bridge

Walking the email bridge

Dan Kaplan

It’s hard to imagine that in another 10 years, today’s incarnation of email will still be the de-facto communication tool we use to organize ourselves, to manage our work and to collaborate with our teams.

But, despite our belief that workplace communications tools must and will evolve, we understand that old-school email will not vanish immediately, or even particularly soon.

This is why we built the email bridge.

What is the email bridge?

The email bridge is the system we built to connect message-centric email to task-centric Asana. It lets you and your team do two main things.

  • Send emails to Asana to turn them into tasks.
  • Reply to task emails from Asana to turn them into comments on the original task.

Turning emails into tasks

To send messages and turn them into tasks, you’ll need to choose the Asana Workspace the emails you send to Asana should go to. This can be done in three steps:

  • Go into your Account Settings by clicking your name in the lower left corner of Asana’s interface.
  • Select the “Email Dropbox” tab
  • Choose the Workspace you’d like to use.

Your Email Dropbox can now receive emails. The email bridge will turn them into tasks with these conventions:

  • Email subject —> Task name
  • Email body —> Task notes
  • Email attachments —> Task attachments
  • People in the CC field —> Task Followers

Once you’ve created an Email Dropbox with the above steps, there are three main ways to use it:

  • Email tasks to your personal task list. Using the email address associated with your main Asana Workspace, simply send (or forward) an email to x@mail.asana.com. This will create a new task in your “My Tasks” list. If this is something you will do frequently, you should add x@mail.asana.com to your address book.
  • Email tasks straight to a project. To do this, you’ll need the Project ID, which can be found in the URL of the project. The Project ID is the first string of numbers in the URL when you’ve selected a project: The Project Project - Asana Once you’ve got this number, you can send emails to at the address x+PROJECTID@mail.asana.com. If you’d like to automatically assign the task to someone on your team, include them in the “To” field of the email.
  • Auto-forward emails to a project. If you have an email address like “jobs@yourcompany.com” or “bugs@yourcompany” and you’d like to automatically turn emails to that address into tasks, you can set up auto-forwarding.
    • First, add the forwarding email address (e.g. jobs@yourcompany) to your Workspace as a Workspace member.
    • Set up auto-forwarding in your email service to send emails to Asana.
    • Your email service will send a confirmation link to Asana. Go to the task created by the bridge and click that link.

Turning email replies into comments

The email bridge also turns replies to emails from Asana into comments on tasks. If anyone on your team prefers to stay in email, this can be a great way to keep the conversation around your team’s tasks organized in Asana.

There are a couple of ways this works:

  • Assign a task to a teammate. When your teammate receives the task notification email, he or she can simply reply to it. The email bridge will automatically turn that reply into a comment on the task.
  • Comment on a task that has followers. The task’s followers will all receive an email with your comment. Any of them can reply to this message and the bridge will add their reply as a comment.

Mind the gap

Here at Asana, email represents a small fraction of our internal communication. Instead of sending email messages back and forth, we send tasks. Instead of creating multi-person email threads with CC, we simply add followers. And instead of spending hours each week staying on top of email, we rely on Asana’s Inbox to keep us connected and up to speed.

But for many teams, email remains a way of life. Asana’s email bridge is our way of acknowledging this fact, spanning the gap between messages and tasks and giving you and your teammates a way to incorporate Asana into your workflow while keeping a foot in email’s message-centric world.

  1. avatarart

    this sounds very helpful!

    * it will nice if you guys parse out the signatures from the emails, or auto-hide the way gmail does it.

    * allow me to assign the task to someone via email too (not sure how this can be done). otherwise, it is easier to just go to asana and enter the task and assign it to a team member.

    1. avatarDan Kaplan Asana Team Member

      Hey Art,

      Thanks fo the feedback!

      About your second point: good catch! You can indeed assign the task from email. Just include the person you’d like to assign the task to in the “To” field of the email. We’ll take care of the rest.

  2. avatarHarshit

    I have no choice but use a blackberry device for work. Asana doesn’t have any BB app and no plans in offing, while blackberry is great at integrating emails, texts and notes into single e-mail messaging system. Hence Asana e-mail integration has been a BOON for people like me ! I just send anything actionable to the respective work space/project & Asana takes care of it from there. SUPER GREAT APP. Thank you.

  3. avatarWhulsbergen

    For email-users in my team, it would be great if you could mark a task as done directly in the reminder.
    And my reminders usually contain multiple tasks. How to reply?

