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SaneBox’s Blackhole Feature Can Be Your New Email Gatekeeper

I’ve been around the bend and back with different email apps and services over the last few years. HEY kicked off the experimentation and introduced the Screener (a feature for filtering out email you don’t want in your inbox), large file sharing, separate silos for receipts and newsletters, and more. Other email apps jumped on board with some of these specialty features — Spark introduced the Gatekeeper (same idea as the Screener), priority email (same idea as separating out receipts and newsletters), and now has loads of AI features built in.

Of all these cool new email features, the original Screener idea is my favorite of the bunch. I like the ability to separate out the cruft from email I have to act on. I like having receipts arrive in a specific spot for quickly scanning through later. I like being able to check my screened out emails occasionally in case something important came through that I missed.

But paying the price for HEY or Spark just for the Screener/Gatekeeper feature is a tall ask. You can create these email rules manually if you’d like, all for the price of your attention and time. Or you can try SaneBox for applying these sorts for features to your email service of choice.

SaneBox provides a number of subscription options for applying specific features to your email organization system. Some of these features include:

  • SaneBlackHole — For triaging your unwanted emails and newsletters in one spot without notifying you of their arrival.
  • SaneReminders — For snoozing emails for a future time.
  • SaneNoReplies — For reminding you to follow up on emails you’ve sent that haven’t received a response.
  • SaneCC — For emails you’ve been CC’ed on.
  • SaneNotSpam — For emails that end up in your Spam folder but may be important enough to be in your inbox.

Each feature is “trained” as you work through your email. When an unwanted email hits your inbox, you can simply move the email into the SaneBlackHole folder and that email sender won’t hit your inbox ever again. You can also forward or CC your emails to any of Sane’s customized email addresses to snooze, send later, and more.

In short, SaneBox is a more manual service that provides those specialty HEY or Spark features at a fraction of the cost, for whichever email provider you choose, and inside any email app you want to use.

I’ve tried SaneBox’s BlackHole feature over the last few weeks as a way to replace HEY or Spark’s Screener/Gatekeeper feature. So far, it’s worked reasonably well.

To start, I dragged all emails that were in the former “Blocked” folder Spark created directly into the SaneBlackHole. This immediately trained SaneBlackHole to look for senders I previously wanted to avoid. From there, any new email that has hit my inbox that I don’t care to see in the future gets dragged into the SaneBlackHole, unlikely to ever be seen again. After a few days, SaneBox sends the BlackHole emails to the trash, freeing up some email storage space in the process.

I really like the fact SaneBox runs in the background, outside of the email app or service you’re using. Spark works like this as well to a degree, but accessing the Gatekeeper and other specialty email features are best done inside the Spark app. HEY’s features are most certainly exclusive to the HEY email app only. SaneBox opens up these features and folders to any email app you want to use, as folder training is done simply by moving emails into the folders you want them to be in once, or by copying Sane’s email addresses for training.

The one drawback so far has been that SaneBox is slower to react to new email than Spark or HEY. If a sender I’ve previously relegated to the BlackHole sends an email, it’s normal for that email to hit my inbox first — and a notification hitting my iPhone or iPad — before the email is automatically moved to BlackHole.

Further, an unwanted sender shows up in your inbox the first time and you have to know to send that email to the BlackHole folder the first time yourself. Spark and HEY’s official features keep those emails from your inbox the first time and provide a special silo for you to triage those first-time senders. Having the little nudge the first time in HEY or Spark is certainly a quality-of-life feature that can be nice to have.

Overall, SaneBlackHole replaces Screener/Gatekeeper reasonably well. It’s easy to train, even though you have to manually train it. It works behind the scenes in any email service or app you want, and it’s available for a fraction of the price of the full slate of features (which you may or may not use) in other, more advanced email apps. I’m currently subscribing to SaneBox’s Appetizer plan for a whopping $2/month (CAD pricing) — far better than the $12-$15/month I previously paid for HEY or $75/year for Spark.

I may end up building out the list of SaneBox features as I go — you can subscribe on a per feature basis, which ensures you are getting what you want and what you are paying for. For now, I’m happy to report the coveted Gatekeeper/Screener feature is available regardless of your email app or service provider. At $24/year, I will likely be recommending this to my colleagues to help keep their email inbox sane.

Want to get a $25 credit towards Sanebox? Sign up with this link and save $25 on any subscription.

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