A New Location

The buttons will be moved a little higher, so they are right next to the standard Gmail action header. This is purely for logical grouping, so it’s easy to move to the “action section” of the conversation.

Repeated Top & Bottom

The oft-requested repetition of the HAB at the bottom of a conversation will go ahead, so that you don’t need to scroll back to the top after reading a long email.

Deadlines Built In (with a Calendar!)

There will be two buttons added, for ‘Today’ (the most high-value switch), and a text field for the date, that when clicked will pop up a calendar widget. Thanks to Chris Barber, the calendar widget deserves a blog post of its own – and will get one soon!

Just ‘Assign to Project’ (no general ‘Labels’)

For each label category (e.g. Projects, Contexts, etc.), there will be an ‘Assign to X’ button, where X is the category. Labels will be dropped, as it’s too generic and well-served by Gmail’s own Labels button. We’re trying to cut back duplication, as it places an extra cognitive burden on users.

Archive and Next buttons only go one way

Currently, the ‘Archive’/’Report Spam’/etc. buttons have 3 options: click the main part to return to the inbox, click left to go to a newer conversation, click right to go to an older conversation.

This choice places a slight cognitive burden that slows down email processing. As you’re generally only going one way (newer to older, or vice versa), it makes sense that there should be only two options: return to inbox or move next.

The direction you move in will be set using the instantly-accessible inline preferences (the cog icon).

Notes for Every Conversation

We’re going to add a notes line to the HAB. Functionaly, it’s very simple: when you click it, it expands, and if you double click it turns into a text box that you can edit. It’ll recognize a special mark up language, so things like “* do X” get turned into bullet points.

The goal is to store next actions and background thoughts against a conversational task, as well as hold a transactional list of changes (e.g. “Added Action Status on 12 Dec”.

It can also be used to note where you might have exported the email to, e.g. “Added to wiki at http://somewhere/topicx”.

Notes can also be stored against Project labels. So, if you use a label for specific things, (e.g. P/Issues/BugX), then you can link that to somewhere else on the Web – e.g. a Basecamp project page. Just by storing the details in a simple text field. It’s the most basic solution we can come up with, which makes it fast and flexible for everyday use.

The one draw back? It won’t be accessible on mobile devices (contrast with ‘Reply to Self’, which adds notes to the end of the conversation). We can expose the notes on a webpage that you can access from a mobile browser though, although you’ll have to search on the email subject. We *might* be able to have the notes field, and also store the note in the conversation – so if you’re on a mobile device, the note is available in your email client – but that needs technical investigation. Your thoughts on the urgency of this are most welcome.

So… what do you think?! I’d love to get your feedback and insights into how well this will work for you 🙂

We are due to start releasing a beta of 4.0 to Plus customers on the 16th December. Are you a Plus customer? Support us AND get the brand new version 4.0 before its public release in January 2011 🙂 Buy ActiveInbox Plus


This was written by Andy Mitchell