Google Inbox – The most innovative e-mail client

This post is NOT about photography, but about e-mail, and specifically about Google Inbox, and question why this is being terminated. If you are interested, please read on. If not, just continue whatever you were doing 🙂

Introduction

I have been using e-mail since I was developing e-mail systems back in the 1980s.

When I first discovered Google Inbox in 2014, I immediately started using it. It has some really great features I have not seen in other e-mail clients.

The tagline is “completely different type of inbox, designed to focus on what really matters.” So why is Google killing it?

If you have answers to any of my questions, please comment on this post.

Why Google Inbox?

This is how Inbox is introduced when you start it for the first time.

Yes, it really makes my e-mail management a lot easier.
Great feature, which I use a lot. Have not seen anything like it in any other e-mail client. It will recognize a reply to an e-mail I have sent, and put this on top.
Yup. Very nice.
Q: Can anybody tell me where my Inbox tasks are in Gmail. I don’t even see them in “Tasks” on the right-hand side. Will I have to save them manually, and re-created them?
Snoozing is fantastic. Remind me to look at this e-mail on Monday. Yes, you can snooze e-mails in Gmail, but not tasks or links.
Bundles are just great. A fantastic way to group e-mails, and have them appear when you want, why isn’t this available in ALL e-mail clients.

So how will you handle this in Gmail, Google?

Inbox has always stood out among the e-mail clients. Google offers Gmail, but this is just yet-another e-mail client, pretty much like any other. I’m wondering how to manage the functionality I’ve gotten used to with Inbox, and how you want to help me to “… focus on what really matters “.

This is what I will miss:

  • The nice and clean UX
  • Tasks
  • Email bundling
  • Trip management
  • Snooze to location
  • Saving links

And probably some features which are working in the background which I am not even aware of.

As far as I can see, Google Gmail does not give me any of these. And I have yet to see any other e-mail client which offers any of this functionality. Any pointers would be helpful.

So why, Google, why? Why are you dragging me back to a standard e-mail client. They haven’t really changed a lot, since the 80ies, when I was in software development, and creating e-mail software.

The clean UX

This is a sample of my Inbox screen.
And here is the same screen in Gmail. Why are you trying to cram so much information into the same screen?

Tasks

Showing tasks in the same list as the e-mails make a lot of sense. A lot of my e-mails are also tasks to be followed up. So why does Gmail have a separate list on the right for tasks. And why don’t my Inbox tasks show up anywhere in Gmail?

Q: Any idea for a good task application, which works across devices, and which is integrated with e-mail (preferably also Outlook)? And which also has “snooze to location”?

Email bundling

While Gmail offers four hard-coded tabs: Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums, Inbox offers bundles. And while Gmail shows these as tabs on the top, which are always present, Inbox creates bundles, which are shown in the list. You can configure when you want to see them: as messages arrive, once pr day, once pr. Week. This keeps the “noise” out of the way.

For me, one example is photo competitions, and I do receive a lot of e-mails about this. So I have configured these to show up only Monday morning, at which time this pops up as new bundle in my inbox. See how this is shown in the list below.

The screen below also shows one e-mail which was not caught by the automatic filter (which is actually rare). I can just click on the … icon on the message, move it to “Photo competitions” and select “Always do this”.

I can also easily archive all messages in a group with one click, and the bundle is gone from the list, until it is scheduled to show again (when a new message arrives, tomorrow morning, or Monday morning, whatever I have configured).

Showing the bundles in the e-mail timeline makes it so much easier to go through these.

Yes I know, I can set up filters and sort into folders. I do this in Microsoft Outlook, and it is painful to set up, and the problem is that I forget to look in those folders. As Inbox shows the bundles in the stream, they will pop up at the desired time, it’s quick to go through them and just archive the entire stream.

Q: What will happen to my bundles in Gmail?

Q: I notice that some of the photo competition e-mails are “tagged” with “Photo competition”. But how do I show all of these, and move them to archive? The only way I found was to: 1) Open the panel on the left 2) Click on “show more” to see all 3) Click on the “Photo competition” label. 4) Click on the “select all” check-box 4) Click on the … button 5) Select “Archive”. While in Google Inbox: Click on the check mark of the bundle.

Trip management

As a frequent traveler, this is a fantastic function. It analyzes incoming e-mails, and creates a trip bundle for every trip. With flights and hotels, and also other information. And it also offers me to manually add items which are not automatically detected. And the trip bundle is shown in the inbox, and moved higher as new information arrives, such as flight check-in information.

Opening the group shows the flights and accomodations, and below, all the e-mails in the group.

Selecting trips, gives me this overview:

Yes, there are external tools which will read your e-mail, and create trips. But for one, this is a separate app, and also, there is no way to manually add e-mails belonging to a trip, which I do from time to time, for example tickets to events, which would be really hard to recognize as part of a trip.

The trips also shows delays etc.

Q: How to handle trips in Gmail?

Snooze to location

Well, they already took this away. This was a feature I used a lot. Working in different locations, there where things I needed to remember to do when I got to a different location, which was handled by using snooze to location.

Q: How to handle this in Gmail? Yes, I know Google Keep supports this, but why would I want a note to show up in a new location?

Saving links

Inbox also offers functionality to save links to web pages. When in the browser on my phone, I can directly save the URL in the inbox or forward in an e-mail. Saving the link, makes it show up in the list, and can also be snoozed, like any received e-mail.

Last words

Dear Google. I really hope that you will come to your senses, and instead of killing Inbox, continue adding new features.

As mentioned, Gmail is just YAEC (Yet Another Email Client).

