Thinking out loud.
Email has become much more than a means of communication. It's evolved into almost a personal database that holds messages, calendar invites, contact information, coupons, news, attachments and so much more.
Not a day goes by without me hopping into my email client and searching for important bits of information. What was her email? Where is that image? What was his last name?
I feel like an email client could do all that work for me. Or, at least make it easier for me to find things and optimize a workflow that includes discovery.
In addition to my inbox, add a section called People. Grab the signature information from someone's email and create an ad hoc contact. Pair it with Facebook, Twitter, Gravatar, etc. to add an additional layer of information, including a picture of the person.
Whether it's from email signatures or other bits of content, there are locations that may important coming through email. The ability to see these locations on a map and how they relate to their emails or contacts would be useful.
Calendar invites can get lost in emails. If information from calendar invites could be read and displayed in a temporary calendar with the ability to move those dates into an "official" calendar, that would be nice.
Images, documents, videos, audio and a bunch of other attachments fill up my inbox. Being able to view those attachments in a single view would be really valuable. Where was that image? It'd be much easier to answer that question.
Coupons, offers, deals and spam always make their way into my steady stream of emails. The ability to sort, filter and unsubscribe would allow focus on items that were relevant, while distracting items can be easily dealt with.
If someone asks me to do something, there's an opportunity to create to-do lists automatically. "Can you…", "Would you be able to…", and other phrases could trigger a to-do list. The separation of these tasks from email content means things are more likely to get done.
For the limited number of email newsletters I subscribe to, a mode that supports longer formats of content would be ideal. Like Reader, for email.
For previous years of emails, I'd like to be able to archive all that content. Perhaps with Dropbox.
What I'm describing here does not feel like a small feat to pull off, but having a system do the hard work for me means I can be more productive. Getting away from the search box and adding the ability to focus on important content feels like a win to me.