My thoughts on Hey.com after using it 1 week

I just read the excellent post by MereCivilian talking about deciding against HEY.com after checking it out, and since I have a different experience, I thought it might be helpful to provide an alternate perspective.

I have been using HEY.com for a week and I’m 99% sure I’m going to sign up. The main reason is that it is saving me HOURS worth of email processing every week.

First of all, I should say that HEY is a very different email paradigm, and to get the most out of it, it does require buy in with the overall philosophy. HEY is not just an alternate email software, and if you think you can just use it the same way you’re using your current email client, you won’t like it. If you have complicated organizational and tagging systems for your email, you probably won’t like it. If you use email as a task system, you probably won’t like it. And finally, if you use email as an informational or recordkeeping system, you probably won’t like it.

The main two ideas that I see behind HEY is that 1) just because someone has your email address doesn’t mean they deserve your time and attention and 2) maybe we should think of email as more of a stream than a filing box.

Regarding #1: Obviously, many people who have our emails do deserve our time & attention. But email as a technology has become a monster. Our emails are bought and sold and repeatedly abused by 3rd parties. HEY starts off by gatekeeping EVERYTHING (similar to the concept of Caller ID on a phone). This is the opposite of what iCloud & Gmail filters and SaneBox do. They let in everything and then you have to set up rules to organize things (SaneBox being notably easier to do this than Gmail). HEY is designed around streamlining a workflow which surfaces emails which you have deemed important, while offering features that make it super fast and easy to process email – “processing” meaning retrieving what you want from the email (i.e. tasks and information) and responding where needed and moving on.

Regarding #2: HEY does not encourage or even really accommodate any idea of email-as-some-kind-of-filing-system. I think that will probably be the biggest sticking point for most people who consider it. I especially think this is a hard paradigm for a lot of people to shift away from given the metaphor of email as “electronic mail.” We think of it as something that needs to be sorted, filed and saved, rather than as an information feed.

That being said, it does require time to “train” HEY. However, I have found this super fast and easy to do, and after about a week of 1-2 minute daily training sessions, there is very little training left to do.

Things I LOVE about HEY

  • Beautifully designed, minimalistic, crazy fast interface. I used to use Gmail, but after using HEY for a week, opening Gmail is like :face_vomiting:. Also slow. SO slow in comparison. How many times I’ve opened a Gmail window to watching a spinning ball or had it crash on me.
  • Keyboard shortcuts everywhere. Even with Gmail shortcuts, I feel like I used to have to use my mouse quite a lot, but I can process ALL my email in HEY without ever leaving my keyboard. SO fast.
  • Focus and Reply mode LOVE it.
  • Ability to merge threads and change subject lines (which doesn’t affect the rest of the people on a thread). Like most of us, I correspond with many people who don’t know how to write a good email subject line. Well, now I can fix that.
  • No email tracking by default.
  • HEY is much more contact-oriented, so it has built-in features that make it easy to view everything from a particular contact or source without configuration.
  • HEY also makes it easy to see all attachments, or all attachments from a particular contact without configuration. As a web designer constantly dealing with clients sending me things or arguing about having sent me things, this is such a timesaver.
  • I don’t know why, buy HEY is just faster for me than the traditional email experience. I literally had hundreds of rules in Gmail sorting my email, flagging it and trying to make sense of it, but HEY just makes it super easy for me to focus on what’s important with email, and get out. I literally used to spend at least 2 hours every Monday and anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour or two throughout the week. Now, it’s like, less than a half hour daily. WORTH IT.

Things I’m not crazy about HEY

  • No way to autofile (i.e. tag/flag) based on anything other than sender. However, I have heard from support that this is a feature that will be coming soon.
  • No custom domains (reportedly coming soon).
  • No single all-sent-mail view (also coming soon, reportedly)
  • No signatures. (However this is easy to get around with textexpander.) Honestly, I’m not a huge fancy signature person. I kind of find them annoying. But I do like a short-and-sweet sig.

Hope this is helpful to anyone considering HEY. Oh, and here’s MereCivilian’s thoughtful post providing the (mostly cons) from their perspective (which inspired this post).

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A great write up and thank you for your kind words

I really envy you. I wanted HEY to work for me but sadly it doesn’t suit my workflow. I had to write the reasons down because these days its so easy to sign up for things.

People manage emails differently and I am glad the workflow HEY is providing is suitable for you. This is exactly the reason why we need different email solutions as people manage emails differently depending on their needs and the volume fo emails.

and I also prefer a small signature…

my one is:

MC

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MC is an excellent signature, LOL.

I think the most important piece from this post is you can process email faster with this workflow. Hey sets it up to enable this faster processing. It does put email into fewer buckets and I initially thought that would be an issue, but search, files and contacts eliminated it.

So…workflow: route new incoming mail into the right “folder” for normal processing, process the important email in the Imbox by reading, Replying, trashing, or read/reply later. Reply later with focus and reply. Read the rest of the emails at your convenience in the Flow folder and delete or save. Keep receipts, itineraries, etc. in the Paper Trail folder.

It is a smart workflow and if you are frustrated with email and the time it takes, this is worth a try.

If you’re not frustrated with how email works, Hey might be worth trying for 14-days, but probably won’t be appealing to you.

If nothing else, Hey is a great re-think of how email could work.

