A Mail Archiver user wanted to know if Mail Archiver can archive from Hey. I took this as opportunity to look at Hey which promises a new email experience.

Hey is from Basecamp which sells a project management tool of the same name. Basecamp had an altercation with Apple about in-app purchases for Hey. Basecamp didn’t want to pay the usual 30% for in-app purchases. See the article from The Verge. Calling Apple “gangsters” for sure is a way to make yourself friends.

What is Hey?

Here is how Basecamp describes Hey:

Email sucked for years. Not anymore — we fixed it. HEY’s fresh approach transforms email into something you want to use, not something you’re forced to deal with.

Like Gmail Hey wants to put your email more or less automatically into multiple bins:

  • The Inbox for your normal emails.
  • The newsletters are called “The Feed”.
  • “Papertrail” is for Receipts, confirmations, and transactional emails.

Giving the Inbox a new name of Imbox with an m surely makes a big difference (this was sarcasm).Hey inbox

Hey does the so much beloved hiding of interface elements. Both the Hey at the top and the “Me BW” are a menu.

The Hey menu:Hey menu

The menu looks like the toolbar that you would expect to be visible always.

At the top you have a searchbar. Then there are a couple of toolbar buttons. Both Reply later and Set aside are for different but similar piles to move emails out of the way.

Like Gmail Hey works with labels instead of mailboxes. I only have a label “test” here.

I love the eloquence of “Other stuff”. We will have a look at Screened Out in a couple of seconds. A trash kind of seems superfluous with this type of organisation. Is there an option to delete the trash? Who knows...

The Settings menuHey settings

I never understood why I should have a look at my own picture which surely is supposed to go at the BW placeholder. Anyways. We have some sort of settings menu there. Yup. Name and Photo does exactly what I thought.

You can set forwarding up in Forwarding Setup. As Hey doesn’t support IMAP getting your data into Hey and out of Hey is only possible with forwarding. Which is a totally stupid way to handle a lot of data.

Screener History gives you an overview over allowed and disallowed senders. “The first time someone emails you, you get to decide if you want to hear from them again.” Screened out emails are automatically deleted after 90 days. Do you understand the difference between screened out and spam?

If you have a secret code in an email subject the email doesn’t need to be screened.

You can export your emails and contacts to mbox format with Export Data. You emails don’t retain the labels. You didn’t expect that, though, didn’t you?

The Inbox

The Inbox looks like a standard inbox just more simple. As usual these days there is excessive white space in the window.

The cute icon in front of the single emails are a checkbox. You could see that at first glance, couldn’t you? When you click on the checkbox you get a similar but not identical toolbar like the Hey menu.

Is ignoring the same as screening out? Not sure. You can merge emails with different subjects to one subject with Merge. If you want to read multiple emails at once you can do this with Read together for the selected emails.

Other features:

A couple of new features actually make sense:

  • You can find attachments without searching through emails.
  • All tracking pixels in emails are blocked automatically.
  • You can add notes to emails.

The social media approach

Basecamp says about Hey:

HEY says let it flow! Read it, reply to it, ignore it, whatever — then just move on. HEY eliminates the obligation to archive or delete, and saves you the hassle of constantly cleaning up after yourself. Let time do the busy work for you, you’ve already got enough on your plate.

This is the modern way, modeled after social media newsfeeds. You don’t delete or archive a Tweet, a Facebook post, an Instagram photo, or a LinkedIn update after you see it. You just read it and move on. New stuff appears at the top, and the old stuff just gets pushed down over time.

Whenever I need to clean something up time will do it for me - not. No, emails aren’t like social media. I have an Inbox and my newsletters. After reading and replying to the emails in my Inbox I move the emails to the shelf or the customers mailbox. Similarly after reading a newsletter email the email is moved to the shelf for newsletters. I know that most emails users have a more complex workflow.

But what in this is hard?


Hey looks so much more simple than usual email clients.

I’m a self-taught developer. But I actually had a look at how interfaces are supposed to look and act. Interfaces should NOT hide their controls. I accidentally clicked on the Hey menu because it doesn’t look clickable. There is space enough in the window to show the controls. Checkboxes are supposed to look like checkboxes and not have silly icons.

The terminology for some of the features isn’t clear to me: 

  • What is the difference between screening out and spam? 
  • What is the difference between setting aside and reply later?

If you only get a low number of emails where it’s not important if you ever answer them or not then Hey is for you. If you have a more complex workflow and you actually want to see what you did and what you need to do then skip Hey.