Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

The market for iOS email clients has exploded in recent months, with new arrivals like Dropbox-owned Mailbox, collaboration software Sendgine and of course Google-owned Sparrow all striving to rethink, with more or less success, what email should be about.

Needless to say, I was immediately hooked up on Triage, a new kind of iOS email client software from Southgate Labs Limited, billed as “first aid for your inbox.”

To be clear, this app is meant to complement rather than replace your primary email client by helping you “use your downtime to quickly remove the noise and stress” in order to reach Inbox Zero nirvana. And boy does it succeed in achieving that objective…

First, you’ll need to set up your accounts in Triage.

Gmail, Yahoo! and iCloud accounts are supported right out of the box. In addition, support for FastMail “is coming soon” and you can also connect Triage to any standard IMAP service you happen to be using.

Enabling an IMAP account is a simple matter of entering your first and last name and providing your credentials. Triage will then communicate with the server and auto-discover optimal settings.

Once you’ve set up your accounts, prepare yourself for a mild shock.

Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 010)Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 002)

See, Triage is simplified to the point of becoming the anti-email.

Honestly, those on the lookout for a feature-laden app should start looking elsewhere – and that’s a compliment to Triage’s approach to email.

Triage’s user interface introduces a radical cards metaphor which replaces the traditional list view of your inbox with a stack of cards, each corresponding to a single message.

The catch?

You only get to see the topmost card.

Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 005)Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 009)

The approach forces you to drop your preconceptions about how email should be tackled. Instead of attending to a few cherry-picked messages, Triage has you dealing with your entire inbox on a LIFO basis, working your way down from the topmost card.

By sorting through your email chronologically rather than arbitrarily, Triage challenges your mind to adapt to reaching Inbox Zero.

It’s about reclaiming your email, your attention and your life.

Indeed, here’s the pitch from iTunes release notes:

Triage is for people who struggle to stay on top of their inbox. It doesn’t try to replace your desktop mail client, but lets you use your downtime to quickly remove the noise and stress.

To help you declutter your inbox, Triage relies on the iOS gestures muscle training.

Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 003)Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 004)

To archive a message, just flick it up. This will move the message to your default IMAP archive folder. Similarly, flick the message down to delete it.

Here’s a quick video of the flicking action.

Triage also automatically hides messages older than seven days.

You can additionally change the flick up action to ‘Delete’ or ‘Mark As Read’ in settings and choose to filter only the messages received in the ‘Last 7 Days’, ‘Last 14 Days’, ‘Last 90 Days’ or ‘All’.

Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 007)Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 008)

To reach Inbox Zero nirvana, first set Triage to display all messages.

On the downside, Triage doesn’t have a unified inbox. Although Google’s mobile Gmail app also lacks the feature, you’ll find yourself inevitably switching back and forth between multiple email accounts manually, which is a pain in the you-know-what.

In case you’ve been wondering: yes, Triage can both fetch and send messages.

Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 001)

Another missing feature: Triage doesn’t support folders or Gmail labels. I suspect this is by design, in an effort to shift your attention away from categorizing individual email messages and towards focusing on efficiently responding to the incoming messages.

Triage 1.0 for iOS (iPhone screenshot 012)
Screenshot via MacStories.

You also won’t find signatures, a weird omission as signatures are prevalent in email communications.

Our friend, MacStories editor Federico Viticci, sums it up best:

I’m sure Apple, the Sparrow team, or Google could have come up with Triage. But they didn’t. In a market that’s hungry for full-featured email clients, Triage’s focus is on letting you decide which messages will require more attention later, and which ones can discarded now.

Triage is based on a simple, efficient, and rewarding process that works by leveraging the iPhone’s most obvious gesture and one-handed operability. Unlike other new email apps, Triage doesn’t let you scan your inbox to turn messages into to-dos: it uses a one-message-at-a-time approach to see what’s up, what needs attention, and what can be kept for later.

I couldn’t agree more.

Triage has arrived quietly and already I’ve integrated it fully into my daily workflow, up to the point where I couldn’t live without the app anymore.

This just highlights how the traditional approach to email leaves a lot to be desired.

I’m just super glad smaller companies like Southgate Labs are seizing their opportunity to innovate in this seemingly dull space.

Unfortunately, Triage isn’t a free download: it will run you two bucks a pop.

If it’s any consolation, the software is worth every single cent.

If you’re dealing with ton of email messages on a daily basis, Triage is a no-brainer – even more so to people who are not stuck in the old ways, ones willing to adapt their process to working through their inbox with gestures.