Announcing Inbox: A Step Towards A Post-Email World

Dan Kaplan

Email is a 40-year-old technology designed to send electronic letters, yet we rely on it to communicate and coordinate nearly everything about our work. We use it to make requests, ask questions, remind each other what we’re working on, and send documents back and forth in a ping-pong match that never seems to end.

Many of us check email several times throughout every day, trying to stay up to speed and prevent work from slipping through the cracks. But we get lost, trying to piece together critical information, unable to decide what to focus on in an ever-growing sea of noise. Because anyone can add anything to our email inbox, it robs us of our sense of control.

Email is the system we rely on most to be productive, but it has become a counter-productivity tool.

Introducing Inbox
Since our launch last November, tens of thousands of teams at great companies like Foursquare, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Airbnb have turned to Asana to eliminate much of the “work about work” that used to slow them down. Redundant meetings, tedious summary reports, endless streams of status updates, all replaced by the flow of Asana’s shared task list, with all the related thinking and documents right with each task.

But up to now, even Asana users have had to face the biggest “work about work” time-sink of all: using email to stay on top of everything that has changed. But starting today, we’re rolling out Inbox, a better way to communicate about work with your team.

Asana launches Inbox, takes a step into the post-email world

Inbox connects you to all the new activity and communication about all the work that matters to you. It takes inspiration from the best of email, activity feeds, and other notification systems, but focuses completely on effortless coordination from the ground up.

There are three key ways Inbox is better than email to stay up-to-speed on what matters:

Inbox gives you the whole story

When you get a new update in Inbox, you’re not just getting a new isolated message. With one click, you see the entire history and up-to-date status of the work that it’s about: who owns it; the summary notes; all the relevant documents and comments from your teammates. Every communication in Inbox is directly connected to the single shared source of truth about the work.

Based on the new information, you can act immediately. Decisions to reassign the work or change its due date won’t get lost, but can be instantly reflected in the shared public record that everyone in the project can see. Months later, if a new teammate wants to know how a decision was made, they can just search for that task, without needing to bug you to forward them the email chain.

Inbox gives you control

With email, you’re at the mercy of the sender. You can’t get off threads you don’t care about, and you can’t guarantee you’ll be kept abreast about the projects you do. Inbox shows you updates on all — and only — the tasks and projects you are explicitly following. Add yourself as a follower to exactly the set of tasks that you care about. If someone adds you to a thread and it’s no longer relevant, drop off in one click.

Inbox makes you faster

We’ve thought hard about how to make Inbox as fast as reading a personalized executive summary. You can scan quickly through new information without having to open each thread one by one, like you would when reading a news article.

Inbox also turns the traditional email workflow on its head: every read message is archived by default, making “inbox zero” the path of least resistance. But as you read, you can explicitly mark individual messages for follow-up, preserving the reliability of email.

Since turning on Inbox for ourselves, we’ve seen over half our email disappear. Many of us have gone from checking email multiple times an hour to a couple times a day. The total time we spend processing new information has declined to a small fraction of what it used to be.

The post-email world

Email is a lowest-common-denominator communication platform. Not long ago, people shared photos and planned events over email. Products like Facebook upgraded that social communication by creating a better medium, custom-built for those purposes. A similar transition is happening for communication about work. Business is ready to evolve to a post-email world. We believe Asana is the first credible post-email application.

Inbox takes the time and effort you used to spend staying on top of your work email, and gives it an upgrade. Like everything we’ve built in Asana, Inbox has been constructed for coordination from the ground up. The result is a product that ties every piece of new information to the whole story, gives you total control over the information that flows and makes you operate faster.

We’re rolling out Inbox to all of our users over the next few days, so keep an eye out for it and let us know what you think. We hope you agree that Inbox will make it that much easier for your great teams to do great things.

(For more information on Inbox, visit this article on our Guide site).

  1. avatarDave Mackey

    I’m always impressed by what you guys are up to. Keep up the great work and thanks for making my life easier.

