Two Small Email Improvements

On the surface email seems like a mature application, without any obvious ways to make it better.

At least that’s what everybody thought until Gmail came along, with a bunch of excellent innovations: threaded conversations, automated archiving and labels rather than a folder structure, etc, etc.

So, what would you do to improve email even further?

Here are two simple ideas that would make email much better for me:

1. Hide until

This would simply allow me to “hide” a selected message until some date in the future.  Then on that date the message would re-appear in my inbox.

I try and keep my inbox empty.  In practice, that means at any given time my inbox contains a handful of messages which need a response.  It would be nicer, where I’m waiting on somebody else, or need to respond, but not straight away, to be able to get that message out of the list temporarily.

This seems like it would be pretty easy to implement.

2. Auto-scan for forgotten attachments

This would scan each message when I click “send” and if the body of the message includes the words “see attached” or something similar and there is nothing attached, it would stop and confirm that I didn’t forget to actually attach the document.

If I had a dollar for each time I had to follow-up with a “doh – actually attached this time” message …

Likewise this doesn’t seem that hard (famous last words, those!)

What do you think?

Would those be useful to you too?

Perhaps they already exist?

What other little ideas do you have for improving email and some of the other tools you use everyday?


12 thoughts on “Two Small Email Improvements”

  1. I think I have the solution for both of your requests… (assuming you use Gmail.)

    1. Hide until – I do this all the time using Tasks and the Archive feature. If an email requires an action in a week’s time, I’ll go to ‘More actions’ -> ‘Add to Tasks’ and this creates a task linked to the original email. Then give the task a due date, and feel free to archive the email. It disappears from your inbox and the task will pop open and remind you on the due date. But you have to use the Gmail interface, so it won’t work on the iPhone, etc.

    2. Auto-scan for forgotten attachments – there is a Gmail Labs feature which does exactly this. Just enable the Labs features and look for the ‘Forgotten Attachment Detector’ option.

    The first solution isn’t perfect, but I’m hoping that Gmail Tasks gets integrated into Google Calendar soon so that you can receive notifications when tasks are due. That way, the solution would work even if you didn’t always use the Gmail interface.

  2. Rowan, you have started a massive diversion from the world’s economic woes. It’s all everyone is talking about now! Who knew that everyone has gripes with standard office apps not doing simple obvious things, and users not wanting/knowing to do geeky stuff like plug-ins, add-ons, and mash-ups?

  3. Hi Rowan, I was going to suggest the Gmail Lab Feature: Forgotten Attachment Detector (which suggested by Stuart). However, after a little bit play with it (in Chrome). It appears it only works when you have “have attached” phrase in your email body. anything like “I attached” or “attachment” won’t draw any attention to the detector. Not sure if it’s only to do with the browser as I haven’t test with IE etc. Good luck.

  4. thanks! these are great! if i may add a tip:Outlook Track-It has improved email in general for me. small add-on for outlook that reminds you to follow up to emails. pretty nice.

  5. There should totally be ahide until. For starters you could just forward to or something like that – remindme just grabs it and holds it for 5days, 2 hours or whatever.


  6. I thought up “hide until” feature when I was brainstorming what I’d need to turn gmail into a help desk ticketing tool. I am not surprised to see lots of other people thinking that it would be a great feature!

    I didn’t find a thread for the idea on the “GMail Labs Suggest a Feature Forum”, so I started one:

    Will you (and readers of this post who want to see this feature become a reality) post a reply there so we can boost support for this idea and see it implemented?

Comments are closed.