I’ve just released a new version of ActiveInbox which has been in beta for a few weeks, and I’m all abuzz to show you what’s new.
As always with AIB, I’m listening! (Frasier Crane voice, clearly.) Some of these changes are quite big, and while there’s always a good reason for them, I know they might break your unique workflow, so I’d like to discuss ways to help you. Any feelings like this, please do comment below (and ideally look to see if anyone else has commented before you, so you can add your voice as a reply to them).
Related tasks to whatever you’re doing
(The eagle-eyed amongst you might recognise this is the old History button entirely revamped…)
Viewing an individual email doesn’t give you the background context needed to answer it fully. The same is true when you’re writing to someone: you don’t have all your history at hand.
So, I’ve added a ‘Related’ button, to see all people – and labels – associated with the email, and their outstanding tasks, along with historic discussions.
It’s available in every email (and compose window):
You might think of it as a safety net for, or the full picture of, the person you’re dealing with.
A more complete Folder view
Previously, if you want into a project folder, you’d see just the list of ‘active’ items (those with a due date, a List/Status, or the mysterious ‘ZACTIVE’ label… more on that in a moment).
Then you’d have the option to see ‘Show Mail and Done’, but this was very hidden. It meant that the folder could feel like a place where things went missing, as they were hidden away behind that toggle.
The goal was to make things feel airier.
It’s now broken into Tasks, Suggested Tasks (using the same logic as the Suggestions tab), and ‘Other Emails’.
If an email in the folder also has a Due Date or is on a List, it appears in Tasks. Everything else appears in Other Email. When you finish a task, it goes into Other Emails.
The secondary goal was to increase performance
A quick history lesson: the ZACTIVE label was added in 2016, and… I hate it. In theory, it would simplify a lot of ActiveInbox’s codebase by having a singular definition of a task… but in reality, oh boy, it caused endless confusion and worse, performance problems.
I’ve now stripped it out. But that might cause some short term confusion where it looks like tasks are missing from your folder. Please see ‘Known Issues’ below!
See Tasks in your regular Gmail search results
I know some of you don’t like using our folder views at the top of the inbox, because they’re slightly too cramped.
Well, I come bearing gifts for you! Now, if you go into a label view (from Gmail’s sidebar), or do a search, if there are any Tasks that match it, you’ll see a notification at the top of the results.
If you click it, it’ll expand to reveal all your Tasks and Suggested Tasks for that view, but utilising all the space available (i.e. less cramped!).
Sorting a view now defaults to giving you an overview first
I appreciate this may be controversial (see Known Issues for how I’m addressing it), partly because Dusan has already emailed me to tell me so!
The problem being addressed was that if you changed how a view was sorted (e.g. sorting by Contacts in Today), it defaulted to showing every group (e.g. every Contact) fully expanded with all their tasks. It was overwhelming for some people.
So I’ve switched it, so that rather than starting open and remembering which ones you close, it now starts closed and remembers which ones you open.
The big benefit is you can now glance over each group, and decide which one to drill into. And just focus on that one group (e.g. one person), without the noise.
I appreciate though, this might be a pain if you like to scan all tasks in one go. I’m going to add an ‘Expand All’ button, and make this whole thing a Preference.
If you follow the blog, you’ll know I’ve been obsessed with this for months. You can never have enough (and for some people, there was definitely an outright bug with slow typing when writing an email). There are two weeks worth of performance-hunting improvements included in this update. I hope most of you don’t notice (as it means you never suffered), but I constantly check ActiveInbox with Chrome’s performance analyser watching it, and optimise everything that adds more than 10ms of overhead compared to vanilla Gmail.
I’m sure I can improve it more, but just know I’m vigilant.
Known Issues (to be fixed by Monday)
In this update, there was one genuine problem, and some confusion caused by the changes.
Missing Tasks / No Counts in my Folders
This is actually an intentional change, albeit, I think one I made too abruptly.
It’s related to the changes in ‘A more complete Folder view‘ above. Specifically, because I removed the hidden tracker flag ‘ZACTIVE’, emails in your folders may have moved from the ‘Tasks’ section to the ‘Other Emails’ section.
The quickest way to bring them back to Tasks is to add a Due Date or List/Status to every email you put into a folder (i.e. if it has a due date or list it’s considered ‘active’).
But, I’m going to make it a smoother transition… in the next update, all the things that were previously marked as ‘Tasks’ in a Folder view – even if they didn’t have a Due Date or List – will reappear in that section.
Also, and this is open for discussion… I might make it an option that when you add an email to a folder, it automatically gets given a List (e.g. ‘Low Priority’ or ‘To Do’). If you think this might be useful, please please include a real world example of your workflow in the comments.
Missing Tasks in Today after update
I’m still trying to work out why this affects a few of you, but the good news is it’s a very simple fix. Basically after the update, the first cache fails… but all subsequent caches work.
Instructions and discussion at https://getsatisfaction.com/activeinbox/topics/e-mails-labelled-at-upper-bar-have-been-disappear-most-of-them
My folders no longer have a button on the top bar, I have to go into the dropdown
They just need re-pinning! If you open the folders dropdown (or any dropdown on the top bar), hover over the desired item, you’ll see a pin icon you can click to toggle it.
When I open a task view, all my Sort groups are collapsed into single rows
This is intentional! Please see ‘Sorting a view now defaults to giving you an overview first‘ above.
But, I’m going to make it a Preference. And add an ‘Expand All’ button. It’ll be in the next release (hopefully tomorrow).
This was written by Andy Mitchell