Email has grown from a convenience of the Internet into an indispensable tool inseparable from our modern life. On the other side of the coin, managing emails also evolves from deleting a few messages once in a while into dealing with the monster of the thousands emails inbox. Today’s quest for the best email client is not only about finding which client has the best UI but also about which one can help you reach the inbox zero utopia.
Email client developers both on desktop and mobile have tried many methods to help their users reach inbox zero, and we surely have discussed many alternatives. One of the newest ones, called Astro, utilizes machine learning, better known as Artificial Intelligence, to analyze your inbox and helps you find your inner email peace.
To get started, download Astro for your platform from its website. It is available for Mac, iOS, Android, Slack and Amazon Alexa,
Astro has played the AI card ever since the beginning. The Astrobot – your loyal AI assistant – will guide you in setting up your first email account. The bot will start by asking your email address. Currently, Astro only supports Gmail and Office 365 accounts. After analyzing which one of the two your address belongs to, the bot will offer to add the account.
After adding your first email account, you can continue adding more.
Before the bot can really show you what it can do, the AI needs to learn about your inboxes. So the best course of action is to use Astro normally to do your daily emailing routines for the first couple of days. And if you think that AI approach is the only thing that Astro is good at, you are in for a surprise.
As a standalone email client, Astro has a few more tricks up its sleeve and can hold itself well among other popular clients. If you are a long time Slack user or Amazon Echo owner, you’ll be happy to know that Astro supports integration to both.
Another perk of using Astro is the support for swipes both on mobiles and on Mac, even though keyboard shortcuts are faster and more preferable on the desktop. You can customize the gestures via “Settings -> Swipe Options” on mobile or “Preferences -> Swiping” on Mac.
Astro gives users the option to add contacts to the VIP list. This can be done manually via the Settings/Preferences or if you’ve used Astro long enough, the bot will suggest adding addresses that you have a lot of conversations with. The benefit of having a VIP list is the ability to filter the messages to show only the ones from the list.
The app also allows you to unsubscribe from marketing emails directly from the email by clicking the “Unsubscribe” icon at the top of the mail. Note that this icon will only appear on messages with the unsubscribe options inside. Again, when the AI has collected enough information about your routines, it will suggest you unsubscribe to some of the junk mails that you’ve never even bothered to touch.
There are also options to track email opens and replies to the ones that you send using Astro. Most of the other email clients don’t have these options or include them as part of the upgraded paid premium package, but the features are free on Astro. You can enable the feature manually using the icons next to the “Send” button. You can set email track open to default from “Settings -> Compose” on mobile or “Preferences -> Composing” on Mac.
Playing with the Bot
As mentioned before, it can take a while before the AI can really kick in. If you’ve played with Astro long enough, you can see the bot become more and more chatty. You’ll get notifications about actions that you could take and act on them. You can also take a more proactive approach and open Astrobot directly by tapping on the bot icon on the mobile or switch from the inbox on the Mac.
You’ll see suggestions and messages about your emails inside the bot room, and there are actions for you to take. For example, you can choose to unsubscribe from one of the senders, and Astrobot will ask you to confirm, then suggest you archive the rest of the messages.
Acting on existing suggestions and monitoring notifications are not the only things you can do with Astrobot. You can also ask the bot to do something for you. For example, you can ask the bot to remind you about a meeting tomorrow. You can also play the magic eight ball with it.
Start by typing “ask Astro” to get the list of things the bot can do, and choose the one you want. For the complete list of what this robotic assistant can do, head to the company’s blog.
You can also use voice command to get help from Astrobot, but this feature is not available on the Mac version – only on mobile and Echo.
It’s No Siri
While we can be sure that the implementation of AI in helping us reach inbox zero will only get better in the future, and we have to thank Astro as one of the pioneers in paving the way to get there, the current state of AI to manage our emails still leaves huge room for improvements.
Astrobot is no Siri. The intelligence gap is still too wide, and it will take some time to close the gap. But even so, I find Astro to be more convenient to use than other clients I’ve tried.
Take Astro for a spin and share your thoughts in the comments below.