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What is Google 'Inbox' and why is Gmail telling me to download it?

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Have you seen an invite for "Inbox" on your Gmail account recently?

You are not alone.

Tech giant Google made its new, Gmail-sorting website and app open to all users late last week, PC Mag reports, and has been pushing out notifications to users since then. (It had previously been available only if you received a special invite.)

Which leads to the next question:

What is it and why do I need it?

Google says it's a way to sort through all your emails and information quickly, and also offers a few other perks. So it's still Gmail, just presented in what Google thinks may be a smarter, more convenient way.

It bundles related messages together – so all of the coupons you get will be bundled together, and you can mark them all as read with one swipe, rather than clicking each individually.

Another is called snoozing – you can snooze an email, and it'll disappear until a time you've scheduled. So say you have tickets you need to print out for a concert in three weeks. Snooze that email until a few hours before the concert, and when that time hits, it'll pop back up to the top of your Inbox.

Inbox also lets you take back a message right after you send it – so if you realized there's a mistake, or you sent the message early, you've got an undo option. This feature wasn't previously available on mobile devices.

Reactions from tech writers

The reaction has been somewhat mixed.

Andrew Hayward with Green Bot called it a "significant shake-up" compared to the traditional inbox. Though he noted it's not necessarily for everyone. One writer called it "lousy" back in January (though some improvements have been made).

Gizmodo's David Nield described it as "new approach" that can leave you "disoriented" at first – but highlighted seven features that show why it could be valuable. The site's Michael Hession called it "potentially awesome but not quite there."

The Verge's Dieter Bohn wrote, it's "a native and fast app that does something 10 degrees away from what you'd expect an email app to do. My first impression of Inbox is that it's really great, but a little weird."

JR Raphael tested it initially in October with an invite, and after six months declared he was going back to the regular Gmail app. But he acknowledged it had promise, even with a learning curve.

"At first glance, Inbox can look like a jumbled mess," he wrote. "But you know what? It's easy enough to get acclimated if you take the time to adjust."

If you're still intrigued, LifeHacker put together an article detailing what each feature does, what all the little icons mean, and how you need to use it compared to Gmail.

It's available for Android and iPhone on mobile, and through Chrome, Safari, and Firefox desktop browsers.

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