Inky is a new email application that, in the words of its website, ‘pulls all your email accounts together in one place, [and] sorts your mail by relevance, letting you see your most important mail first. Enjoy your email again!’ Taglines telling us to ‘enjoy’ our email again are as old as the hills, and we’ve seen them on at least a half a dozen ambitious mail clients who ultimately fail in their promise to assist with the drudgery of email.
What makes Inky different? Does it succeed in its promise to make email enjoyable? Read on to find out.
The setup is similar to any other Windows application you’ve installed, with the normal array of options. Once the program has set up, you will need to create an Inky account. You’ll need to log in to this every time you open the program, which is inconvenient — it would be nice if there were an option to log in automatically.
Just to clarify, this Inky account only lets you use the service — it’s not actually a webmail provider itself. Inky will only aggregate your other providers, like gMail or Outlook.com. Overall, the program installs quickly and opens itself up.
The design of Inky is really simple and focused on your content – It looks great, I have to say. I love the direction that Windows 8 is going, so to see a desktop app with a similar focus on content is refreshing.
The main element of the application’s design is the Dock, which runs along the entire left side of the application. There are buttons to compose a new message and for settings, and a button to add a new account.
The various accounts are the main feature of the dock. They’re listed in order, by the icon of the service they’re from. This works great if you have email accounts from all different sources, but if you have multiple gMail accounts, for example, this doesn’t work so well.
Luckily, Inky gives you the option to change the border color of the icons in the account settings. This helps, but it’s still difficult to distinguish between multiple accounts, as the screenshot shows.
The other parts of the program are also clean and polished. The new mail screen is heavily based on gMail – some of the icons are even the same as gMail’s new look. This familiarity helps if you’re used to the webmail interface and (like myself) have yet to find a native program that can emulate the look so well.
One of Inky’s biggest features is adding multiple accounts without any hassle. On Inky’s homepage, the publishers write, “All you need to add an email account to Inky is your email address and password. No need to engage in obscure computer science, like researching your port numbers.”
And, they got everything I threw at them right (though I only tested Outlook.com and gMail.com, which doesn’t say much for Inky’s ability to detect obscure providers), so for day-to-day use, this works as well as is advertised — but you’ll likely not run up against it except when you’re first setting up the program.
Once you’ve added all of your multiple accounts — I had a half-dozen — they all feed into a beautiful unified inbox. This is better than gMail’s filtering system, which dumps everything into one inbox. Inky sorts messages by importance, based on a proprietary algorithm. This is likely where the ‘enjoyable’ claim to fame comes in.
I don’t know if I would jump straight to enjoyable, but the filter seems to work pretty well. This is like gMail’s priority inbox on steroids. It all ‘just works,’ guessing the priority quite accurately. The priority of a conversation can be changed if Inky has marked it incorrectly, so over time the accuracy of the algorithm would theoretically improve. Based on a few days use, though, I noticed no direct improvement, as I only had to fix the priority of a few messages.
The unified inbox disregards gMail’s rules for automatic forwarding, which is nice. I’d set all of mail accounts to feed into my main gMail account already, so when I added all of my accounts to Inky I was afraid of duplicate messages and the like. But, not to worry, Inky handles everything with not a duplicate in sight.
Inky is a great concept with only nascent execution. Though the design is great, the application is buggy, and laggy at times; then again, that’s to be expected from a new product. There is, at least, an option to leave feedback, located in the menu at the bottom of the dock, so no doubt you will use that a lot as you run into bugs in Inky.
Compared to gMail, where new messages pop up instantly and messages send quickly, Inky seems slow. There tend to be long lags where the program simply says ‘Retrieving…’ and takes far too long to retrieve the body of a message, which is often only plain text. Interestingly, I only ever had this problem with one account at a time, but the problem recurred in different accounts as I opened and closed the program through daily use.
Unread messages and read messages are hard to distinguish, which wouldn’t be a problem, except the notifications showing your unread messages are often incorrect, which makes it hard to see if you’ve read every message in a conversation.
One final con is that this ‘program’ seems to be more of a wrapper around a web browser. I’m no programmer, but it has that feel of a web application — lacking the full grunt of a native application – and the lag to match. While this is a con, it also means that there’s no reason we wouldn’t see Inky as a web app sometime in the future. That is a direction I would love to see this client evolve in.
So, does it make email ‘enjoyable?’ While that particular term is perhaps nothing more than a marketing buzzword, Inky does make great strides towards streaming multiple accounts into one inbox efficiently. Its priority algorithms seem good but may vary depending on the volume and type of mail that you receive. Still, it’s a great step towards contextual computing that can filter out the noise so that we can focus on productivity and what’s important.
Inky is a great web mail client that’s plagued by nothing more than immaturity. If the developers are committed to improving this program’s performance and feature-set to the point where it’s more usable on a daily basis, I can definitely see Inky replacing my gMail/Windows 8 Mail combo that I currently use. You can download Inky for free at this link.