  4. avatarSam

    Just a technical note that the link to ‘must and will evolve’ (i.e. your post re: asana inbox) is redirecting to my task list. My guess is that it has something to do with the the URL root containing http://www.blog.asana.com/… vs. just blog.asana.com/… — I removed ‘www.’ and it worked fine. [I'm using Chrome Version 26.0.1410.43, but tested with Safari Version 6.0.3 and Firefox 19.0.2 w/ same issue.]

  5. avatarPaul America

    Dan,

    Nice writeup, thanks.

    If Asana users could directly send/receive tasks with anyone (not just members of our smallish Workspace), we could ditch email entirely and burn the bridge.

    I know y’all are trying to move beyond email–not recreate it–but please consider retaining the following babies while throwing out the bathwater:
    -An @asana address (or some equivalent where anyone can initiate a conversation with us)
    -A very large Contacts List (Workspace Member Lists could be subsets of this)

    I would be happy to pay for those two, as it would end the day long pingponging between Gmail and Asana.

    To muse for a moment, I think the “message-centric vs task-centric” view can evolve further (I’m sure these things have already been discussed to death at Asana, but I figure it can’t hurt to throw another two cents in the fountain). Messages are actually the most fundamental task. When you send a message, you are assigning a task to the recipient, namely: “be aware of this particle of information”. The assignment is completed once the recipient witnesses the message.

    Both messages and tasks could be considered what might be called, for the sake of metaphor, “infoparticles”. What is typically called a “task” in our vernacular is simply a message-particle bound together with a next-action-particle: “be aware of something + then do something.” Like an atom is an assembly of even smaller particles and attributes (i.e. electrons/protons, spin/charge/weight/etc.)–a task is an assembly of smaller constituents, .i.e. letters, words, due date, assignee, followers, next action, project, etc. Asana is not a task-manager so much as it is a tool for facilitating the transfer and transformation of information. Gmail is a decent tool for transfer, but terrible at transformation. Email will often tend to deteriorate information to lower, more chaotic states, rather than the alchemize into higher states.

    Waking human consciousness is bottlenecked by the fact that it can only truly focus on one point—one particle–at a time; unlike, possibly, whales, who have four distinct points of visual focus, two per eyeball on opposite sides of their head (God only knows what that’s like). Even though a human can rapidly switch between points of focus, simultaneity (aka multitasking) appears impossible. That’s why task lists rule. You can process them one at a time, Thermopylae-style. Within its walls, Asana accommodates the human brain.

    Tension arises, however, from the fact that we all have several telecommunicative inboxes running in parallel (Gmail, Asana, Facebook, etc). They cannot yet be ordered/filtered/prioritized in a linear SuperInbox. So we’re compelled to rapidly switch our attention between them in fear that we might be neglecting something critical. This is tearing the hive mind to shreds. We crave a single customizeable inbox through which to receive all [telecommunicative] inputs. That is why Asana, in its desire quiet the mind, will eventually and naturally want to subsume the remainder of Gmail’s primary functions that it has not already obsolesced. And beyond that, mindmeld with all other inboxes til we get to the point where its possible for an individual to customize a single, elegant, robust stream for all his digital inputs. But that will require an extraordinary [yet perhaps inevitable] leap of consciousness for the industry as a whole to transform towards a far more sophisticated balance between competition and cooperation. Which is perhaps a conversation better left for another decade.

    “Everything that rises must converge”. The SuperInbox-AlchemyChamber-MindExtender is Holy Grail of your industry. Will Asana be the chosen one that quietly illuminates the dark chaos of the Hive?! Haha I’m just fucking around. This comment went totally off the rails. Rosenstein knows what I’m talking about though.

    1. avatarMatt McLaughlin

      The problem is that most email is not “an” info-particle. It’s a series of info-particles. I get tons of emails that have information that needs to be split out into multiple different task, subtasks, etc. Ditto for FB and even my own notes to myself – when I’m free form taking notes I often use shorthand that combines multiple subtasks. Even asana tasks aren’t atomic, as you can (thankfully) split tasks into component parts.

      As the receiver of a communication, I would like as much of the work of deriving semantic information and breaking it down into it’s component “info-particles” as possible to be done for me. But I’m totally agnostic as to whether its the sender or the system doing the breakdown. Getting the system to recognize semantic information is hard. Which is one of the geniuses of Asana. It puts the task of semantically tagging the information onto the communicator and makes it simple enough that he/she is willing to do it.

      But the truth is that you’re never going to get to 100% that way. Not everyone is willing (and maybe able) to correctly catoegorize thier desires into atomic tasks. At some point the system is going to have to do it for you. A simple example is the way Siri deals with meeting time suggestions in SMS. Even though SMS is unstructured text, Siri recognizes a string of text with semantic meaning and acts accordingly – allowing you to schedule a meeting based on SMS.

