The content of this blog is my personal opinion only. Although I am an employee - currently of Nvidia, in the past of other companies such as Iagination Technologies, MIPS, Intellectual Ventures, Intel, AMD, Motorola, and Gould - I reveal this only so that the reader may account for any possible bias I may have towards my employer's products. The statements I make here in no way represent my employer's position, nor am I authorized to speak on behalf of my employer. In fact, this posting may not even represent my personal opinion, since occasionally I play devil's advocate.

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Friday, July 29, 2016

Zero breaks "swiping up"


The original Zero app, with its triage mode that allowed you to swipe up to archive email was great.

But updates to the Zero app broke thus triage mode. At the moment the Zero app is just yet another yawn inducing email app. It will not be worth using, installing, or purchasing until they fix triage mode so that you can swipe up to archive.

Swiping up/down is significantly more efficient than swiping left/right because humans have opposable thumbs.


My original review of Zero is below. When Zero first came out I gave it 5 stars. I would have paid 50$ or more if Zero had ActiveSync support to allow me to use it with my company's Exchange servers (IT disallows IMAP).

But every few months they update Zero, and every time they update Zero my rating goes down. I haven't used Zero in months. I really should give" it the lowest possible rating, 1 star (zero stars if possible), but I give it 2 for now because I hope it may go back to being worth using. I try every update, but give up disappointed.

Here is what I like about the original Zero app: triage mode. A mode where you see one email, and can swipe up to archive it, or do something else (back then, hit star) to keep it in your Inbox marked as read. Swipe left to look at in more detail, etc.

Indeed, before using Zero on iPhone I used a similar app called Triage on Android. Similar "swipe up to archive" interface.

This "swipe [up] to archive interface" allowed me to empty my Inbox quickly. One quick swipe, rather than tap to read, hunt for a button to archive or otherwise handle. One easy swipe, rather than a lot of finicky small movements. Speed is proportional to ease of UI action.

Sure, the original Zero had shortcomings: My main complaint was lack of Exchange ActiveSync support. Also, I want to use this triage "swipe to process" on other mail folders: e.g. I have rules to sort mail into high and low priority bins, and for different projects and clients. It simplifies time tracking when I am not mixing mail from different projects. Plus, better standard mail tools, like move or copy to folder.

But, even without those, the original Zero was useful. Unfortunately, the updated have removed the feature that made Zero special.

Zero's updates have, for the most part made Zero more of an ordinary email app. Better rendering, different buttons, swipes in the message list. Not bad, but I can't see any reason to use Zero rather than another mail app. Originally, I used Zero's triage mode, and then switched to another app like Outlook to do non-triage email processing (also to read email in the rule based folders that Zero's triage mode cannot access).

Unfortunately, from my point of view Zero's updates broke triage mode. :-(

Sure, the updated Zero still has triage mode. Plus, it has more swipe actions: swipe left to archive, right to keep. (As opposed to swipe up to archive in the old Zero. Also, the new Zero has no swipe up or down)

In some ways the new Zero is more symmetric: swipe left to archive, right to keep, as opposed to the old swipe up to archive, tap a star icon to keep.

Unfortunately, it turns out that swiping UP or DOWN is important for the most frequent actions. At least for me - and I suspect for many other users. Something similar arises in apps like FlipBoard - a rather successful app, whose initial success was largely due to swiping up or down vs left to right.

On an iPhone held in your hands, one or two handed, swiping up or down with your thumb is faster, easier, less muscle strain than swiping left or right.

Swiping up or down uses the big joint at the base of the thumb, and the big muscle that "swings" the thumb. Eg imagine holding your hand out, fingers splayed, and swing the thumb to the other fingers, or across the palm. I.e. the muscle that gives us the opposable thumbs that are so important to our success as the human species.

Whereas swiping left or right requires bending the thumb at the joint closest to its tip. Finicky small muscles. Muscle strain inducing movements.

Like many people, I suffer from thumb strain, and from other RMS problems. Swiping up or down reduces such strain. Swiping sideways increases it.

Swiping up or down also allowed me to change which thumb was doing the swiping. Swiping left or right means that swiping away gets stressed on the right thumb, swiping in gets stressed on the left thumb.

Swiping up turns out the be slightly easier than swiping down - the hand grip strength, versus the jam that rock climbers use to stay in a crack. But up or down is 2-4x less stressful than left or right. So swiping up should be used for the most common action, down for the next most, side to side for less common.

