Chasing the Elusive Inbox Zero

Computer screen with envelopes flying everywhere in chaos.
Overflowing email is a very real threat. To my sanity.

Hast seen the Inbox Zero?

Herman Melville. Probably. If he had a Gmail account.

“Inbox Zero” is a new term to me. I learned it on Monday of this week, the same day I realized my Gmail inbox was Out. Of. Control. I know an empty inbox isn't as rare as Captain Ahab's very large and pale object of passion, but it is for me.

I've always kept emails, often as an aid to my poor-to-nonexistent memory for dates. Also because I'm a genealogist. And a librarian.

Card catalog drawers
“It belongs in a museum!” said me about everything I've ever owned.

As a result of that keeping mentality (Not using the word “hoarding.” That's hurtful.), I had 65,000 +/- emails in my Gmail account. We'll leave my work account aside for the nonce.

Let that number sink in for a moment.

Sixty. Five. Thousand. Emails.

That was roughly 10 gigabytes of the generous free 15 gig Google grants us.

I've searched in the past for a solution, without success. Clearly.

On Monday, either my Google-Fu was strong or I got lucky or Jesus was tired of listening to me complain about it. I found…a solution! (cue triumphant horn riff)

Note: This post now shifts to blatant commercial mode. Except this is just free publicity for the company. I don't make anything off of it. If you don't count happiness.

I found Clean Email. Clean Email is a web app available for desktop, mobile and tablet and works with a wide range of email programs.

Clean Email groups your emails into broad categories (Quick Clean, Auto Clean, Read Later, etc.) as well as filtered categories (Top Senders, Mailing Lists, Online Shopping Emails, Finance, etc.), which I find easier to manage. You can further filter by age of email, status, or starred. I use age of email almost exclusively. Then you can trash the group of 'em, mark to block, mark as unread, or even browse through and keep some. You can even unsubscribe right there in the app.

Good news/bad news:

My inbox is now at 28,551 emails.

I know that's still huge, but it's a bunch of percent less! (My calculator app makes it 43.9% less.) That's as of about 10:30 a.m. today, Thursday. I started, as you may recall, on Monday. Granted, the process is not quick. But it doesn't overwhelms me as going through them one by one does.

I'll write another post soon with some tips on using it.

Here's how I feel about the search for Inbox Zero:

“As for me, I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. I love to sail forbidden seas, and land on barbarous coasts.”

Herman Melville for realzies

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Welcome to the Gutenberg Editor

Of Mountains & Printing Presses

The goal of this new editor is to make adding rich content to WordPress simple and enjoyable. This whole post is composed of pieces of content—somewhat similar to LEGO bricks—that you can move around and interact with. Move your cursor around and you’ll notice the different blocks light up with outlines and arrows. Press the arrows to reposition blocks quickly, without fearing about losing things in the process of copying and pasting.

What you are reading now is a text block the most basic block of all. The text block has its own controls to be moved freely around the post…

… like this one, which is right aligned.

Headings are separate blocks as well, which helps with the outline and organization of your content.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Handling images and media with the utmost care is a primary focus of the new editor. Hopefully, you’ll find aspects of adding captions or going full-width with your pictures much easier and robust than before.

Beautiful landscape
If your theme supports it, you’ll see the “wide” button on the image toolbar. Give it a try.

Try selecting and removing or editing the caption, now you don’t have to be careful about selecting the image or other text by mistake and ruining the presentation.

The Inserter Tool

Imagine everything that WordPress can do is available to you quickly and in the same place on the interface. No need to figure out HTML tags, classes, or remember complicated shortcode syntax. That’s the spirit behind the inserter—the (+) button you’ll see around the editor—which allows you to browse all available content blocks and add them into your post. Plugins and themes are able to register their own, opening up all sort of possibilities for rich editing and publishing.

Go give it a try, you may discover things WordPress can already add into your posts that you didn’t know about. Here’s a short list of what you can currently find there:

  • Text & Headings
  • Images & Videos
  • Galleries
  • Embeds, like YouTube, Tweets, or other WordPress posts.
  • Layout blocks, like Buttons, Hero Images, Separators, etc.
  • And Lists like this one of course 🙂

Visual Editing

A huge benefit of blocks is that you can edit them in place and manipulate your content directly. Instead of having fields for editing things like the source of a quote, or the text of a button, you can directly change the content. Try editing the following quote:

The editor will endeavor to create a new page and post building experience that makes writing rich posts effortless, and has “blocks” to make it easy what today might take shortcodes, custom HTML, or “mystery meat” embed discovery.

Matt Mullenweg, 2017

The information corresponding to the source of the quote is a separate text field, similar to captions under images, so the structure of the quote is protected even if you select, modify, or remove the source. It’s always easy to add it back.

Blocks can be anything you need. For instance, you may want to add a subdued quote as part of the composition of your text, or you may prefer to display a giant stylized one. All of these options are available in the inserter.

You can change the amount of columns in your galleries by dragging a slider in the block inspector in the sidebar.

Media Rich

If you combine the new wide and full-wide alignments with galleries, you can create a very media rich layout, very quickly:

Accessibility is important — don’t forget image alt attribute

Sure, the full-wide image can be pretty big. But sometimes the image is worth it.

The above is a gallery with just two images. It’s an easier way to create visually appealing layouts, without having to deal with floats. You can also easily convert the gallery back to individual images again, by using the block switcher.

Any block can opt into these alignments. The embed block has them also, and is responsive out of the box:

You can build any block you like, static or dynamic, decorative or plain. Here’s a pullquote block:

Code is Poetry

The WordPress community

If you want to learn more about how to build additional blocks, or if you are interested in helping with the project, head over to the GitHub repository.

Thanks for testing Gutenberg!


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