Today, everyone's favourite hip little mail app, Mailboxshuts down forever. Unlike most apps, you won't be able to use the Mailbox app at all once it does. Thankfully, a lot has happened since Mailbox shook up the email market when it launched, and there are other apps that can do most of what Mailbox used to do, arguably better. Image by Sam Woolley.
There's no such thing as a perfect Mailbox clone, but the only features you won't be able to get elsewhere are auto-swipe, which learns your swipe patterns and automatically organises mail, and inbox reordering, which lets your reorder your email like you would a to-do list. Otherwise, two free apps, Spark (iOS only) and the Outlook (iOS and Android), are most similar to Mailbox. Both apps include the important stuff, like customisable swipe actions, Dropbox integration and email snoozing. So don't panic. You can replace Mailbox easily enough with one of these. Here's how to set them up to work as much like Mailbox as possible.
How to Set Up Spark (iOS) to Work Like Mailbox
Spark (left) and Mailbox (right) suggest that all email apps have to be blue After testing a bunch of email apps on the iPhone, I found that Spark is the best replacement for Mailbox-lovers. It's pretty intuitive, has enough options that you can customise it, and it's free. Spark isn't quite as pretty to look at as Mailbox, but function-wise, it gets the job done. Once installed, you'll just need to make a few tweaks so it works like Mailbox. Obviously, you should pick and choose here: Mailbox wasn't perfect, and many of Spark's defaults are better. Regardless, here's how to get Spark pretty darn close.
Set Up Email Snoozing Rules
Spark's snooze function (left) compared to Mailbox's (right). One of Mailbox's big innovations was the option to "snooze" emails so they'd get re-delivered to your inbox at a later date. Now, pretty much every email client has this feature. Mailbox and Spark use different language for some of their snooze rules, but otherwise it's pretty easy to configure Spark to work just like Mailbox (we're assuming you're using Mailbox's defaults here, if not, change them where it makes sense):
- Tap the sidebar icon (the one with the three lines) in the top-left.
- Tap Settings > Snoozes.
- Under "Tomorrow", change the time 8:00 am.
- Tap the checkbox next to "Weekend" and change the time to 10:00 am.
- Under "Next Week", change the day to Monday.
Now, Spark should mimic Mailbox's default behaviour as closely as possible.
Make the Swipes Work Just Like Mailbox
Spark (left) shakes things up with an orange snooze template, while Mailbox (right) prefers yellow The one thing everyone loved about Mailbox was how you could just swipe through your inbox to organise it. Luckily, most modern email apps do this now in some form. Spark's default swipe actions are a little different than Mailbox's though. Thankfully, it's easy to change them: Tap the sidebar icon in the top-left corner, then the Personalisation button in the bottom-right. Tap the Swipes tab.
Now, you just need to change each swipe so they work the same as Mailbox. Here's Mailbox's default swipes so you can configure Spark the same way:
- Short-swipe left: Snooze
- Long-swipe left: List (this is called "Move" in Spark)
- Short-swipe right: Archive
- Long-swipe right: Trash (This is called "Delete" in Spark)
Now all your swipes in Spark will work the same as they did in Mailbox.
Customise the Sidebar with Mailbox's Options
Spark (left) sure does look a like Mailbox (right) Mailbox's sidebar had a simple layout: Inbox, Later, Lists, Archive, Trash, Spam, Sent and Drafts. You can make Spark look almost identical:
- Tap the sidebar button, then the Personalisation button in the bottom right corner.
- From the sidebar menu, swipe left on "Attachments" if you want to get rid of it, then tap "Add New".
- Tap Archive and add it.
- Tap "Add New" again and repeat the process for Spam.
All the other stuff you're used to seeing in Mailbox (trash, sent, drafts, and settings) is already in Spark's sidebar.
Change the Inbox Screen to Look More Like Mailbox
Spark (left) does things a bit differently with its navigation bar, but it still displays the same info as Mailbox (right) Mailbox's inbox featured your email alongside tabs to switch between Snoozed, Inbox and Archive. You can do the same thing with Spark.
- Head into the sidebar panel again, then tap the Personalisation button.
- Tap the Widgets tab.
- Tap Widgets Position and set it to "Top".
- Swipe left to delete the Calendar (if you don't want it there).
- Tap "Add New".
- Tap "Snoozed", then add.
- Tap "Add New" again, and tap "Inbox," then add.
- Tap "Add New" one last time, then tap "Archive", then add.
