Inbox Heroes

Inventive new tools aim to eliminate e-mail clutter

Illustration by Todd Detwiler for TIME

Once upon a time, back in the era of AOL's cheery "You've got mail!" alert, receiving e-mail was a pleasant, even welcome experience. That was then. Now our inboxes buckle under the weight of an ever expanding morass of messages--many of which are ads and notifications sent by relentless machines rather than fellow human beings. Last year the average business user dealt with 110 messages a day, according to the Radicati Group research firm. These days, the best thing about e-mail isn't getting it. It's getting rid of it.

For years, e-mail software didn't change much to reflect that ugly reality....