Excellent point!

      • mz

        Andy – I wouldn’t like this change, unless it’s a user Preference. I use pinned items not only to quickly access tasks, but also to quickly label things that are to become tasks. If the buttons disappear, the first such labelled item will require going through the drop down list. I figure many others use items for quick access to commonly used labels as I do.

  • Dave McSween

    I have tried to switch to the new ActiveInbox 6 a few times but the new UI interferes with my ability to view things easily.

    The main things that prevent me from switching:
    -Overall, everything activeinbox UI related is bigger. Maybe this is it not conforming to my “compact” gmail size preference. It takes up screen real estate. The labels in the subject line are bigger. It hides subject lines and preview blurbs that I used to be able to see.
    -Same with the top bar of compose, the to do list, etc. They are all extra large.
    -Why is the To Do list a toggle button of showing its contents at the top of my inbox or not, as a separate button in the top bar, but the other active inbox feature of the waiting list is on the side? I would prefer they both just live on the side as before so it’s easier to flip through my lists.
    -In general a lot of buttons are spaced out and separated, and I understand this is probably to distinguish functions and not make a “wall of buttons” that would overwhelm new users. However, to me it is just taking away space that could be displaying information I want to read.

    The one improvement I see is the overlay allowing me to manage/sort emails from the box view, but this is not particularly valuable to my workflow, and also it has the extra large buttons with extra spacing.

    Please keep the old interface working, or if you’re going to take it away, come up with an interface that will scale down. I love that the old interface is pretty minimal but gives me a way to easily sort things between inbox, to do, and waiting, as well as tag things as belonging to certain projects and leave the occasional note to myself on what’s going on in threads. AI6 feels intrusive.

    Altogether, ActiveInbox has really helped me stay organized. Thanks for your work in trying to improve it and innovate.

    • Hi Dave,

      Thank you for taking the time to write this – I’ve made notes for the team.

      And we’ll definitely keep V5 (Classic) alive 🙂

  • David Shalev

    After choosing the label “Send Later”, the box above the inbox that shows Send Later will not disappear, even after leaving the Send Later label and choosing Inbox. The only way it seems to get it to disappear is to choose Today or Tomorrow, but I suspect that is not the intended behavior, so wanted to let you know. Seems to me it should disappear as soon as the user leaves the Send Later label.

  • Anish

    When an email is set to “waiting on -> indefinitely,” I am unable to select “waiting on -> none” to cancel the waiting. However, if I select “wo -> today” first, I can then select None.

    • Thanks Anish – I’ll see if I can replicate it.

  • David Shalev

    Labels in the sidebar are not being updated. I thought it was limited to Drafts, but I just emptied my Spam label and yet it still shows a number indicating emails are in the label. Also, I can’t click into the label. Again, this is similar to what happens with Drafts. The only way to fix it is to refresh Gmail. I have reported this a few times, so let me know if I am not describing the problem clearly.

    • Hi David,

      The description is clear (thank you!) but my only query is how long does it take before it fails?

      Can you post this issue in the Forum if it continues? The blog comments are getting slightly overwhelming to track (nearly 600!).

      • David Shalev

        Will do. Seems to fail within the first go around.

  • Anish

    Would it be possible to make sub-tasks and notes searchable through gmail search?

    • Hi Anish –

      That’s definitely on our list to do. Hopefully in the next few months.

  • Anna A

    I have a question – why can’t I search for both a folder and whether or not it has “action” selected? Right now I can view all my AIB folders by selecting in the drop down, and then a whole slew of emails show up. I still like to keep the folder assigned to the email even once the “task” portion is finished. “Action” is what feature I use to determine whether or not there is “action” required for the task. However, I can’t just simply look up a specific category and only see those items with the “Action” label. If that were a possibility that would be a massive improvement to the searchability of the data. Please please consider this! That’s what made the previous version work so well for me. I could still leave items in a folder (project-specific) because that label needs to stay on the email indefinitely… but I could see the items that specifically needed action. Without looking at ALL the Action items…

    • Hi Anna,

      What’s changed is that we’re now ‘task by default’ -> so when you add something to a folder, even with no status or due date, it’s put into the task section until you mark it Finished.

      However, if you click ‘Sort’ in the top right of the list, and choose List, it will group things that have the Action label so you can process that.

      Let me know how you get on with it, and if there are still ongoing frustrations, i’ll try to deal with them!

  • jpnelson40

    I keep trying, now 6.0.22. One annoying display detail: the count for “Promotions” in the side bar gets cut off after the first numeral, not fixable by font size in the browser (Chrome), and the side bar can’t be resized that I can see. I suppose the number is quite high, as I don’t often get to clean it out, but nonetheless….

  • jpnelson40

    Things have been quiet here, but I suppose the team is making changes. I am now up to 6.0.23 I see. Could you post a list of changes made, so we don’t duplicate efforts or need to keep checking old requests or bugs? And such a list would tweak us to look them over, make comments, test them, etc.

  • jpnelson40

    I needed to create a list “None” in order to undo a previously selected Next or Action etc. Before setting a List tag, there is none set, it seems. So shouldn’t setting one’s own be redundant? Perhaps “None” should be built-in, and if chosen return to the unset state?
    Still version 6.0.23 in Chrome Version 53.0.2785.70 beta-m (64-bit), Windows 10.

  • Andrew Ford

    Hi Andy
    I use Gmail labels with color codes for all my tasks/emails. My color codes are split into categories, with different colors representing different activities in my weekly workflow.
    In the new AIB6, I cannot see those color codes or the gmail labels in the AIB6 layout!
    Is this in a setting I can change?