      The ideal super inbox takes communication, and presents it as semantic information regardless of whether the communicator has the tools, the capability or the inclination to do the break down him or herself.

  6. avatarMatt

    90% of my tasks and the tasks of my team come from interactions with people outside my office who aren’t on Asana. The medium of choice is email. Those people don’t limit their emails to only talking about one task, so forwarding emails to Asana is… Suboptimal. Either I crop the email to just the portion discussing each task and forward each to their respective task, or I forward the entire email multiple times to all the tasks discussed in the email.

    Also, I make a ton of use of subtasks. Email messages tend to be full of information that lends itself to subdividing tasks, but there’s currently no easy way to do that.

    Another super common occurrence is receiving an email that changes the due date of a task. Also no easy way to do this.
    ——–
    As much as I love the “post email” philosophy, you’re going to need absolutely massive network effects before email goes away, and the tools you’re currently building are really targetted for teams that drive themselves rather than teams that have significant amounts of the task creation driven by outside collaborators that aren’t on asana.

    What I would kill for is an asana email app that would intelligently parse emails for task, subtasks, due date, etc. Anything to make deriving semantic information from emails easier would be a godsend.

    Also a way to connect non-asana emails to a task or subtasks and the ability to send an email from a task and have it automatically go in the notes. And any reply automatically goes in the notes.

    In short, please direct some attention to those of us who don’t have a choice about using email in addition to asana.

    1. avatarDan Kaplan Asana Team Member

      Matt,

      Thanks for your comment. I’ll make sure the product team gets your feedback.

      1. avatarEric Thorsen

        I love many things about Asana and have been using it for several months. The comments about not everyone using Asana, everyone using email and the ‘yet another tool’ exist for me as well. I’ll send a note about what I really like about the tool in a separate feedback note.
        Not being able to email items into Asana with at least a due date or the ability to mark it as today, tomorrow, later, etc. makes it impossible for me to use as my ‘trusted system’ and I’m far more patient than my team is.
        OmniFocus from OmniGroup has a simple a nice way to annotate emails that get sent and I used it for a long time but it is not a collaboration tool and I needed something more (Asana).
        I’m experimenting with Zappier recipes using a dedicated gmail account for Asana since I can map searches from gmail to more specific information in Asana like workspaces, projects and at least the minimal tagging I need to get items with a due date of tomorrow, tuesday, next week, etc. It’s a bit of a pain since it appears I have to have a separate recipe for each of those cases but it may hold me over until there is better support in Asana or I find an email parser I can use to feed better data into Asana’s Zappier service.
        Thanks,
        Eric

        1. avatarEric Thorsen

          I found this blog entry:
          https://zapier.com/support/questions/119/passing-named-variables-through-to-writes-advanced-tip/

          I was able to setup a zapier recipe that allowed me to annotate the subject of emails with a task name and due date using the blog entry above. It’s a start and at least I can keep using Asana to help manage tasks that come from email.

          Since I only have control to map task name, notes and due date with the zapier Asana service, I’d have to create specific recipes if I need to target different projects, assignees, etc.
          If more mappings were allowed this would go a long way towards getting me the functionality I need from an email bridge.
          It looks like creating zapier recipes is pretty simple…I’ll look at it more in the future.
          Thanks,
          Eric

          1. avatarIrene Yanni

            —————–
            I was able to setup a zapier recipe that allowed me to annotate the subject of emails with a task name and due date using the blog entry above. It’s a start and at least I can keep using Asana to help manage tasks that come from email.
            ________

            Can you please help fix this too? I need to be able to assign a due date to the tasks via emails for Asana. How can I do this? I’m no expert by any means to codes and API’s, so detailed way to help me out with this would be greatly appreciated!

            Thanks a lot,
            Irene

          2. avatarMoritz

            Hi Eric,
            not sure if this answer is already too late. But our new app mailparser.io is working really great together with Zapier. So you could parse out critical data from emails with mailparser.io, send it to Zapier and from there to asana. Shoot me an email at support@mailparser.io if you have any question or sign-up for a free account at http://mailparse.io
            Cheers,
            Moritz

    2. avatarJohn R

      I’m finding that a lot of the PM tools are suffering from a platform-centric perspective – just user our platform for communication and you won’t be bound to email. This simply isn’t reality. But I think it’s bigger than just the email/task connection. My team can communicate with Asana just fine but all of my clients and contacts are communicating with me in email and that won’t change. So I end up having to silos for project data – Asana and Outlook (or Gmail or whatever). The PM platform doesn’t have to be a messaging platform (not email anyway) but needs to find a way to house that data. Why can’t I have a message container in my Asana project to store the project email I’m receiving? Take a look at what Newforma is doing in the A/E/C industry to deal with this. An Outlook plugin let’s you simply move a message from your email client into your project in the form of an .msg file. Now you have all your project data in one place. Why the other PM platforms like Asana aren’t doing this is a complete mystery to me. I just can’t believe that I’m the only person who thinks I should be able to move messages from my email client into my Asana projects. Am I?!

