AOL Alto Mail

AOL AltoImage credit: The Verge

AOL Alto: A new way to think about email

Yes, you read correctly, that AOL. What was once the most popular email service (You've got mail!) faded into obscurity after loosing market share to first Yahoo! and then later Google's Gmail, which has held it's place as the most popular free email client since launching in 2004. As a long-time Gmail power user, I've learned several techniques and implemented a number of plug-ins to enhance my email work-flow. However, with the rapid advance of web-apps and mobile technology, it always felt like there was a better way to manage this process. Paul Graham seems to agree with point # 2 in his essay Frighteningly Ambitious Startup Idea that email needs an overhaul or an outright replacement. Well, out of the blue, AOL has created a beta project called AOL Alto based around the concept of stacks and it's actually really good.

Stacks are digital manifestations of physical processes

Basically, stacks are similar to how you organize physical mail - bills in one pile, letters from friends and family in another and others for business and receipts. Alto automatically organizes and creates stacks from photo attachments, social notifications (think twitter messages, Linkedin update, etc), daily deals... And you can create your own stacks based on senders, recipients or even key phrases contained in the message. This helps with inbox zero by sorting and moving messages to the appropriate stack for you.

A way to utilize this for commercial real estate is to create a stack for each project so that all emails related to the project are automatically filled into the appropriate stack. It takes about a week or so to get stacks fully set up, but once you do, you'll find it to be a huge time saver. Another big plus is you don't need to create a new email address. You can log in with your current Gmail, AOL, Yahoo, or Apple address plus you can use it with more than one address, much like how mobile mail apps work.

Key Features:

  • 'Stacks' concept
  • Automatically organizes your photos and attachments
  • Quick compose or standard compose
  • Works with your existing Gmail, Yahoo, AOL or Apple accounts.

You can read more about AOL Alto over at The Verge. If you'd like to give AOL Alto a test drive, ping me over at twitter or leave a comment here and I'll send you one of my six invites that I have left.