Email as To-Do

Taking a leaf out of Pivotal’s design notebook, and inspiration from Paul Graham’s hatred of e-mail, I’m drawing up designs for an email client that basically treats your emails as elements of several related to-do lists. The basic workflow is this:

  • You get an email. It goes into a list of emails that haven’t been dealt with in any other way.
  • Several other lists are also on the page, such as "Important", "Work", "Family", etc. Each list is defined by a filter, or set of filters.

    You can drag and drop emails between lists. Doing so applies the list’s filters to that email.
    You can assert that all emails similar to one or more selected emails should be filtered in a certain way.

  • Several lists are visible side-by-side on the page.
    You can edit which lists are visible, or add new lists.

Why is this awesome? Because email is just a giant to-do list, that anyone can add things to. We phrase requests and replies as traditional letters, but really, it boils down to "read me!", "respond to me!" and potentially "follow the directions I contain!". Providing better ways to consume its data, and decide how to tackle this to-do list, is something I’ve wanted personally for a while.

Of course, I won’t pitch it as "email as to-do" list, because the only way what I’ve suggested really differs from every major email client is that you can view multiple inboxes side by side, and drag items between them. I’m changing the interface, so you can organize your emails more easily. But email basically remains email.


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