Triple me selfie

2014.04.26@10.31.02-jes

While at the workshop at Agdenes last week-end, I took this tripple-self-portrait. This is done with one exposure only, at the middle of the day and it’s taken with by Sony Alpha SLT A99, with  SAL70200F2.8, F25, 30seconds, ISO100.

This is how I took this photo.

First I mounted the camera on a tripod on the beach, and attached a ND3.0 filter. This filter only passes through 0.098% of the light, and reduces the received light by 10 stops, so I can take long exposures during the middle of the day. See this article for more information about ND filters.

2014.05.02@06.13.08-jes

At this point, I’m glad to have an SLT camera and not an SLR. With an SLR, the viewfinder (which is an optical view through the lens) would’ve been more or less completely black, as hardly any light is passed through. However, with the SLT you have an electronic viewfinder, which will work even when adding a 10 stop ND filter. I will normally have to switch to manual focus.

After focusing, I set the camera to Shutter priority, select 30 seconds, and ISO100.

2014.05.02@06.13.49-jes

Then I connected my Vello wireless remote. This is excellent both for taking “selfies”, but can also be programmed for time lapse (taking photo with a given frequency), as well as very long exposures (longer than the maximum of 30 seconds which the camera itself can do). I’ve also used this to be my own assistant, holding a reflector, and firing the camera with the remote.

I position myself, and click the remote to take the photo. After counting to 10, I move to a new position, and then do this a third time. And the photo you see is the result. I’ve done some contrast and clarity adjustments in Adobe LR, as well as taking down the blacks. Yes, and of course removing a lot of sensor spots, which show up at F25. Need to have that sensor cleaned again 🙂

DSLR sensor spots?

Do you have dust on your DSLR sensor? Are you sure?

If you have more than one lens, the lens you need is always in the bag. Which means that you keep changing lenses, and dust will accumulate on the sensor, regardless of how careful you are. And how come they show up more on some images than other? There are two things which makes the dust stand out on an image: A uniform background, and a high F-stop.

Consider the following image, which was shot at F22. (I’ve added some contrast to make the dust stand out even more)

You see some of the dust quite clearly, while some are more hidden. Here are the ones I found:

Seeing the dust

But what if you want to check how bad it really is?  Follow these steps:

  1. Make part of your computer monitor completely white. A simple way to do this, is to start a new document in Microsoft Word, or another text editor.
  2. Use a 50mm lens, or zoom to about 50mm.
  3. Set your camera to shutter priority (S, T or Tv, depending on your camera), and set the shutter speed to about 2 seconds.
  4. Set your camera to manual focus, and make sure that your computer monitor is completely out of focus. Remember that we’re not taking a photo of the monitor, but of the sensor dust.
  5. Aim at the white monitor, and take a picture, while you are moving the camera slightly. Again, we want to make sure we’re not taking a photo of the monitor, but of the dust.

Then bring the photo into Adobe Lightroom (or any image editor). Then turn up the contrast, and turn down the blacks. In my case I got the following image:

Pretty bad, huh?

Cleaning out the dust

So how do you clean out the dust? In general, I would recommend taking the camera into a camera store. They normally do this while you wait, and doesn’t charge too much.

The sensor is the most precious part of your camera, and if you get it scratched, you might as well throw away your camera.

Warning: NEVER USE COMPRESSED AIR, and NEVER TOUCH THE SENSOR WITH ANY PHYSICAL OBJECT.

What you need is a manual air blower, which looks something like this:

Here is what you do:

  1. In the camera menu, select the “Cleaning mode”. This will lift the mirror, and reveal the sensor.
  2. Remove the lens, while holding the camera downwards, to avoid additional dust from entering.
    You should always keep your camera pointed down when changing lenses.
  3. Use a manual dust-blower, and blow upwards onto the sensor.
  4. Turn your camera off (which will lower the mirror) and replace the lens.
Now you can repeat the steps above to check if it has improved. Here is my before and after picture:
I didn’t get everything, but at least it is better than before. Guess I’ll do it once more 🙂

How to write a date

My first post is triggered by configuring WordPress.

I went into settings to select the date format, where I found the following options for date format:

  • February 5th, 2012
  • 2012/02/05
  • 02/05/2012
  • 05/02/2012
  • Custom

At least all these formats use the full year, but how can you tell if 02/05/2012 is the second day of May or the fifth day of February? It’s even worse when writing dates without the full year: 02/05/12 could mean a lot of different dates.

For some reason, a lot of people in Europe seems to think that the European date format (Day/Month/Year) is a lot better than the US format (Month/Day/Year). Personally, neither of these makes sense. Why would you write a less significant number (day) first. If someone asks you to write the time, would you ever think about writing the minutes or seconds before the hour?

So the only sensible way of writing dates, and which is least probably of causing misunderstandings, is Year-Month-Day (with a dash, not a slash). The date is written in decreasing order of importance, as with Hour:Minute:Second. And guess what. There is an international standard for this called ISO8601.

So let’s all work together now to adapt the only sensible way of writing dates.

Fortunately WordPress has the custom option, which allowed me to create an ISO8601 date. WordPress should make this a date option, which should be the default setting.

So what does this have to do with photography?

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of photos on my hard drives. From day one (in my case, 1997-10-24, when I got my first digital camera) I’ve named all my photos by date/time, i.e. my first digital photo has the following file name: 1997-10-24@10.48.14.jpg. This of course means that all my photos have a unique file name, regardless of where they are moved. They are always sorted in the correct order. Since then I’ve gotten faster cameras, which can take multiple photos each second, which I solved by adding a number after the time, e.g. 2010-02-05@12.33.10-1.jpg