This is a post from my old blog before I switched to a garden model.

When Hey arrived on the email scene several years ago, I was interested in giving it a try. I had been using a “free” Gmail account with my domain (something I’m trying to move away from), so their initial offering that didn’t support custom domains left me waiting to give it a serious try.

A few years later, they added support for custom domains, and so I switched.

But after a year of use, I’ve decided to switch to ProtonMail.

What does Hey bring to the table?

Hey offers a different inbox experience with a selection of features that I found compelling. My email inbox has gotten out of hand over the years and I wanted to try to use the new tools that Hey was offering to get it under control.

First off, they split the incoming mail into three groups, the Imbox, the Feed, and the Paper Trail.


That’s not a misspelling, that’s what they call it. The Imbox is their version of the Inbox, but with one feature added on top, the Screener. Every email you receive gets ran through the Screener and if you haven’t received email from the sender’s address before, it sits there until you either approve that sender or reject them. You also decide here where a sender’s emails should go, the Imbox, the Feed, or the Paper Trail.

This is based off of sender, so it makes mailing lists annoying. Each new participant in a thread has to be individually screened in. I wish they had a way to say that everything going to a particular address (the mailing list address) should come through.

In principle this seemed like a nice way to keep things clean, but I found myself neither wanted to approve or reject some senders. I guess that means I should have rejected them. Maybe there was some fear of missing something important that stopped me. It’s similar to blocking someone on social media. I’ve never found the need and it seems like such an extreme anti-social step to take.

There were a few clear spammers or phishers that I blocked, but that was about it. I’d usually just wait until there were 20 or so emails in the Screener and just dump them all in the bin at once.

The Feed

The Feed is for things that are newsletters. Things you want to consume like a social media feed. I didn’t use this nearly as much as I should have, except as a dumping ground for all the newsletters I get.

In principle this seems like a good idea. Go to the Feed to get your daily dose of newsletters, but when you have an existing set of incoming emails that really just need to be pruned, it becomes a flood and a dumping ground that you never look at.

Paper Trail

The Paper Trail is where things like receipts and other transactional email should go. Things you don’t want to lose, but don’t need to look at every day.

Again, this sounds like a good idea, but because of the “filter by sender” that everything is based on, sometimes things end up here that shouldn’t be here. You can go in and filter more specifically, but it’s extra work to set up, and if you don’t look in the Paper Trail regularly, you don’t even know what you’re missing.

Quiet by default

This is actually a nice idea. By default things that go anywhere but in your Imbox don’t send notifications. You can opt-in a sender or domain to notify (which I did for a few newsletters I really didn’t want to miss), but having a quieter email experience is nice.

I don’t have anything negative to say about this feature, except that in what seems to be a common theme these days the iOS app doesn’t let you customize the notification sound. I absolutely hate this and don’t know if it’s a Apple problem or a problem with the individual app developers, but it sucks.

A boat-load of other features

There are too many features to list, and some of them I’ll really miss. Collections was really great and I used it often for larger projects to collect all the emails related together. You could do this with labels but the interface made it nice. Renaming subjects without breaking threads was great but not one I often used.

Hey also has a bunch of privacy related features, like blocking trackers, but Proton also has this, so it’s not a distinguishing feature.

So why am I switching?

The biggest reason? The UI is broken too often. Especially the web version. The iOS version seemed to be more stable generally, but so often on the web version a page would fail to load properly. It would be half finished in the JavaScript SPA sort of broken way. I even ran into this when I was trying to export my inbox.

They use infinite scroll everywhere, and it doesn’t work half the time. I would kill for a plain pagination option where the links keep track of where I was instead of being forced back to the top of a list when the page inevitably breaks and I have to reload it.

For a product I’m paying for, I expect more. I don’t expect to have to completely give up on using the Read Together feature because the infinite scroll broke and, yep I have to start over.

Why ProtonMail?

Mostly because they have a good security and privacy stance. If I’m going to pick a plain email provider, then I’d like to use one that supports encryption from the start. Of course, email in transit is insecure, but at-rest I’d like my emails protected.

We use email as one of the last lines of defence when it comes to verifying you are who you say you are on the Internet and I don’t want to leave that to chance.

They also have all the privacy features that Hey offers, like tracker blocking, so I’m not losing that.

They also provide email import tools, which I haven’t seen done before (I’m sure it exists). I can import all of my Hey emails (exported to MBOX format), as well as my old Gmail emails without cluttering my new inbox. The import tool lets you label them all and they come in as read and archived. I have too many records of things in emails I’ve received to just lose all that so that’s a big point in Proton’s favor.

As for organizing my email inbox, I’m going to take more traditional approaches. Unsubscribe to things I don’t want or need, use labels for things I care about. I’m not a fan of filtering things to places I won’t look (what happened with the Feed), so I just need to be serious about getting it under control.

Hey has a lot of things to offer, and I wish them the best. In the end though, they just didn’t work well enough to keep me around.