Swipes, snoozes, services and pdf export : Welcome to Spark.

When Dropbox announced that it was closing down Mailbox I thought that was the end of email efficiency for me.  Parallel to use of Mailbox I had played around with Inbox, Boxer and Cloudmagic but never found them up to the mark for how I did email.  Part of that was certainly due to the fact that I had setup my email accounts to work well with Mailbox but there was still a significant part that was down to core features of those apps.
So I was over the moon to discover Spark.  It is an email app that incorporates all of Mailbox’s best features but then does even more on top.  In Spark you can swipe emails in your inbox to archive, delete, snooze, move or several other options.  You see that’s a particularly great thing about Spark: it is so customisable.  Swiping emails makes it super easy to process your inbox.  In the same way that Mailbox offered a short or long swipe (to the left and right) Spark does that too.

Boxer and Cloudmagic have always allowed users to hook other services directly into their email, services such as Evernote, Dropbox, Drive.  Mailbox didn’t offer that, which was a slight source of frustration to me.  Sure I could use IFTTT to hack the service in but that meant having to label emails especially for that service but that’s not necessarily the best way to actually handle your emails.  Spark offers those third party service connections too.  That doesn’t give it the edge over Boxer or Cloudmagic but it does nudge it over Mailbox and Inbox.  So now in Spark I can long swipe left and send my emails direct to Evernote.  I send shed loads of emails to Evernote so the process just got a lot faster and made more awesome by Spark.

Upon news of Mailbox’s demise I decided to set up shop in Inbox.  My most important email accounts are Gmail accounts.  Gmail is awesome.  Ever since the release of Inbox I have subconsciously willed it to be great and I do like it.  But there are some things that really irritate me about it.  Firstly, it doesn’t have a unified inbox.  Why not?  I do not know, but Google have for some reason forced us to keep our inboxes separate and made checking email across multiple accounts that much more tedious.  Secondly, if you want to check a bundle once a day Google have decided that you may only check it at the time they decide.  Well I’m sorry Google but that time does not suit me.  Thirdly, due to the non-unified inbox fiasco described above you can’t have a badge for how many emails are in your inbox.  I like to maintain inbox zero, but Inbox won’t remind me if I have emails to process.  Related to that point is that reminders are pretty much useless if I am in another account’s inbox – oops.  Fourthly, this point I understand but it is there so it should be stated: Inbox only works with Gmail accounts.  I don’t see that changing anytime soon for the obvious reason that I can’t imagine an app made by Google support Yahoo or any other mail.  I do have email accounts with other providers so this situation forces me to use multiple email apps which is undesirable.
A major persuading factor for me switching to Inbox from Mailbox was the ability to snooze emails.  I find that so useful.  (A doff of the cap to the Mailbox team for introducing this feature.)  Well Spark allows me to snooze emails too so a big tick to Spark.
After coming across news about Spark a few days ago I decided to investigate further.  I was impressed by the inclusion of features I had come to love and rely upon in Mailbox and there was more on top: Save emails as PDF, send full attachments, hook third party services directly into the app etc.  Here is a list of Spark’s killer features that have won me over:
  • Spark supports Gmail, iCloud, Exchange, Yahoo!, Outlook and other email providers.
  • With Spark you can send full file attachments not photos or links only.  Attachments are created from cloud storage services (e.g. Drive and Dropbox).  The attachment process gives you the option of sending a link to a file or sending ac copy of the file itself.
  • The services that can be hooked into your email include: Evernote, Dropbox, Drive, Box, Pocket and more.
  • Snooze your emails easily with a swipe and tap.  The list of snooze times is customisable to keep things snappy and convenient.
  • Emails can be exported as a PDF straight to any relevant services you’ve connected.
  • Spark has a smart inbox (which is optional).  It lists all your new/unread emails at the top.  As you read them they move down to a separate section for read emails.  From either section you can process emails by swiping them.
    If you want to pin an email to your inbox you can do that too.  Pinned emails are kept in their own section.
  • Want to find an attachment?  You can view a list of just attachments from your email accounts in Spark.
  • You can customise so much within Spark: which accounts contribute toward the app badge, how the sidebar is laid out, what your swipes do, what widgets are shown on the home screen of the app, you can change which actions are available in your email viewer toolbar (archive, delete or both) and more!
  • Quick replies.  Wow these are good.  At the bottom of an email you can tap an icon to send a reply such as “👍🏻 Like”, “✅ Thanks”, or “😀 Great idea”.  As you can imagine even these are customisable.  You can change the order of the list and create your own quick replies.
  • Respond to calendar invitations from emails.
Mailbox did have one feature that I found useful and that is not available in Spark, which is the ability to auto-swipe emails.  I used this to auto swipe emails from mailing lists to a Gmail label called either “Updates” or “Promotions”.  Then I had an IFTTT recipe to send me an email digest daily for Updates and weekly for Promotions.  Whilst using Inbox I had hoped the bundles would serve as the same thing, but the inability to change the time of day each bundle would be shown prevented it working for me.   So even though Spark doesn’t offer something like this Inbox doesn’t have a useful equivalent for me.
Version 1.5 was released today which allows you to change the notification actions and assign default signatures to specific email accounts.  Spark is on fire.  It is an incredibly well thought through app that is going from strength to strength.  Currently Spark is only available on iPhone, but an iPad app is slated for release in the future.  I cannot wait!

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