When it comes to productivity and getting stuff done, email is both a blessing and a curse. Few utilities are as simultaneously distracting and helpful as an inbox that’s constantly inundated with new messages — some of them relevant, many of them not. Indeed, learning to ignore certain emails and concentrate only on task-specific messages is an essential part of effective time management. Now, though, a small group of app developers have created an application automatically allows only certain messages through.
The brainchild of Branko Cerny, a former Google employee, SquareOne works by connecting to a user’s Gmail account. After its initial setup is complete, you can then presort your email into assigned groups, or “zones.” Adding an email sender to a specific zone is accomplished simply by swiping an email message to the left. This brings up a series of preset categories that to which you can edit, erase, or add.
In action, the SquareOne dashboard routes incoming messages into their designated zones. Each zone can then be individually muted, sounding a notification only for messages from those senders who have been designated as priority by their category. Not only can the app ignore non-work related emails during work hours, it can also ignore work-related messages after business hours.
As you might expect from an app that prioritizes email messages, SquareOne has to be a bit of learning before it can work as effectively as advertised. Although there are some recommendation algorithms under the hood that make suggestions based off of the user’s past commands — it can learn to recommend all messages from a specific URL and place them in a certain work-related folder with top push notification priority, for instance — there’s still a bit of a learning curve here.
The dashboard is also manually driven. For users who frequently receive messages from new senders, this can mean having to constantly move email messages into certain designated zones for optimum efficiency. That can get annoying, but when compared to the nonstop hassle of having to scroll through an inbox stuffed with items of varying priorities, it’s a time-saving solution much like having a personal assistant.
One curious addition to SquareOne is its inclusion of a screen that pops up during initial configuration and gives the user individual statistics on their inbox, such as the average number of emails they receive in a month and their average response time to each one. It’s a neat little addition, one that’s probably there as an “FYI” to forestall any premature uninstallations — not an unwise move, considering the necessary setup time required to get the app to work effectively.