  2. avatarJohn Salzarulo

    Our team is so excited to have this feature come to our workspace. Great work making our work easier. Can’t wait to see this feature pop up.

  3. avatarChad Lonberger

    Every time we feel the urge to roll our own collaborative task management system for our unique process… you guys drop an amazing new release on us. Looks great, congrats team!

  4. avatarMark Whiting

    I’ve wanted this feature since I started using Asana. It looks like you’ve done it really well. Thanks!

  5. avatarHoria

    It’s actually quite funny that in order to post this comment I am required an Email adress. I don’t think Inbox will succed. Why? Because one shouldn’t change a system that’s working and that has no major flaws. The email system has some, it’s true, but they are not worth the cost of change. Just think that every Internet service requires you to have an email adress, this means that the cost of change is HUGE. Not huge, HUGE.

  6. avatarAndrew Ra

    I think “Inbox” is a great product, one that I will definitely check out in the future. One perspective however: The company I work for utilizes Gmail for all its internal and external communication purposes. While email may be inefficient for the reasons stated in this post, I find that Gmail (specifically) is Convenient simply because we’re constantly utilizing other Google products like Google Drive (docs). Google Drive is a value-added service that keeps users loyal, particularly businesses. I foresee that this could be a barrier, and wonder how Asana can make itself more competitive.

  7. avatarClint

    I look forward to checking it out. If anything, to have a central location where activity is curated. Will it remove the need for email? Hmmmm, doubt it.

    Perhaps “Activity Feed” might be a better term?

    Well done regardless – I love Asana and mention it to all.

  8. avatarTodd Wickersty

    I am very excited to receive this update and keep refreshing Asana in hope that it will be available. :)

    My small business has been using Asana since the beginning of the year and very happy with it (was using Basecamp).

  9. avatarMatthew Hunt

    I’m very interested in this. Email wastes a huge amount of time when dealing with clients and peers. Can’t wait to check it out.

  10. avatarLaurent Raufaste

    I don’t understand it at all, and I hope it’s not gonna bloat Asana in anyway if I don’t have a use for it.

    Looks like the useless bloated Skype home screen showing facebook updates to me, but I might be wrong.

  11. avatarPaul Ester

    Awesome, guys. You’re putting a lot of thinking into this product. It has really helped to streamline operations in our design firm. This change will be a further improvement.

  12. avatarreggie

    a change that will power communication forward is always welcome news, however huge the cost it may entail may be. Somehow, the cost issue will peter out as more improvements get tucked in into the new system, What is important is innovation gets started somehow now.

  13. avatarVincenzo Vecchio

    Can’t wait to try it out! Excellent guys..

    I knew my decision on choosing asana mostly based on the team was a good one :)

  14. avatarBrian Giles

    I’m on a macbook pro and I can never see screenshots you guys have in your blog posts. Something you might want to address.

  15. avatarPete Matthew

    Looking forward to seeing how this pans out guys – nice work.

    FWIW, I’m on a MacBook Pro too and *can* see the blog images just fine in whichever browser I’m using…

  16. avatarTyler Tringas

    This, is, huge.
    i jumped on the Asana wagon well before it had all the features I wanted because it’s clear you guys get it. Love it.

  17. avatarkat

    I think this is great news, but it’s interesting that my personal number one complaint about Asana is that I currently can’t turn off the £$%&*@#! email notifications. They drive me insane, spam me, and make me less productive!

  18. avatarHector

    This sounds good as an starting point towards a post email era. However the strongest point of using email is interoperability. It is a standard that makes you work with people that has an account in any email provider. If you really want to go forward you need to start defining communication standards that any company or group can implement.

  19. avatarrobin

    This whole Asana Inbox vs. Email thing is silly.

    If Asana had called it “Asana interact” then most of this pro- or anti-email stuff would go away.

    Right now Asana could be less fragmented if the Asana-related information sent out via email could be instead handled in part of Asana.

    That’s all folks – personally, I can see it working.

