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Deadlines brought to life: the calendar in our emails

Each email is associated to one date only: its sending time. But how many time-sensitive events can that email contain?

Time flies when you’re having fun. But it also flies when you’re dealing with the clutter in your inbox. And as more time flies, it gets harder and harder to recollect when exactly you received such-and-such emails. Email clients aren’t much help either: if you can’t avail yourself of search keywords, there’s no option for a sort of “timeframe” browsing.

And this is merely the “where from” side of the calendar. For almost every one of these, there’s a “where to” in the form of deadlines, meetings, and other assorted forms of time-setting. Extracting calendarization details from an email is something best done in a timely fashion. After the relevant email has plunged down your archives, finding out a date associated with a certain task is in itself a timesink. Often, a project has its deadlines settled in the early stages of correspondence – and other times, these are defined at odd intervals throughout the conversation.

These two pains find themselves linked by causality: you can’t be sure when a task is due, because you can’t remember exactly when in the correspondence you committed on it. The easy visualization and intuitive design of a timeframe inside which you could browse all correspondence is a breakthrough that’s as necessary as it is easy to make. On the other hand, the same logic that correctly formats any dates we type into emails should be able to temporarily store that nugget of data until you’re done writing. After sending, you would be given the option to accept, label or dismiss these detected dates.

Integration with dedicated calendar plugins is nothing new in the email landscape. But they all seem a bit too rigid and demand the presence to anticipate that certain data will be very valuable in the future. We all could use a little help from our electronic little helpers.