If you are able to hold your phone so that the big joint of the thumb is directly beneath the home button, you can swipe side to side easily. Most people cannot do that. Similarly, if you lock the phone on portrait mode but hold it in landscape mode, your thumbs can actually swipe up and down although the app thinks they are left/right. But you have to be able to read text sideways to do this.

This may seem like a small thing, but it is not. Reducing stress, and allowing email processing to be done quickly is important. I doubt that Zero will be useful to me until they restore the ability to swipe up to archive.

Until then, I actively recommend most people do NOT use Zero. I regret purchasing it. At the moment Zero is just yet another yawn inducing email app.

Triage mode is the thing that made the Zero app worthwhile. But they broke it. I hope that they fix it someday.

--- my original review
--- unfortunately no longer applies

I love Zero. Helps me keep on top of my email, approaching elusive "Inbox Zero". Only problem is that Zero does not use ActiveSync, so I cannot use it for work. I emailed the developers a few minutes ago saying I would pay 50$ if Zero supported SctiveSync. 50$ in a world of 5$ apps - that is how much I like Zero!!!!


Andy "Krazy" Glew said...

Frustrated by the latest Mailbox Zero.app update, I went looking:

First I found the Triage program that I used to use - I think on Android(?) Anyway, I installed it on iPhone, and I emptied my Gmail Inbox over lunch.

Yes, confirmed: swiping up to archive and down to keep is MUCH faster than swiping sideways.

Triage.app has its problems.

E.g. I switched from Triage to Zero because Triage had reliability problems. It kept crashing, losing email I was about to send. Hasn't crashed yet since I re-started using Triage. I hope that they have fixed the bugs.

E.g. Triage's triage mode does not understand HTML email, whereas Zero's does. You have to click through into a HTML-capable reader. Nevertheless, I can do a lot of filtering with what Triage provides.

E.g. Triage's triage mode does not have undo. So if you archive something that you meant to leave in your Inbox, it is a paibn to gdt it back. (Zero.app has undo).

Like Zero.app, Triage.app's triage mode can only be used on your Inbox. Which loses if you have rules that already sort email into different folders.

But even with these problems, I am happy to use Triage.app, since Zero.app has become useless.

Andy "Krazy" Glew said...

Yes, I know that thumbing up/down is nice for vertical scrolling.

What I really want is something easy. Something that does not cramp my thumb.

Surely you can distinguish a fast swipe to one of the corners from a slower swipe to scroll?

Failing that, I would be happy to give up vertical scrolling just to make triage easier - to have to get vertical scrolling by clicking through to a conventional view of the email.

Andy "Krazy" Glew said...

I find Flipboard in portrait mode, mainly because of the vertical swipes.

On Android I often wanted to read articles in landscape mode - but gave up because the horizontal swipes were too painful.

Sure, Flipboard originally had reasonable content - although now it seems to be full of ads, and much stuff that crashes.

But it was the UI, the vertical swipes, that made me user Flipboard in the beginning.

Andy "Krazy" Glew said...

I have been meaning to write an article "Google has AI but no UI".

UI design could be data driven, if you sztart with the goal of helping users work faster.

Andy "Krazy" Glew said...

More looking around:

I am hopeful about the Geronimo mail app, which is described as "tossing" email into hot corners for customizable actions like archive, label, to-do. Also delete - which I assume I can customize to disable, and use that corner for something else.

Unfortunately, Geronimo is not on the US app store at the moment.

Andy "Krazy" Glew said...

Questions I want to ask any email app:

Let's see: I currently have 13 email apps installed, most of which are losers. And I have tried at least a dozen more. I am sick of having to install to answer a question that you should have posted.

What gestures do you use to archive email?

Swipe left/right up/down?

Do you have a "triage mode" like Mailbox Zero.app or Triage.app (or Geronimo).

I will only consider a new mail app that allows "swipe up to archive". As opposed to "give your thumb cramps by sliding sideways".

See http://blog.andy.glew.ca/2016/07/zeroapp-updates-break-importance-of.html

I am sick and tired of installing new mail apps just to find out what the swipe actions are. Each such installation is a security risk.

(Hey, here's an idea: a dummy install with a dummy message list for evaluation. So users don't have to buy or even give you their Gmail access in order to do a basic evaluation.)

While you are at it, do you do ActiveSync? Too many mail programs say they do Exchange, but don't do ActiveSync.

Can you handle folders?

Do you present the folders as a flat list, or as a tree browser where you can "click to open" subtrees?