My journey to Sanebox

Posted by mitch on March 31, 2013

(If you just want to read why Sanebox rocks, scroll down.)

Remember Xobni? Originally they were a plug-in for Outlook that did a few things–when a message was viewed in the normal Outlook interface, the Xobni plug-in would show other emails you had exchanged with the sender and it would show files that had been shared with the other person via attachments. The Xobni plug-in showed social information about the other person–profile pictures from LinkedIn, number of connections, and so on. And finally, the Xobni plug-in enabled better search for email than Outlook had.

Adam Smith, the founding CEO, gave a talk at MIT and for years, one of the things he said has been stuck in my head: “If you can improve email just a little bit, then you can create a lot of value.”

Mr. Smith was absolutely right. Email is incredibly bad for how it is used in most workflows today. In 2010, Mr. Smith left day-to-day activities with Xobni, and I’m afraid the company lost their way, becoming a contact tool rather than an email tool somewhere along the way. That didn’t work out well for Plaxo and I am not convinced it will work for Xobni. For a few years now, there hasn’t been any innovation in email that was interesting to me.

But in the last few months a few things came to light:

mailbox-iconMailbox, recently acquired by Dropbox. Mailbox built an incredible amount of hype, had a great video that looked interesting, got accused of some pump and dump action with TechCrunch, and ran up to over a million users quite rapidly. I lost interest in the app within minutes of using it. It was clear it was not going to scale to the amount of email I had in my inbox. One feature I did particularly like about Mailbox was the concept of putting an alarm on an email (e.g., a reminder to re-triage this message in a day).

Then there is Mailstrom. I am not really sure what Mailstrom does, but it sends me weekly reports of what’s going on in my inbox. There’s a tool you can use if you remember to go to their site and want to tediously triage stuff. I don’t want to do that. The web site talks about getting to Inbox zero, but I will never pull it off with what they offer. The report is kind of cool though:


Finally, there’s Sanebox. Sanebox analyzes the patterns of to/from in your inbox and sent mail and automatically moves emails to a folder called @SaneLater if it doesn’t believe you will be replying to it. So all bulk email ends up in @SaneLater. This has made dealing with email a ton easier. Sanebox also puts emails older than about 8 or 9 months into a folder called @SaneArchive. I went from 30,000 emails in my personal Inbox to just 1,700 in my Inbox and 1,800 in @SaneLater. It is now much easier to see which emails require replies.

Sanebox offers a free trial that runs about 2 weeks. Towards the end, they convert customers with a genius piece of messaging (paraphrased): “Hey, if you don’t pay us, we’ll move all your email back the way it was!” Brilliant–I bought it.

Email still sucks. But Sanebox has made it suck a bit less. And the best part is that there is no additional user interface to use.

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Mac Software I Want in 2011

Posted by mitch on December 25, 2010
productivity, software

2011 is just a week away now and there’s a few things I’d like to see come to the Mac in the next year.

This past year, we finally got something called ‘Outlook’ native on the Mac. It’s time that this Outlook got a few things that have been missing on the Mac for a while–for me, that means:

1. Google Apps Sync Engine for Outlook. Without this, Outlook on the Mac isn’t as exciting for Google Apps as it is for Windows.

2. Xobni for Mac Outlook. Xobni is a very handy tool and I have bought copies for it for both machines on which I use Windows. But I’d really like to have it on the Mac.

3. A plug-in for the Mac Outlook. Again, we feature parity with Windows would be nice. Specifically, I want to easily tie emails onto contacts and opportunities in

In addition to these Outlook items, I have some other wishes:

4. OmniFocus needs a little email improvement. Right now, using email to send something to OmniFocus requires Apple Mail and custom rules. I’d like to see one of two solutions: (1) is to have OmniFocus check email with a dedicated account that the user configures. This seems confusing to explain to customers, so I am not sure that’s a good solution for Omni. (2) is for Omni to provide an email service, just like Evernote does. Evernote gets email integration right–just like Salesforce does–everyone should copy their approach.

5. More native DropBox support for iPad and iPhone apps. OK, this isn’t exactly Mac-specific, but I’d really like to see OmniFocus and Evernote applications able to browse DropBox contents easily. Native DropBox support for DAV as a front-end and DAV in apps with an eye towards simple DropBox integration would be handy.

6. Some better graphics tools. I use Photoshop, Illustrator, OmniGraffle; I’ve played with Pixelmator, DrawIt, and others–but somehow none of these quite do what I want for “marketing graphics”. I want the control of Illustrator and Photoshop to build widgets and something like OmniGraffle but with more intelligence to piece them together. This almost sounds like ClarisDraw… but EasyDraw isn’t the answer either.

7. More head-less and powerful virtualization. VMware Fusion guest processes are lost when the Mac window server goes away (e.g., killed via remote ssh). VMware Fusion needs support for multiple Ethernet interfaces without hacking around in random files. I’d like to see something marketed for a more professional workstation user with more of the Workstation features. I’d be happy to see a Fusion Pro or something at a higher price point if that is what’s needed.

8. VMware VI Client without having to run a Windows virtual machine in Fusion or investigate awkward WINE stuff.

I have some other wishes as well–I’d like to see Apple fix the broken iTunes sync with devices and limits around a single library. For example, music I buy on the road I cannot sync to an iPod or iPad or iPhone, since they all sync to my desktop–and my 256 GB MacBook Air isn’t big enough to hold my 1 TB iTunes library.

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