While Mailbox has become something of a poster child for what a mobile email client should look like, Taskbox has been offering a fairly powerful hybrid email/to-do list app for more than six months already. Though it was more than a little buggy during its initial open beta phase, Taskbox finally got its act together in March and rolled out a whole new look and feature-set, which we noted was specifically to challenge Mailbox.
Now, however, Taskbox is no more. But the good news is it’s not kaput – far from it. Sporting its new Boxer brand, the newly designed app hits the App Store today with a new design and features. So we thought we’d take a look.
How it works
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When you first launch the app, you’ll be asked to connect your various email accounts – Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook and Hotmail are all covered, the latter two being new additions for this relaunch. You can also connect with Microsoft Exchange and iCloud for some cloud-based integration.
The first view you’ll see, naturally, is your inbox. You’ll note the main ‘productivity’ menu will be a blank slate until you start managing your emails.
By swiping left on a message, you can delete an email and, if you’re connected with Gmail, you’re given an additional Archive option.
I like emails
However, by swiping right on any given message, you reveal a list of actions. You can now ‘Like’ a message which automatically returns a message to the sender to let them know that you, well, like it. It’s a bit like using the ‘Like’ feature on any social app, and basically means you acknowledge their email and you’re happy with what they have to say.
“Meet you at 7pm tonight, same place?” Why bother responding when you can just click ‘Like’?
This is perhaps the most obvious and useful update from a design perspective – i is now a lot easier to take multiple actions on a single message.
Clicking to-do adds a message to your to-do list (and thus removes it from your inbox), and by long-pressing it you’re given the added options to schedule or prioritize it on a scale of 1-5. But it’s not just about emails – you can just add a random task for yourself too, so this may replace AnyDo or whatever other third-party to-do list app you currently use.
A very nice touch is the undo feature. If you accidentally carry out an action such as ‘Like’, it’s not actually executed until you touch or move away from the message. So, you can tap the button again, or un-swipe, to reverse an action.
As with Taskbox, Boxer serves up a little shortcut feature designed to help you send emails quickly. While ‘Like’ is super-quick, it merely acknowledges you’ve read an email and you’re happy with the content. ‘Quick’, on the other hand, gives you a list of pre-written messages, bypassing pleasantries to simply say ‘I’m on it and will follow up shortly’, or ‘I’ve added this to my to-do list’. These can be edited under ‘Settings’, so you can include that ‘Please stop hassling me’ message too, if you so wish.
Other options in the message-compose menu include ‘Detail’, which lets you set a due date for any action-points, priority (5 being the highest) and an assignee (recipient). ‘Attach’ is just a way to add files from your device or from cloud-based services such as Dropbox.
‘Request’ is an interesting and simple way of asking someone for help. Open requests are tracked in a dedicated list, or in a combined view on the dashboard (see further down), and helps you keep track of any outstanding pleas for support on a given project or task.
Now, the more actions you initiate, the more your menu will become a repository of to-do action points, requests and completed tasks.
In your own personal dashboard, you can see an overview of stats around your actions – how many items are on time, how many haven’t been prioritized and so on. And in settings, you can connect Dropbox, which lets you send attachments or private links to the files.
Interestingly, you can add profile images for people and companies to your Boxer contacts. To start with, Boxer pulls in photos from Gravatar and your iPhone address book, but you can connect with LinkedIn and Facebook too which will populate profile images automatically.
Tapping on any of the profile images displays all the information you have for that person including direct links to their social networks, phone numbers and recent messages.
Finally, it’s worth referring to a few additional ‘advanced’ features. Archive is supported for iCloud, Gmail & Google Apps users, while Boxer also enables Passcode locking for your inbox. As for ‘Push’ notifications and labels, well, this is only supported for Gmail and Google Apps users, but you can move other email services from within the message – you’ll see a little icon at the bottom which throws up a list of folders for you to move the email to.
Boxer really is a great little app, and we can’t wait for it to go cross-platform – a Web version would be fantastic, and Android is clearly a must too. Given that Boxer integrates with all the main email services, this gives it a distinct advantage over the likes of Mailbox, and if it can roll out to other platforms imminently, it could cements itself as a serous challenger in the email client space.
The app will be free for the first 100,000 downloads only, and will cost $4.99 thereafter. Meanwhile, check out the Boxer promo video below.
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