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Okay, I have to weigh in here on a tentative basis and say that after some reflection, I decided to give Hey a full shot and go with a snippet at the end of my emails:

p/s. You may have noticed that my email came from ___@hey.com. I’m trying out a new email service that is privacy-focused. You don’t need to change anything on your end, though. I’ll still continue to get email no matter which address you use.

Hey is working for me. Like @jmayhugh suggests, I can tell it’s a new paradigm because my ideas about what email is are changing. I’m not saying it’s perfect by any stretch, but I feel the interface better matches the reality of email – that much of it isn’t actually correspondence, but just information, and I don’t need to see most of that info the moment it arrives.

Right now, I feel like email requires less of my attention and that the things that matter will bubble up to the top. I’m also released from the impulse to achieve inbox zero because I can’t. That’s done something that feels, as best as I can describe it, like “relaxing” a part of my attention that was hyper vigilant before.

I reserve the right to completely contradict myself in the future. Until then…

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Same here! There’s always a sort of dopamine glow which imbues the experience of a new tool and tends to fade after a few weeks. If anything, this experience has highlighted to me some ways I could approach email differently, which is valuable. But I’m currently still really enjoying it, so we’ll see…

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Reading all your positive experiences about it is really tempting :smile: I think I would miss a crucial workflow part though: identifying when an answer to an email is a hold up to moving forward on a project. As far as I’ve seen there’s nothing anywhere in the system to either

  • Remind you to remind someone you are waiting for an answer on their part
  • Link to an individual message in Hey (allowing you to create a corresponding reminder in your task manager)

Which I think is lacking.

From reading the Hey FAQ, I think transitioning to Hey would be very heavy lift. I would have to “train” all my correspondents to use a new email address, and I would still have to use Airmail to manage all the other email accounts that I use for various purposes. Looks like Hey might be useful for someone just starting out, or starting with a clean slate, so to speak, but for now it looks more like an add-on than a replacement service.

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Actually, both of features are built in.

There is a thing called “Set Aside” which I have been using for remind me that an email thread is waiting on some action and will need to be referred again to later. It puts all of these emails in a visual stack on the lower right of the screen. This works for me because I never have more than a handful of these type items at a time. You could also create a tag for these, if you didn’t want them to be visually in front of you. I actually really like the stack concept because it keeps all of these unresolved threads top of mind.

Secondly, all emails & threads have their own unique URL. This is the critical for my system, because I try my best NOT to leave “to dos” in my email. If there is a follow-up action required, a keyboard shortcut puts the email URL into my task system and then it’s “done.”

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Yeah, that’s a big drawback that is probably going to be their biggest detractor, in terms of converting people. I believe domain email is coming at some point, but who knows when that will be.

Since I just use Gmail, it’s not a huge issue for me. Right now, I’m just forwarding in all my Gmail to HEY. Forwarding puts the original Gmail address in the CC line, so correspondents just reply to my HEY email and don’t seem to notice or care about the additional address. I think I might leave it this way for now, because it also leaves a backup of everything in Gmail. It’s functional, but the clunkiness of this system is slightly cringy.

Ah, if messages all have a unique URL then it’s trivial to pipe them into a task manager. Thanks for pointing that out. (I really dislike the Set Aside stack for that use – it does not differentiate between info you want to keep near, replies you’re waiting on and such… I like to process things and know exactly where they are supposed to stand; piping all messages through OmniFocus archieves that.)

I can’t seem to find this in the app. Or is it only when used in the browser? I’ve got another week or so left on my trial, and really enjoy the service, but the inability to link or otherwise send to other apps would change my mind quickly.

Ah, yes. That’s how I primarily use it. When I’m on my phone and I need to save something, I just use the Set Aside feature. Hopefully they will incorporate the share sheet on mobile soon.

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In the app, if you right click when you’re in a message, there’s an option “Copy Page Address.”

Clearly I’m doing something wrong. Are you talking about iOS? I’ve tried to long press on the iPhone, but get no context menu. And in Safari on the Mac, I just get the standard browser context menu.

Ahh, I must have misinterpreted what you mean by “app.” I’m re-reading it now, and guessing you meant iOS app. I was thinking you meant the macOS app.

In Safari, you’ll have the url right there to use, but in the macOS app, there’s no obvious URL but a right click will get you one.

I just poked around in the iOS app and don’t see a way to get a URL.

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Just FYI, the Basecamp/Hey founders did a Q&A on Youtube the other day where they discuss many of the questions that have been asked here.

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One of my experiences that quite differs from DHH’s is how he says he’s only gone in a few times in the last several months to look for old emails. I find myself going back to Mail several times a day to reference old emails. I’m imagining this is partly friction from the recent transition, but still, I think Hey undervalues email history.

One piece of software I feel does particularly well with this is Mailmate. I love the “correspondence” view that shows you a history of your emails with a person and also lists how long it’s been since those emails were sent. Seeing this history gives email a context it otherwise would not have, and allows you a rare view into the communication (and potentially, the relationship) you’ve shared with that individual.

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Never used Mailmate, but that sounds pretty cool.

This is the most helpful report I’ve read on Hey email. Thanks so much for writing it!

I’ve got an account but can’t really use it until it supports replying from the address sent to. I hear that’s coming too…

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