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The dream of a clean inbox is within your reach. Courtesy of webaroo.com.au

We can probably all agree that email is broken. The convenience and simplicity of being able to write to someone anytime, anywhere, has led to an avalanche of messages that can be almost impossible to keep up with, and often end up bringing more anxiety than solutions.

But developers have introduced genuinely useful email apps with innovative features that might just save us from our worst nightmare: a cluttered inbox.

Spark

Screenshot of Spark app
Spark prioritizes your important emails and is easy to customize, too. David Nield

Spark is an email client crammed full of features—you get intelligent sorting of your email that pushes important messages to the top of your inbox. Plus email scheduling and snoozing, reminders to follow up on messages that have gone unanswered, a clever search system that supports natural language (like “attachments from David”), and plenty more.

It’s the email sorting that’s likely to save you the most time, though. Spark’s algorithms identify messages from people you have interacted with in the past and actually know, then builds from there. It can also spot less-important messages like newsletters and give them a less prominent location.

The app allows you to pin emails to the top of your inbox, too, which is really handy when you need to keep track of the day’s most important messages. No matter which platform you’re using it on, Spark’s interface is neat and tidy, and lets you power through your inbox with swipes that snooze, pin, delete, archive messages, and more.

A host of third-party services make Spark even more useful. For example, you can attach files straight from Dropbox, Google Drive, iCloud, or OneDrive. You can also add multiple email accounts (Gmail, Mail, Outlook, and more) and manage them together. Spark is available on iOS, macOS, and Android, and the Spark team says it hopes to eventually have a Windows version.

Spark is free for personal use, with pricing for teams starting at $8 a month

Mailbutler

Screenshot of Mailbutler
Mailbutler lets you add notes or a task list to messages. David Nield

Managing an inbox can feel like a full-time job these days, and Mailbutler wants to become your indispensable assistant. It includes scheduled sending, email snoozing and follow-up reminders, plus signature and professional message templates for job applications and sales follow-ups.

The notes and tasks functionality is what really sets Mailbutler apart. You can jot down extra details about a contact or a message, and create related tasks you can then export to a to-do list app such as Todoist or Asana.

Mailbutler works as an add-on for either Gmail on the web, or Mail on macOS, so you don’t need to completely switch to a new app—it just plugs right into your existing email setup to bring you a bunch of useful extras. Another cool feature is the ability to add a tracking code to outgoing messages so you know whether they’ve been opened or not. Mailbutler is easy to use and eminently customizable, letting you take advantage of as many or as few of its features as you like.

If you decide you no longer have any use for the app, you can uninstall it with a few clicks, reverting your inbox back to the way it was. Keep in mind basic features like the undo send option are free, but the best bits of Mailbutler—including email snoozing and notes—require a premium account. If you’re not sure about upgrading, you can try all features for free for 14 days when you sign up.

Mailbutler is free for basic use, or from €6.50 (about $7) per month

Spike

Screenshot of Spike app
Spike organizes your emails instant messaging-style—and the app setup uses the same interface too. David Nield

Spike’s main objective is to turn your overflowing inbox into a much simpler instant messaging app. This means you can manage your incoming emails as one-to-one conversations rather than the bloated, old-fashioned mess that is traditional email.

To do this, Spike cuts out the cruft—headers, signatures, toolbars, buttons, and disclaimers—leaving you with just the message and the sender’s name. Everything is neatly arranged in a conversation-style view, and if you do get a particularly lengthy email, Spike will show you a preview and give you the option to read it in a more traditional email view.

The app can also prioritize the most important emails, so you won’t see newsletters, product updates, and social media alerts until you you really want to. It even includes a smart calendar that automatically adds events from your messages.

Spike works just about everywhere—there’s a mobile app, a desktop app, and a web interface. It’s also free for personal use with a limit of 10 group chats and 100,000 searchable messages, so if you need more than that, you have to go for the pro upgrade. It’s definitely worth considering if you want to simplify your email.

Spike is free for personal use, with upgraded features available from $8 a month

SaneBox

Screenshot of SaneBox app
SaneBox gives you plenty of customization options for managing your inbox. David Nield

SaneBox brands itself as artificial intelligence for your email, and its main job is working out which of your emails are important. It automatically moves those that aren’t to a “SaneLater” folder that you can catch up with whenever you have the time.

Think of it like a personal assistant that screens your emails before you get them—something we’ve probably all wished for at some point. You can also help train SaneBox’s algorithms to better fit your needs by manually marking messages as important or not important.

Other features allow you to pause incoming emails with Do Not Disturb mode, unsubscribe from mailing lists with one click, snooze emails, and get nudges to follow up with people who haven’t responded. SaneBox also lets you set up reminders and custom folders (for bills, for example).

The app works as an add-on for just about every email platform out there, including Gmail, iCloud, Yahoo, and Outlook. This means you can continue using your email client of choice across platforms, with the benefits of SaneBox’s sorting thrown in.

SaneBox is free to try for 14 days, then it starts from $7 per month for one email address

Superhuman

Macbook and iPhone using Superhuman app
Superhuman promises the fastest email experience you’ve ever seen. Courtesy of Superhuman

Superhuman hasn’t yet fully opened its doors to everyone and is still in an early testing phase. You can request access via the Superhuman website but it’s not clear how long you’ll have to wait to give it a try. Still, it’s worth putting on your radar.

Early reviews of the service have been positive, and it comes with a plethora of features that bring you, in Superhuman’s words, “the fastest email experience ever made.” You can bring back sent messages, find out whether sent emails have been opened, schedule messages in advance, and have the app’s artificial intelligence label each message according to importance. Other features, including keyboard shortcuts, mean you can power through inbox clutter in record time.

Superhuman currently exists as an iOS and macOS app, and in addition to the stack of features it offers, it is an absolute pleasure to look at.

The one big downside is that Superhuman will cost you $30 a month when it eventually launches. That’s a lot to pay for an email service, but perhaps that’s what it takes to tame your inbox. If you are the kind of person who gets bombarded by email on an everyday basis, it might be worth paying for a month to see if it works for you.

Superhuman is still in beta testing but costs $30 a month

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