Email is essential these days. Virtually anyone who owns a smartphone can be accused of being a Crackberry addict, regardless of the particular phone they own. And although it’s great to be able to get emails no matter where you may be, there’s a downside to this level of connectivity.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll receive a huge volume of email each day. If my phone was to audibly notify me of the arrival of each new message, I would go insane — so I’ve disabled sound notifications. This means that I have to keep looking at my phone to see when I have a new message. Sometimes every hour, sometimes every couple of minutes. It’s infuriating. It drives me mad … almost as mad as constant sounds would do. It’s Catch 22.
What does this have to do with Boomerang? Well, aside from the fact that this is an app that can be used to send and receive emails, not a lot! My point is that email is something we can’t do without. But for too long we have all been constrained by the way email works. Boomerang has been designed to wrestle control out of the hands of email clients and place it back under your command.
What It’s All About
You may well have heard of Boomerang before. This is probably down to the Firefox and Chrome extensions that are available. The Android app gives you many of the same options and provides easy access to the tools you need so you can power through your inbox. Getting up and running is a synch.
Once you have told the app which email account(s) you want to use, you’ll then need to grant it the necessary permissions. This may cause some people to balk, but it’s just part of the configuration process. After all, if you don’t grant Boomerang access to your Gmail account, it’s not going to be able to do a very good job of helping you manage it!
Once you’re set up, you’ll notice that Boomerang is a fairly simple app, but there are two features that should be considered its raison d’être — swipe access to mail options and email scheduling.
Swiping Through Your Mail
Swiping is an amazingly efficient way to plough through a huge batch of emails in one go. You can usually tell from the subject line and message preview whether you need to deal with this message now, later, or not at all.
A quick swipe to the right is all it takes to archive a message, while swiping to the left reveals additional options. The archival option is still available there but it is joined by the ability to delete, star, mark as read and assign a label. The beauty of hiding options such as those found in the swipe-left bar is that it keeps the rest of the interface wonderfully clutter free.
The ability to assign a label with a swipe-tap-tap, is great for anyone looking to quickly get their inbox under control. But the most intriguing option to be found, and perhaps the most compelling reason to install Boomerang at all, is the eponymous Boomerang shortcut.
Boomeranging and Scheduling
Boomeranging a message gives you the option of ‘snoozing’ it. You may often receive emails that you know you need to deal with but don’t have the time for right now. Rather than risk them getting lost in your inbox, Boomerang can be configured to remind you of the email’s existence later on that day, tomorrow, later in the week, or whenever you prefer.
Oh… it’s also worth mentioning that the emails you write can be scheduled. That’s a great feature when you’re contacting someone in a different timezone and want to ensure your email is at the top of their inbox first thing in the morning rather than buried beneath everything else they’ve received overnight.
Of course scheduling can also be used to send reminders, and much more. There’s even an option to be reminded about an email you send if you don’t get a response — great if you’re chasing someone for something.
Tablet vs Phone
Boomerang was only recently updated with an interface optimized for tablets. There are no extra options available, but the additional space is put to good use — label navigation is visible at all times without the need to access a slide-out panel.
It would have been nice to see tablet-specific features, but maybe this will come in future versions.
Disappointments & Limitations
As this is an Android app, it shouldn’t be entirely surprising that Boomerang can only be used with Gmail accounts. Sure, you can configure Gmail to pull in emails from elsewhere, but if you prefer to keep things separate you’re going to have to use Boomerang in conjunction with another app.
The fact that this app is yet to reach version 1 (we’re at 0.8.7 as I pen these words) should give off some fairly unsubtle hints that this software is still very much in development. Ordinarily this might mean things were rather unfinished — and as the app is undergoing ongoing updates it could be argued that this is still the case here — but Boomerang feels polished and very much like a finished product, although it’s a shame there aren’t a few more options.
Yes there are minor issues and limitations, but there are few apps at which this complaint cannot be levelled. Perhaps the biggest problem — if problem is the right word — is the fact that only Gmail account are supported. But fear not! Plans are afoot for other services to be added, although there is no word about when this may be.
Providing you’re only using Gmail to cater for your email needs, this is a great way to get more from your inbox. It not only places you in control of what’s happening and when, but also enables you to use Gmail as a personal reminder service. Wonderful stuff!
Am I going to switch from the regular Gmail app? Probably not. Although there’s little wrong with Boomerang, the scheduling and swiping features are just not quite enough to lure me away. That said, it’s certainly an app I’ll be keeping an eye on.