    Oh, another MacBook Pro user who can see images in blog posts :-)

    Thanks.

  20. avatarOwen

    I love it.
    I get so much email from followed tasks that I had to filter it out of my email. This lets me have the visibility I want to see.

    Love it!

  21. avatarMichael

    Great!

    This was on top of my “missing functionality” list, and from a first look it’s exactly what I wanted.

    You’re doing a great job adding very useful features on an ongoing basis.

  22. avatarjim

    excellent vision.

    Perhaps more important to grow adoption: need to track all data revisions and make all entries searchable.

  23. avatarVivek Shroff

    Great idea. Congrats! It would be further helpful if you give some storage space to each workspace for putting files related to it. The files can also be tagged with the Project. Like a mini-Dropbox.

  24. avatarBobinson K B

    Hey Asana Team – The the new feature rocks. The frequent used / recently used list is a cool feature. Good going.

    Also looking forward for a mobile version :-)

  25. avatarSola W

    Very new to Asana and still getting the hang of it. About to implement this to my team. Have high hopes for it :) Cheers and more power!

  26. avatartamurlane6

    To address Kat’s issue above… I created a filter that just drops all of the Asana emails into a specific folder. It still shows me when I have new emails in it and it doesn’t bloat my inbox. Bonus: My notoriously messy inbox doesn’t bloat my Asana notifications.

    1. avatarJay

      I tried creating a filter in Gmail to send all my task emails from ASANA to, but, I can’t seem to get the filter to work properly, I’m still getting emails in my main inbox, Could you let me know what keywords you chose to use in order to properly filter your emails? Thanks

  27. avatarJana

    I’m so excited! This will allow me to work in asana on all of the tasks I need to be working on without having to rely on email to see when someone has done something with a task. ! Now I can use my email as I need to…hopefully less often and for those things that don’t need to fall into asana. Keep up the great work!!

  28. avatarBeckmania

    I think this is furthering the trend of using ‘the right communications tool for the right purpose’. Many people argue over the superiority of this or that form of communication, when in reality, they all have their purpose, even old school phone calls:) The problem arises when a tool is used for purposes it isn’t well suited for, and email is the worst of the bunch in this regard. Inbox is a smart and natural feature that ties communications around project and tasks to those projects and tasks. It makes all the sense in the world. I look forward to using it.

  29. avatarSean

    This looks like a nice-to-have and we love using Asana as a collaborative task/project management tool, but the no. 1 (by a country mile ie can’t believe you would write one more line of code until this is fixed) need is a desktop and tablet client that works offline and syncs automatically.

    Most of our people are on the move much of the time, and the single most ideal time to catch up on to-do lists is on a short flight. Right now Asana makes that impossible… from the list of “great companies” you cite above who use Asana, I sense a bias towards desk-bound dev shops…fwiw your big growth opportunity is to attract the millions of consultants, salespeople and executives who spend half their life on the road and for whom Asana would revolutionize their life (extracting them from the trainwreck of their existing CRM based task management hell…)

  30. avatarStephen

    really support Seans comment above re tablet client that works offline and syncs automatically.

    We are an early adopter of Asana and its a great tool but some of us are mobile and in my personal opinion Asana on my Android Tablet is not good enough. So much so that I no longer bother.

  31. avatarRaphael Gluck

    I Hope i’m wrong with this, but I feel that statement echoes the Announcement / Launch of Google Wave,

  32. avatarJay

    I agree a video as you have done in past are excellent in explaining this new technology. Also I am unable to find how to enable the inbox feature – Is this available now? Is it available to the under 30 user free edition?

    Thanks,
    Jay

  33. avatarMike

    I really like inbox! But …. one of the things that I do with my real “inbox” that Google Mail does amazingly WELL is …. SEARCH.

    I’m disappointed that this particular tool doesn’t let me search through my inbox discussions for words to help me dig out of our conversations information about things that are going on in my department. It seems that search through content is “in mind” but not planned? Ugh.

