8 Reasons to Love Dispatch

Two days ago, we witnessed the release of Dispatch: Action-Based Email, a new iPhone app that is built to make processing emails on your iPhone a lot easier. It is built based on Merlin Mann’s idea of Inbox Zero, which encourages you to process each of your emails by either deleting it, archiving it, deferring it, generating an action from it, or responding to it in less than two minutes.

After using the app for the past two days, I can testify that Dispatch tries to mimic this principle in the best ways possible. But, before I lay out the reasons why I think you might love Dispatch, I thought it might be a good thing for you to take a look at the following demo video from the developers:

1. Supports Multiple IMAP Accounts

Dispatch fully supports IMAP email accounts, not just GMail. Hence, it supports email accounts hosted on Google Apps, iCloud, AOL and Yahoo!. You can also set up Dispatch to process the inbox for more than one of your email accounts.

Once you have setup more than one email accounts, simply swipe left from the inbox view to switch between them. I’m looking forward to the days when the developers would add a unified inbox feature.

Swiping an email item to the right will reveal a set of five action icons: mark as unread, star, archive, mark as spam, and delete.

2. Gesture-based Actions with Undo support

Just like other modern iPhone apps, Dispatch is also designed to maximize the use of gestures to trigger actions for its items. If you swipe left on an email, you would trigger a set of five icons representing the actions that you can do to that email: mark as unread, star, archive, mark as spam, and delete. The app also lets you configure which action you want to trigger if you swipe all the way to the left. In my case, as in the default settings, it’s set to archive.

Each time you perform an action on an email, you get four seconds to undo that action by tapping on the big red button on the title bar. Once it disappears, you can’t undo the action.

This is what the default reply window looks like. Auto salutation and an option to exclude the original message is available. But, the email headers are folded on the top of the page, by default.

3. Designed to Reply Emails in the Fastest Way Possible

One of the key concepts in processing your emails is being able to respond to emails as quickly as possible. The developers have their own story of what inspired them to create Dispatch.

“Wish I could reply to my support emails on my iPhone with my TextExpander snippets.” - Junjie, the developer of Due.

To scratch this itch, the developers went ahead and started the project last year. Through Dispatch, you will see what kind of solutions that the developers have come up for this problem.

The first solution that Dispatch offers is adding a salutation automatically in your reply. By looking at the first name of the sender, the app automatically adds “Hi, ” into the reply window. This simple trick saves you time from having to look up the person’s name (if this is the first time you’re corresponding with her) and typing it correctly (especially if the sender’s name is a bit difficult to pronounce). You can modify this auto salutation template or turn it off completely if you choose to.

The second solution that Dispatch offers is hiding all the email headers, such as from/to/cc/bcc/subject fields, from the reply window. This allows you to focus on the contents and save precious screen real estate to hold the contents of your email. Once you’re ready to send the email, you can make a pull down gesture to unfold the email headers and modify them as you see fit.

The third solution that Dispatch offers is the ability to define most frequently used expressions into snippets and use them as you compose your email. To trigger the snippets, simply tap on the floating ‘{ }’ icon located at the bottom right corner of the compose window. It will open up a search view where you can search for the snippet that you want to paste by typing a few letters.

Instead of memorizing the snippet shortcuts, simply type a few letters and Dispatch will search for matching snippets.

4. You Don’t Need to Memorize Your Snippets

The snippets solution in Dispatch is a proprietary feature. It’s not the same as what you typically see in TextExpander or the built-in keyboard shortcuts on iOS. Both of these solutions require you to define an obscure series of characters to trigger the snippet. Then, you need to remember them and how they associate to the snippets you’d like to trigger.

In Dispatch, you don’t need to memorize these shortcuts. You don’t even need to define them in the first place. All you need to do is define the contents of the snippets and how you’d like to name them. When you want to trigger the snippets, simply type a few letters and Dispatch will automatically search the ones that have matches for the keywords in their names or contents. Dispatch already includes plenty of great email snippets that you can use and modify, saving you time from creating yours from scratch.

Even though Dispatch does not support integration with TextExpander, you can still import the TextExpander snippets that you already have. You are limited to text-only snippets, and you can’t import any snippets that have date/time calculation or fill-in fields. To import these snippets, you need to send the TextExpander snippet group as an email attachment to yourself, and have Dispatch open the attachment and install it. All snippets in Dispatch, including the ones imported from TextExpander, are stored locally in the app.

Dispatch makes interleave reply easy and beautiful.

5. Quick and Easy Way to Write an Interleave Reply

Another thing that you want to do when you’re responding to an email is to easily quote parts from the original email and to respond to them individually. Currently, there is no easy way to do this. Given the limited screen size on the iPhone, you don't want to include the entire email and scroll up/down to find what you need to address as you type them. Fortunately, Dispatch has two good solutions for this.

First, you can choose to include or exclude the original email in your reply. I always choose to exclude them, as I don’t like to be a part of a long chain of email conversation that gets longer each time someone responds to the conversation.

