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Summary:

Today, I stumbled across a new prospect for email management, SaneBox, which can automatically prioritize and sort email into folders. Could this new hopeful mean the end of email insanity, as it claims? Time will tell, but it looks very promising.

Knock Out

When Gmail’s Priority Inbox feature was unveiled last August, I was optimistic that it would solve all my email woes. It promised smart sorting and prioritization to separate the most important messages from the fluff. Unfortunately, Priority Inbox left me feeling more disorganized than when I had fifty new messages to sort in one big pile so after just a couple of weeks, I disabled it.

Today, I stumbled across a new prospect for email management, SaneBox, which can automatically prioritize and sort email. Could this new hopeful mean the end of email insanity, as it claims? Time will tell, but it looks very promising.

Works with all providers

SaneBox works with most email services that use IMAP or WebDAV, including Gmail, Apple Mail, Microsoft Outlook, Yahoo Mail, and Mozilla Thunderbird, so you can keep your current email address and software. It works within your current email program by accessing your account and adding unique folders for sorting.

Better layout than Priority Inbox

SaneBox seems to work a lot like Priority Inbox, except that sorting takes place using folders instead of using a multi-section layout, which I think makes it easier to compartmentalize and maintain focus. With Priority Inbox, you see all messages in the same pane, making it tempting to jump around or check out less important emails. With SaneBox, you view one folder at a time, and other messages are displayed as a count within your sidebar.

Smart, easy sorting

When you sign up for an account, SaneBox takes your most recent 5,000 messages and sorts them. All other messages are sent to the archive. The most recent emails are then sorted, based on importance, to either your inbox or to a “SaneLater” folder. As you go through your messages, you can drag and drop messages that you’d like to process later into folders such as “SaneTomorrow” or “SaneNextWeek.”  They’ll automatically be moved back to your inbox at the appropriate time.

Simple tweaks and adjustments

SaneBox learns from your actions. You can sort mislabeled messages into the folders where you would like them to go, so for instance, if you get mailing list emails, you can have them sent to your “SaneLater” folder instead of your inbox, or you can send them to the “SaneBlackHole,” if you would prefer not to see them at all.

This functionality works in reverse, too, so if you see that an important message got sent to the “SaneLater” folder by mistake, you can drag it to the inbox so that it gets a higher priority with future sorting.

SaneBox refers to these adjustments as “trainings,” which you can access and adjust within your control panel at any time. (Side note: Afraid you got a little trigger happy? Go to the “trained contacts” section of your account and remove any rules you’ve set so that emails are filtered based on the original settings.)

Added features to improve workflow

The main sorting capabilities of SaneBox make it worth a look, but there are several added features that help to improve workflow and email management, including:

  • Social network refinement, which helps to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of sorting, based on the strength of relationships and connections within social networking platforms.
  • Spam folder monitoring that acts more like a temporary black hole, rather than a permanent one like other email programs.
  • Multi-level email importance, which allows you to organize emails into five levels to maximize your workflow.
  • Encryption and “outside-the-envelope” examination of messages (SaneBox does not read your email) so that sensitive information remains protected and private.

A monthly subscription costs $4.95 and the app comes with a 30-day trial.

What tools and tricks do you use for managing email overload?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Evil Erin

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  1. I’ve had good success with Clear Context, an add-in tool for Microsoft Outlook that can automatically filter and prioritize emails. Clear Context makes it easy to file emails by client or project, or turn them into appointments or tasks, and then keep track of the message trail on a particular topic.

  2. Christopher (Chris) Meyers Thursday, September 29, 2011

    How does this compare/contrast to SendGrid.com ?

    1. Hey Chris,

      I work at SendGrid as the Community Guy, so I thought I’d add my two cents Re: the comparison between SaneBox and SendGrid. Below is (a) the short story and (b) further details about SendGrid, to fully explain the differences…

      The short story:
      There are virtually NO similarities between the service SaneBox is offering and that which SendGrid provides to its customers. SaneBox is serving a consumer market (those who receive email), whereas SendGrid is selling to businesses (those who send email).

      The long story:
      SendGrid focuses on the delivery of email to the inbox – we serve as an email infrastructure and delivery service for our customers.

      Businesses generally send two types of emails to their customers: 1) transactional (“welcome” emails, password reminders, purchase receipts, and other automated notifications) and 2) newsletters (marketing-focused promotions, company news, etc) to a list of customers or subscribers. The former category is sent on a one-to-one basis, while the latter is sent on a one-to-many basis.

      SendGrid helps its customers send either of the above categories of email, but we specialize in (and built our company around) transactional email delivery.

      Beyond simply placing these emails in the intended recipient inboxes, we also provide a number of other values:
      – statistics: who opened an email, clicked on a link within a message, or marked your email as spam (plus much more)?
      – scalability: as a cloud-based service, our customers can send 200 emails/day or 2 million/day.
      – simple, flexible integration: we allow customers to use us as a SMTP relay, or they can choose to connect to our service through a number of APIs, which allow for custom solutions to fit any business type/model.

      So, as you can see, the two services discussed here could really be complimentary from an end-user perspective. When it comes down to it, consumers want to get the emails they expect to see in their inbox (that’s where SendGrid comes in). However, because of the volume of email the average person has to manage these days, he/she also needs tools to make sense of all that content (this is where SaneBox comes in).

      If you’d like to learn more about SendGrid, feel free to check us out at http://sendgrid.com.

      Also, anyone is more than welcome to email me and my team at community [at] sendgrid [dot] com.

      Thanks!

      Tim Falls
      SendGrid

  3. SaneBox takes a jab at email management http://t.co/hzPnWKwx

  4. SaneBox takes a jab at email management http://t.co/FbxL6Uu5

  5. SaneBox takes a jab at email management http://t.co/sA0dKNSA

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