That's it, now the top tab menu has all the same options you're used to seeing.
Integrate Dropbox Links (or Other Cloud Storage App, for that Matter)
After Dropbox purchased Mailbox, one of the features the team added was Dropbox integration. Thankfully, if you use Dropbox links so you don't send huge attachments around, Spark supports it -- alongside a number of other third-party cloud storage providers:
- Tap the sidebar icon in the top left corner.
- Tap Settings > Connected Services.
- Tap the Dropbox icon (or Box, Google Drive or OneDrive), and enter in your login information.
Once that's set up, you can tap the attachments button in the email composition window and grab a file from the account in question.
Turn Off Some of Spark's More Annoying Features
Spark does a couple of things that Mailbox users might find annoying. For one, Spark has a strange quick reply system, and it also sends read receipts (which everyone hates). So, let's turn both off:
- Tap the sidebar icon.
- Turn the "Read Receipts" toggle to Off.
- Tap the Quick Replies button.
- Set the "Use Quick Replies" toggle to Off.
You're all finished Spark is set up as closely as possible to Mailbox, and if you're going to miss Mailbox when it rides off into that final sunset, at least Spark will be here to keep you company, and keep you productive. Enjoy.
How to Set Up Outlook (iOS/Android) to Work Like Mailbox
Outlook (left) prefers a darker blue compared to Mailbox's '90s-ish teal (right) Outlook doesn't have the variety of interface customisation options that Spark does, but you can still get a very similar experience to Mailbox. Perhaps most importantly for some people, Outlook looks the part with its minimal, all white design, so if that's what you liked about Mailbox, Outlook's for you. Plus, it's available on both iOS and Android, and it's free.
Turn Off Outlook's "Focused Inbox" So You See All Your Messages
Outlook uses a system called "Focused Inbox" that attempts to display the most important messages first. If you've been using Mailbox, then this can be a bit confusing. It's easy to turn off this feature and go back to a normal inbox though:
- Tap Settings in the bottom-right corner.
- Scroll down to "Focused Inbox" and set the toggle to off.
Now, your inbox will be just that, a normal inbox organised by time and date. However, the Focused Inbox is meant as a way to automatically shuffle the most important emails to the top, which works like an automatic version of Mailbox's sorting function, so it might be worth keeping it enabled if you liked that feature in Mailbox. Just remember it's on, so if you wonder where all your email went, you'll know.
Change Outlook's Swipe Actions to Snooze and Archive
Outlook (left) heard you really liked yellow for snoozing like in Mailbox (right). Unlike Mailbox, Outlook only allows you customise two swipes instead of four. While that's arguably a problem, most people only use two swipes anyway, and it's easy enough change what each swipe does in Outlook:
- Tap Settings.
- Scroll down and tap Swipe Options.
- Change the Swipe Left option to "Schedule". Schedule is Outlook's version of Snooze. You can't choose specific times, but you'll get a pop-up with plenty of options.
- Change the Swipe Right option to "Archive".
That should give you the basic functionality of Mailbox, though you'll be missing out on the long swipes to delete or move a message. Obviously, if you'd prefer to have one of those two options instead, go ahead and replace scheduling or archiving.
Integrate Dropbox Attachments (or Another Cloud Storage Service)
You can easily add Dropbox (which Mailbox users will remember), OneDrive or Box into Outlook. This way, when you tap the attachment icon, you can quickly pull a file from your cloud service of choice. Here's how:
- Tap Files.
- Tap the Add button next to your service of choice.
- Sign in with your account.
Yes, it's that simple. Now you can grab files and links from your preferred cloud storage provider when you attach a file to an email.
Neither Spark or Outlook are feature-perfect replacements for Mailbox. There are other email apps might suit your needs better, or that give you a specific feature you need that the others don't. For example, Inbox by Gmail has a robust Reminders and Snooze feature that works a lot like Mailbox, though it's not very customisable. Alternately, if Mailbox's ability to sort emails by importance was your favourite feature, our favourite email app on Android, Gmail, allows you to do just that thanks to Priority Inbox. If you don't mind shelling out some cash, Airmail (iOS, $7.99) features the same minimal interface as Mailbox and is incredibly customisable -- you can make it work identically to Mailbox. Airmail is still new though, and has some issues with reliability where Spark doesn't, but if you really want an app that looks the part and does much of the same stuff as Mailbox, Airmail's a great -- albeit paid -- alternative option.