Mailbox, a mobile app embraced by users who feel swamped with e-mail, has come to the Mac desktop. That is if you have an invitation to download the beta, the same approach originally taken when Mailbox for iOS was unveiled.
The application, which handles e-mail more like a to-do list than like a traditional e-mail app, has received rave reviews in the tech media, with some reviewers even declaring it a "revelation" and "ultra-awesome." Using swipe gestures, users can sort inbox e-mails into folders or into lists such as "to read" or "to buy," or just "snooze" them to deal with later. The app can automate much of the sorting based on your behavior, weeding out spam or long threads that it predicts you will not need to see right away.
First released about a year-and-a-half ago, Mailbox attracted so much attention as an iPhone app that the cloud-storage giant Dropbox bought Orchestra, its maker, for about $100 million in March. The company has been expanding to other platforms, including the iPad and Android, and now Mac OS X.
Start on the Desktop, Finish on the Phone
In Tuesday's beta release of the desktop version, most of the mobile features remain, with swipes replaced by a swipe of the user's trackpad or mouse. Other new features have been incorporated, such as the ability to snooze an e-mail on your phone until you can get back to your desk. The Mailbox apps also allow saving drafts and syncing across platforms, so, for instance, a user can finish writing an e-mail on the phone that was started on the desktop.
Orchestra CEO Gentry Underwood told USA Today that tackling the desktop inbox has always been part of the master plan for Mailbox.
"When we talk about living in the mobile era, that's really kind of shorthand for living in a multi-device and multi-screen era," Underwood said. "People expect the apps that they rely on the most to flow seamlessly among different devices, operating systems and form factors. There is an expectation that you can just pick up on any device where you left off work on another."
Win a 'Betacoin'
The Mac desktop version of Mailbox was previewed in April, and some 150,000 people signed up for the mailing list since then. Invitations for the beta version are first being extended to those individuals, with a wider release to follow. The company says it wants to collect feedback and make sure the desktop version is working well before releasing it more broadly.
In rolling out the Mailbox desktop beta, Orchestra is taking a novel approach to gain metrics on the app -- issuing "betacoins" when users accomplish certain tasks. To start, each user gets a betacoin that can be sent to a friend, who then can cash it in for an invite to gain access to the app.
After that, accomplishing a task like emptying the inbox gains another coin. In that way, the betacoin "gamifies" using the app, and at the same time, Orchestra will be able to track how the app is used to help make tweaks before a final desktop version is released.