SaneBox is a service that claims it'll save you more than 100 hours a year by filtering your email inbox and showing you only the emails that truly matter when they come in. And it works.
The service is surprisingly similar to Google's Gmail Important label system, which is supposed to show you emails based on how you label them. But SaneBox works better by doing the one thing Gmail won't that's taking most of the control away from the user.
With Gmail, users mark how important emails are or aren't and can do so by simply clicking a button.
Sanebox, on the other hand, gives you two completely separate inboxes and sends the unimportant emails to a box called "@SaneLater." Once a day, the company then sends you an email summary about all the emails it didn't send you right away, that way you still see all your emails but you don't get distracted by every single message.
The company says it does this using an algorithm that looks at every emails' subject line, who it's from and your past activity with the sender.
You can improve the system too if you connect it to your Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to give SaneBox a better idea of who you know and don't.
If SaneBox does get an email wrong by mistakenly sending it to your inbox or @SaneLater, you can teach it to become better suited to your needs by moving the email to the correct box.
The service preaches a philosophy of "not every email is created equal," and it's onto something, especially when you consider that the average American gets more than 100 emails a day and the average corporate American gets more than 200 emails a day, according to the company.
Before you sign up for the service, which costs $4.99 a month, you can get a two-week trial, and that's what I got to test SaneBox.
I connected the service to my personal Gmail account and my social network accounts, and I was very pleased.
From the get-go, SaneBox had a better idea of what emails I really needed than I did. It kept the emails from businesses, newsletters and promotions in the @SaneLater folder while continuing to give me the ones I needed right away.
The service wasn't perfect, but it did strive to be. If it did get an email wrong, I would correct it, and SaneBox would learn after that.
One of SaneBox's issues, though, was that it can have a hard time differentiating the importance of emails coming from the same sender. This is because SaneBox chooses not to read your email's content, which many people will appreciate but is undeniably keeping SaneBox from working even better.
I experienced this issue with two types of news alerts I get from a service I signed up for. One alert is a daily roundup while the other is a breaking technology news alert. I wanted to get the tech alert right away, so I moved it to my inbox. But the next time I checked my inbox it was flooded with emails from both of the alerts. I tried showing SaneBox again by moving the other alerts back to @SaneLater, but SaneBox never understood the difference between the two different alerts.
Another thing SaneBox could stand to improve is its daily summary. The summary is nice because you can change it to receive it more frequently, but its fallback is that it isn't as helpful as it could be.
When you receive it, the summary will show you who sent you an email and the subject line, but unlike your smartphone's email app, it won't give you a snippet of the email's first few lines. I find those preview lines, which are also included to a slight degree on Gmail, to be helpful in deciding whether I want to open an email or not. So rather than wait for the summary, I began to just check the @SaneLater folder every once in a while and I found that to be more helpful.
As far as setting up the service, SaneBox will do everything for you. It requires your email password to begin working, which might freak some people out but I really don't think it's an issue. Once you set it up, the service begins analyzing your emails, creating your new folders and putting emails where it thinks they belong.
This can take a few minutes depending on how many emails your inbox has, but it isn't a long wait and it'll feel shorter if you take the time to set up your social network connections in the meanwhile.
If you do the two-week trial and decide SaneBox isn't for you, moving things back will be very simple. The service lets you keep the @SaneLater folder for a few days, warns you when the change is coming, and then it will put everything back exactly how you had it before you started using SaneBox, which is super awesome.
Another feature SaneBox has that I didn't try out was that it can be connected with DropBox. It does this to save you space on your inbox storage, which it does by replacing email attachments with links to DropBox, where it will instead send the attachments.
I didn't see a purpose for the DropBox feature since storage isn't an issue with Gmail, but if you use the enterprise version of Outlook or another email service with limited storage, you might find this helpful. This could also be useful if your email service limits the size of attachments it will receive.
SaneBox works with most email clients, but the notable exception is Hotmail and Microsoft's new Outlook.com service. So if you use those services, you're out of luck, but you should really consider switching if you think you'll find SaneBox useful.
For now, I have decided not to keep my SaneBox subscription. While I do believe I get more than 100 emails a day and I did find the service very useful, I don't think the service is worth it for me, especially as a journalist. My job is to be OK with getting distracted at a moment's notice by breaking news. So for journalists, SaneBox can be helpful, but it might be counterintuitive to what they do.
Another reason I won't be getting SaneBox, for now, is that the key thing the service showed me was just how much stuff I'm signed up for that I don't need.
Every day I get distracting emails from the NFL, TicketMaster and other services I've signed up for that I keep around because I'm under the impression that it isn't spam. But when you really think about it, all those emails are welcomed spam because you signed up for them. So while I do miss my SaneBox, for now I am trying out simply unsubscribing from all the junk I get.
But if you are a really heavy email user and you do find the amount of email you get to be distracting, I would recommend SaneBox. The service follows through on its claims and it will help you sort through your email more easily, quickly and with less stress.
And at $5 a month, that isn't a horrible price to pay for something that will help you be more productive and will save you time.