    Please at least add search to your “inbox” feature soon. Kay? ;)

  34. avatareesmyal

    Please consider creating a short video of the inbox feature and your vision for a post-email world.

    It would be nice, if like Gmail inbox, there was a number of new messages/notifications that appeared on the inbox tab, which would then turn to “0″ when all messages have been read. This kind of feedback would be useful and would feel good – like a zero inbox!

    I can’t stand email anymore, mainly because I get way way too much of it, so anything that reduce email is very appealing to me. Keep up the good work!

  35. avatarSteven T

    This is a forum to discuss email vs Asana? Maybe not. For those to take advantage of Asana and similar platforms, the Inbox is a must have, no doubt. And for those who are still in love with email, what are you doing here anyway?

  36. avatarkat

    Just as Sean said above, the biggest weakness right now is a lack of a fully functional offline app that can sync seamlessly. The future is that we’re all connected all the time…but also that when we can’t connect, it won’t matter. That has to be the focus or there’s no way that so many of us can keep up with (the amazing, brilliant) Asana, when we’re on the road and in the air.

  37. avatarVic

    Would be more useful if it auto-refreshed instead of needing to be manually refreshed. Also, we use different tags for different stages of completion: In Progress, Pending, Published, etc. and I’m not seeing “Pending” showing up as “New Pending Tasks” which is critical as it tells the next person that something needs attention. All other tags are showing up as “New [TAG] Task.”

  38. avatarDeclan Dunn

    Great addition and integration of email, nice work! Even though email is outdated, it’s part of the game and a confusing part. Integrating it with communication and moving out of the world of CC to the world of following is a simple and powerful idea…

    Looking forward to implementing this with a few of my startups…

  39. avatarErik

    We’re loving Asana. Do to Visa issues, one of our co-founders had to “go home” for a bit, but courtesy of you guys, we’re keeping in touch virtually like he’s two desks away. Couldn’t be happier—especially now that there’s even less clutter in my inbox.

    Keep up the amazing work.

  40. avatarDave Abrahams

    I don’t see how this gets me any closer to a “post-email” world. It looks like just another view of the asana system, into which I already have trouble getting my items. Fact is, 99% of all my action items come to me via email, and until/unless asana takes over the world, it’s going to stay that way. The best answer asana has for this, so far, is “send us your tasks… via email!” So then I have to switch back and forth between my email client and asana to manage my life. Seems really clunky. Am I missing something?

  41. avatarAndromeda

    You’re on your soap box about how this antiquated thing called email should be replaced by some more efficient thing called the inbox (um, sounds like inbox to me)…meanwhile you’re trying to tell me about this magical new inbox by making me read through a block of plain text. Does anyone else see the irony in this? Object lesson: Asana needs to hire some UI/UX peeps, fast.

  42. avatarRaushanna

    I think you are doing a grat job, guys. by time, my email inbox is becoming full of notifications from different services. maybe its good to have a hub, but its useless when you have a good internet connection and you working directly IN the service, like Asana.
    Who says that all innovations should be a breakthrough? it’s worth trying and Im going to try your inbox. at least, I can now turn off email notifications))

  43. avatarStæven

    40 year old? Could you qualify that statement?

    I know it was Tomlison in 1971, but good journalism–online or off–should bolster you quips and trivial claims that support your concept–and add credibility. Especially when its not common knowledge.

  44. avatarLEMI

    pardon my ignorance in geek, but i enjoy the rolling type communication between my colleagues, but essentially we are running a parallel system. Whereby we follow each other on Asana but retrieve from and store on MS office. On top of that, unless i set up a new account with a new email for each new project involving a external parti i am also running email with MS OFfice. unless i’m missing something major? like being able to invite external participants or observers and lock them out of projects. i would hope that ultimately and promptly, ASANA will accommodate for this hierarchy of security and also provide storage, and the tools for setting up dynamic or lineal structures if one chooses and with meaningful tagging devices. Sorry for being long winded. cheers

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