The second solution allows you to create an interleave reply. Simply swipe right to access the original email, select the part where you want to quote, and hold the selection until a popup menu appears. Select the quote action, and Dispatch will automatically import it to your reply with a proper indentation. You can immediately write your comments underneath it.

When you want to address another point in the original email, repeat the steps above, and you’d have another small chunk of the original email that you can comment on. Repeat this for as many times as you see fit. Replying emails has never felt this natural before.

You can choose what you want to do with your emails, including saving email attachments in Evernote.

6. Forces You to Process Your Inbox Only When You’re Ready

Staying true to its Inbox Zero principle, Dispatch really forces you to process your emails only when you’re ready. It doesn’t have push notifications for new emails. It doesn’t have any server architecture that hosts copies of your emails, preventing it from sending these notifications. The developers also don’t have any plan of doing it either. This prevents you from the urge of checking your inbox whenever a new email comes in.

This forces you to process your inbox in scheduled dashes. Instead of leaving the push emails always on, you can schedule three to six 15-mins email dashes throughout the day where you would process your inbox.

Dispatch can also parse the email text and recognize a home/office address, and you can have it shown on Google Maps.

7. Triage Email and its Contents to Third-party Apps

Dispatch helps you turn your emails into actions. This allows you to process each email really quickly without worrying that you would miss responding appropriately if you archive the email. To achieve this, Dispatch works beautifully with 14 other apps, allowing you to triage email and its contents to the appropriate apps.

Here are some of my most-common use cases for illustration purpose:

  • Save Email Attachments to Evernote. One of the main reasons an email stays in my inbox is because it has an attachment that I’d like to save for future work or reference. If you want to process the email on your iPhone and work on the attachment on your desktop, this is a bit difficult. Fortunately, Dispatch allows you to save both the email and the attachments as a new note in Evernote. Since Evernote is accessible in almost all platforms imaginable, this is a reliable way to store your mail attachments for future reference.
  • Save Links to Instapaper. If you have a subscription to great email newsletters such as Dave Pell's NextDraft, you’d probably encounter use cases where you want to easily save the links you want to read later to Instapaper without opening Safari, and archive/delete the email. Dispatch allows you to do this without even leaving the mail window, so you can continue reading the email and processing it like you would normally.
  • Create New Events and Reminders. Dispatch parses the text in your email and converts date/time information into a hyperlink that you can tap to trigger a share sheet where you can either create new events in your Calendar or add new reminders in Due or the built-in Reminder app.
  • Show Contact Easily. Dispatch also parses your email text to find contact information such as phone numbers, email addresses, and home addresses. You can use this information to make a phone call or a FaceTime call, send a message, and add them to your contact. My favourite feature is Dispatch’s unique ability to show the correct Contact entry given any piece of information. I’ve never seen any other apps doing this, and it allows me to easily grab other information from the Contact without having to search manually.

These are not the full set of integration features that you can use in Dispatch. You can find more information about this on their support page.

You can turn on/off the triage actions that you want to trigger for each context.

8. Integration with Mail Clients for the Mac

This is quite a surprising feature for me. For each actions that Dispatch sends out to other apps, such as Calendar, Reminder, Due, Evernote, Drafts, OmniFocus, and Things, it includes a link that allows you to go back to the original email. This is crucial because it allows you to safely archive the original email and trust your workflow.

For example, based on an incoming email, I could add a new entry on my Calendar to work on a report next Monday morning. When the event is due, I go to my Mac and work on that report. Once the report is finished, I can tap on the ‘message://’ link included at the end of the Calendar event to go to the original email, and start writing my reply.

This ‘message://’ link works only for the mail clients on the Mac, such as Mail.app and Sparrow. It works even, and especially, if the email is already archived.

Dispatch saves the email drafts locally in the app. A fourth tab with the Draft icon will show up on the bottom of the inbox view.


While Dispatch has a lot of great features, it also has several limitations when compared with the built-in Mail app. Other than the decision to exclude push notifications and support for POP/Exchange-based emails, here are some known limitations listed on the support website:

  • No support for attaching files or photos to new mails
  • No search function
  • No access to any folders (e.g. Drafts, Sent Mail) other than the Inbox
  • No access to drafts stored in Dispatch from other mail apps (drafts are currently stored locally and not saved on server)


Dispatch is not your typical mail app. It forces you to rethink the way you process the emails in your inbox. I’d like to think of it as an inbox processor, helping you to implement the Inbox Zero principles even when you're constantly on the go and can only have access to your iPhone. The fact that it doesn’t include Sent Items, Trash, and other folders really helps you to focus on processing your inbox as quickly as possible.

I really like Dispatch, and would highly recommend it to anyone who’s looking for the fastest way to process the emails in their inbox on their iPhone.

Dispatch: Action-Based Email is available for iPhone
Get it on the App Store: iPhone