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Boxy transforms Google's Inbox into a Mac app

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Ever since the impending death of Mailbox was announced, I've been looking for a new email app to replace it. The one I've been spending the most time with is Inbox, Google's attempt at building a smarter interface for Gmail. There's a lot to like — and dislike — about Inbox, but one thing that's stood out as a downside for me is the fact that Google is unlikely to ever turn it into a desktop app. Inbox will always be a web app first, so why would it bother?

Google may not ever get around to it, but someone else has. A pair of developers have put together an app called Boxy that turns Inbox into something that looks like a native Mac app. Boxy is essentially identical to Inbox on the web: you get a single column list of emails, and clicking on an item will expand it inline, allowing you to quickly read and respond. Related emails (like newsletters or promotions) will be grouped together into a single line to declutter your screen, and images, attachments, and event invitations will also appear on the main screen for quick access.

boxy

Commenting on the function of Boxy's interface is sort of a strange thing to do, since it's really a critique of Inbox. There's next to nothing different about how Boxy works — it's just loading Inbox on the web and then transforming it into what looks like a native app. That's great news if you love Inbox, but if you don't, Boxy isn't going to be the perfect app for you.

Boxy needs to feel more native

Even if you do love Inbox, Boxy has its limitations. It loads and moves between emails quickly, but its animations can be a little more sluggish than Inbox on the web. And since Inbox doesn't have support for multiple accounts, moving between two email addresses in Boxy means loading the new one every time you want to make a switch. That's the only account you'll get notifications for, too (and, unfortunately, you get notified for every email, rather than for only select emails like Inbox does on mobile).

For now, Boxy does have a few things that Inbox can't do. That includes native desktop notifications, a condensed sidebar, and — you know — the ability to keep Inbox on your desktop without a browser around it. For something as heavily used as your email client, that's not a crazy thing to want. Boxy also adds a dedicated reading mode, which makes emails take up the entirety of the app's screen and formats them in bigger, tidier type and spacing.

boxy

A developer behind Boxy says that some of its immediate shortcomings are being worked on. They intend to speed up account switching, improve performance and the smoothness of animations, and generally start to make Boxy stand out more on its own. That includes adding a standalone compose window and the ability for Boxy to do split screen and fullscreen. Basically, stuff that'll make it feel more like a native app than it does now.

Boxy launched a little over a week ago and is currently on sale in the Mac App Store for $4.99. It's not going to become my dedicated desktop email app — I really need something that lets me see more at once — but Boxy might fit in for someone looking for a simpler experience; essentially, the sort of zen inbox that Inbox already offers. Down the road, if Boxy's developers keep building on the groundwork that Inbox has laid, it could get a lot more interesting.