in Productivity

Sanebox – Sanity for your email experience

Like most people who have been around the internet for a while, I get a lot of email. Much of it is spam – and most of this never makes it to my inbox due to spam filters in place. But even after taking out the spam there is still a lot of low priority/importance email that really doesn’t need to interrupt me when it arrives.

For the last year or so, I have enjoyed a significantly reduced load of email in my inbox, largely due to having adopted Sanebox [1]. Sanebox is a service which:

“filters out and summarizes unimportant emails – not spam, but legitimate messages that just don’t need to interrupt your day and can be processed in bulk.”

Sanebox works brilliantly, and behind the scenes by quietly analysing your email habits, and sorting the emails you receive so that those from your key contacts go into your inbox, and other emails go into a “SaneLater” folder. This pre-sorting means that a small volume of messages go straight to your inbox, leaving the bulk of low priority email for later review.

This triage takes a lot of interference out of email. When I am out and about accessing email through my iPhone or iPad, or in the office focused on core work, I can simply ignore the low priority stuff. Sanebox makes it easy to “train” contacts so that they appear in the correct folder.

Sanebox has additional features that allow you to defer emails until a later date. For example, placing an email in the “SaneTomorrow” folder will take it out of your current view, but place it back in the folder from which it came (Inbox, SaneLater or other) the next day. There are also options for handling mailing list or bulk emails, and reminder services to ensure that you don’t lose track of important messages you send and need a reply on.

Sanebox works with any IMAP, WebDav or Outlook Web Access email service, including services like Fastmail, GMail, Yahoo! Mail, iCloud and Exchange. It is a very versatile service

Sanebox has been around since 2010. Since then other providers have launched similar functionality, most notably Apple with their VIP mail in iCloud, and Google with their Priority Inbox feature. Sanebox has continued to offer a paid service against these powerful newcomers.

The ability for Sanebox to meet its goal of brining sanity to your email is perhaps demonstrated best by what happens when it has brief, unfortunate, outages. For only the second time I can recall in the year or so I’ve been with Sanebox, yesterday there was a significant downtime – about 10 hours. The Sanebox team communicated through Twitter and today followed up with a blog apology for the Sanebox outage and an email from the CEO.

I am an advocate for the concept that the true test of a service is not what happens when everything is plain sailing, but how issues are dealt with when faced. In this regard, there are two thoughts I want to share.

Firstly, my experience during the outage was not a loss of my email, but a loss of the behind-the-scenes filtering. Thus I lost no email, but had a much fuller inbox. It was a significant reminder of just how much of an incredible difference Sanebox makes to my email experience.

Secondly, the Sanebox response was great, with the blog post and an email from the CEO that:

  1. Admitted the problem
  2. Discussed the caused
  3. Outlined actions to avoid future occurences
  4. Provided compensation in the way of a free week of service to Sanebox users.

Two major outages in a year, totalling less than 20 hours, equates to an uptime of around 99.8%. Problems do happen, and providers need to learn from them and improve, just as Sanebox appears to be doing.

My annual renewal for Sanebox is a few weeks away. I’ll have no hesitation in renewing, based on the awesome difference Sanebox makes in my email experience, as well as the way they handle issues.


  1. Affiliate link. Thanks in advance 😉  ↩

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