SaneBox takes a jab at email management

When Gmail’s (s goog) Priority Inbox feature was unveiled last August, I was optimistic that it would solve all my email woes. It promised smart sorting and prioritization to separate the most important messages from the fluff. Unfortunately, Priority Inbox left me feeling more disorganized than when I had fifty new messages to sort in one big pile so after just a couple of weeks, I disabled it.

Today, I stumbled across a new prospect for email management, SaneBox, which can automatically prioritize and sort email. Could this new hopeful mean the end of email insanity, as it claims? Time will tell, but it looks very promising.

Works with all providers

SaneBox works with most email services that use IMAP or WebDAV, including Gmail, Apple Mail (s aapl), Microsoft Outlook (s msft), Yahoo Mail (s yhoo), and Mozilla Thunderbird, so you can keep your current email address and software. It works within your current email program by accessing your account and adding unique folders for sorting.

Better layout than Priority Inbox

SaneBox seems to work a lot like Priority Inbox, except that sorting takes place using folders instead of using a multi-section layout, which I think makes it easier to compartmentalize and maintain focus. With Priority Inbox, you see all messages in the same pane, making it tempting to jump around or check out less important emails. With SaneBox, you view one folder at a time, and other messages are displayed as a count within your sidebar.

Smart, easy sorting

When you sign up for an account, SaneBox takes your most recent 5,000 messages and sorts them. All other messages are sent to the archive. The most recent emails are then sorted, based on importance, to either your inbox or to a “SaneLater” folder. As you go through your messages, you can drag and drop messages that you’d like to process later into folders such as “SaneTomorrow” or “SaneNextWeek.”  They’ll automatically be moved back to your inbox at the appropriate time.

Simple tweaks and adjustments

SaneBox learns from your actions. You can sort mislabeled messages into the folders where you would like them to go, so for instance, if you get mailing list emails, you can have them sent to your “SaneLater” folder instead of your inbox, or you can send them to the “SaneBlackHole,” if you would prefer not to see them at all.

This functionality works in reverse, too, so if you see that an important message got sent to the “SaneLater” folder by mistake, you can drag it to the inbox so that it gets a higher priority with future sorting.

SaneBox refers to these adjustments as “trainings,” which you can access and adjust within your control panel at any time. (Side note: Afraid you got a little trigger happy? Go to the “trained contacts” section of your account and remove any rules you’ve set so that emails are filtered based on the original settings.)

Added features to improve workflow

The main sorting capabilities of SaneBox make it worth a look, but there are several added features that help to improve workflow and email management, including:

  • Social network refinement, which helps to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of sorting, based on the strength of relationships and connections within social networking platforms.
  • Spam folder monitoring that acts more like a temporary black hole, rather than a permanent one like other email programs.
  • Multi-level email importance, which allows you to organize emails into five levels to maximize your workflow.
  • Encryption and “outside-the-envelope” examination of messages (SaneBox does not read your email) so that sensitive information remains protected and private.

A monthly subscription costs $4.95 and the app comes with a 30-day trial.

What tools and tricks do you use for managing email overload?

Photo courtesy Flickr user Evil Erin