    3. avatarChris

      I feel exactly the same. 95% of requests come from our clients so while we can forward all the emails into Asana most emails have multiple tasks and also when I’m ready to reply to a request I’d have to find that original email and reply to it after working on the task in Asana.

      I guess it’s that Asana isn’t a help desk but rather an internal collaboration team for teams. I love Gmail and do my best to stay there when possible by using labels for Open, Pending, Closed, etc, but no real auto responders, or wait to divide emails into multiple tasks etc. There is a product called Streak that does most all of that for Gmail, but I’m worried what happens if Gmail blocks the plugin some day or changes their UI and then Streak will break. And in streak you have to triage emails into the streak system, and the streak labels aren’t exposed to gmail in third party apps so your stuck using their poor app rather than Mailbox or such.

      ZenDesk would seem to be the solution, but the big deal breaker is attachments are limited to incredibly low limits and you aren’t notified if someone sent you a big attachment that didn’t go through. Also ZenDesk is light years behind Asana, and companies like Asana and ZenDesk will come and go but gmail will always be there with ability to instantly search emails.

      Anyhoo, on one hand I love Asana and wish ZenDesk, Asana and Gmail would have a baby, but doesn’t look like that will happen.

  7. avatarMaya

    Would be great if asana could add more than one sub-task in a list – by creating a bullet list where each bullet is a task + adding a date and assignee method would be great.
    Adding one task at a time doesn’t work well – unless I am missing something…

    Thanks for an awesome tool!!!

    Maya

  8. avatarJohn S

    I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: I think Asana is awesome. I love the increased collaboration that it’s brought to my company. Moving Asana closer to an email replacement system will require two things: ONE inbox and ONE task list across workspaces. Even gmail allows me to consolidate inboxes by forwarding messages to one account.

  9. avatarWichard Hulsbergen

    Great thoughts in the comments above.

    While Asana jumps ahead and makes a great product that could make internal email obsolete, there are still a lot of reasons that companies rely on email:
    1. Everybody has email, you don’t need to invite clients to your system.
    2. YAP-syndrome (Yet Another Platform) makes people VERY itchy.
    3. Old IE-browsers are still used and cannot be replaced quickly. If it’s not you, then probably one of your clients that are stuck here.
    4. email is useful for a lot of other reasons, like sending messages that don’t require actions and archiving conversations with clients and contractors.

    So you can’t burn the bridge, as most people will still need email. This means, that you can make the bridge as smooth and beautiful as possible, it is still something you ask your costumers to cross in order to use Asana.

    Instead of a asking your costumers to cross the bridge several times a day, why not make an Asana-embassy in email-land (I love metafors :)?

    If day-to-day-functions of Asana could be easily operated through email, useability will increase dramatically.

    To make it concrete, think of:
    – Marking tasks as done, changing due-dates or posting comments directly in the email-reminders.
    – Possibility to add things like *workspace, #project, $due-date, %tags and !!priority to a subject line when emailing tasks to asana.

  10. avatarRyan @ RITE

    If you could somehow add a way to send an email directly under a task heading within a project, that would be very helpful to our company!

    I’d think something like x++ may work, but i’ll leave that up to the clever folks over there ;)

  11. avatarGABRIEL - Endeavor

    Hey Dan, that was a so good sharing of knowledge!

    This is going to speed things up, for sure.

    I also would like to ask if there is a way to assign the same task to different people in a fast way.

    Let me explain myself. I have my sales team and sometimes I need them to send me some reports. So I was thinking in a way to create a task named “sale report type A” due to Monday. Then, it would enter as a task to each one of my sales team. Is that possible?

  12. avatarDominic Coryell

    It’d be really nice to have all my email forwarded to Asana. That means that the people who are sending it would be the “from” or the “Assignors” — they wouldn’t send to the X address, but just my regular address and I’d have gmail forward it. Then when I commented, they’d get a response since they are following and I could add on others to that message. Or I could drag that new task (email) as a subtask as an existing task – or even merge it with an existing one maybe.

    Here’s the problem (see: http://take.ms/UDueAW)
    The sender isn’t in my account, so they aren’t recognized and can’t be added as a follower. It creates an additional task about an error. If you allowed this sender to just be a “member” they’d be added as a follower. There could even be a response that I’d turn on as a preference for each person who creates their first task assigned to me (i.e., first time they email me) that says: Thanks for the email, just as a note…I use Asana to convert all my emails to tasks. This allows me to prevent items from slipping through the cracks. So I will reply as a comment and you may see the sender as Asana. Please add [tasks@asana.com] to your safe sender’s list. If you want to read more about why I do this [blog].”

    This could be a huge viral loop to getting new members too!

    Would love to see this come to life.

    1. avatarStephan

      I add my vote to this: we need a better way to integrate all email into asana via an automatic forward, as well as reply to those emails straight from asana. It would certainly replace a bunch of other software for us, lighten our admin overhead, improve focus, and generally just help us work better.

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  15. avatarUwe

    What is the break line to not include the email I reply to in the comment? I’ve seen that the whole email is put into the comment. When I reply from outlook I would expect the old content is stripped out?

  16. avatarBen

    This is a great feature! But echoing some other comments, can we somehow not include email signatures in the posted comment? It really messes with the visual flow of the comments section (particularly because all the styling disappears so it’s hard to tell at a glance where the actual comments ends and the signature starts)
    Thanks!

  17. avatarYeabsi

    I would love to use Mailfetcher to get old email into Asana from Gmail. Is there a way I can do this? I have old emails I need to task and sending forwarding them individually is rather time consuming.

    I echo the: 1) the need to be able to send an email to another Asana user as a task and 2. parse out email.

    Love Asana so far!

  18. avatarMike James

    I would like to take existing emails and send them to existing tasks as comments. Is that something that should be do-able? thx

    1. avatarSara Himeles Asana Team Member

      Thanks Mike! We don’t have this functionality currently, but we’ll add it to our queue of suggested features.

      1. avatarJason

        Hi Sara, any news on this item? This has been one of our org’s biggest requests: the ability to forward an email to have its contents appear as the next comment on a task. Thanks!

  19. avatarTroy Christmas

    This is a great feature that allows many non-API integrations. For example, we built http://www.taskclone.com that automatically extracts todos from Evernote and sends them via email to Asana with the todo title as the subject and a link back to the Evernote note as the body. Works great! Thanks.

  20. avatarP V

    Asana is awesome. One question: is it possible to mention people in an email response to a task so they appear highlighted in the comment?
    Like, when on Asana website, I can write, @Someone and Someone will appear highlighted and will automatically also be added as a follower if they are not.

    1. avatarDaniel Schulz-Jackson

      Yes, I too would love to see @mention within emails… I do a lot through email and this would be a great addition. I suppose doing it via email address would be best/most accurate, yes?

  21. avatarDan

    I’d like to add another vote for the parsing of email signatures. It’s especially odd when we get a separate Asana email notification for each image in the signature (company logo, facebook, twitter, etc).

  22. avatarPatrick Wolf

    Currently the email’s Asana sends don’t contain any specifier in the subject line.
    This makes it impossible to write inbox rules based on the subject line.
    Would be great if you could do something like:
    “[Workspace] Subject” or “Subject [Workspace]”
    Thanks!
    Patrick

  23. avatarzinabu

    hi
    I’m very new to asana, and it has been of great help to my team me ants and i. but we are having a little problem with our email settlings and its intergeneration with asana(tasks and project)…we are able to create tasks by forwarding the email.
    but i was wondering is it possible to convert an asana task or project to email format and mail it to a client who doesn’t use asana..?
    i would appreciate it if you could be of any help in aiding me solve this issue
    thank you
    zinabu

  24. avatarRyan

    I agree with a number of the comments above about parsing out email signatures. My project manager refuses to use Asana directly, and his email signature is 14 lines long. To say the least, it’s extremely painful communicating with him over Asana.

  25. avatarBerk Demirkır

    Please do something about email signatures. I can convince my coworkers to use a special delimiter like “\r\n–\r\n” or something else.

  26. avatarPaul

    Bump for removing email signatures. Just remove everything after the “–” (in the same way Gmail hides everything from “–” on). That seems like the universal rule on identifying an email signature.

  27. avatarJason Tucker

    I agree with everyone here, remove everything after — and it will make your product a great way to interact with emails

  28. avatarJeanine

    I would very much like the ability to generate an email about a task from ASANA rather than flipping over to Outlook – typing my email…then having to paste my email into the asana task as a note along with who I sent it to. As great as the idea sounds to eliminate email not all of my 600 clients use ASANA and won’t … so email is still a necessity when task communication occurs.

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