Boomerang makes Gmail do a few things you wish it could do on its own. The namesake feature sends an email back to you if your recipient hasn’t replied or opened your email by a time that you set. In a nutshell, Boomerang adds features to Gmail, many of them of great value to people who send hundreds of emails a week. For people who receive hundreds or thousands of emails a week, it’s not nearly as useful as Editors’ Choice SaneBox. Still, Boomerang has its place among productivity apps.
While this review looks specifically at Boomerang for Gmail, there is a similar product for Outlook and Office 365 from the same company.
Pricing and Plans
Boomerang for Gmail offers four tiers of service: Basic (free), Personal ($4.99 per month), Pro ($14.99 per month), and Premium ($49.99 per month). Teams get a discount for Pro and Premium accounts. For Pro, groups of three or more pay $30 per month, plus $10 per additional person per month up to 10 people. A group of six, for example, would pay $60 per month. The per-person rate goes down the more people you have on your team. For Premium, groups of three pay $120 per month, plus an additional $40 per person thereafter, again with more discounts for groups larger than 10. A team of five, therefore, would pay $200 per month.
With any of the paid plans, you get a free 30-day trial with no credit card required. If you choose not to purchase the service after that, you are automatically downgraded to the free Basic account.
Basic free accounts work with both Gmail and G Suite (formerly called Google Apps, usually used for business) addresses. With a free account, you get 10 message credits per month. One message credit lets you use Boomerang on one outgoing message. With paid plans, you don’t have to worry about credits and limits because there are none.
Basic accounts also come with the following features: send later, Boomerang reminders, response tracking, read receipts, click tracking, and Respondable, which shows a gauge indicating whether you’re using strong language choices to write an email that someone would read and respond to. I’ll explain in more detail what all those features do below. The Basic account does not include Boomerang mobile apps, the ability to attach notes to emails or create recurring messages, artificial intelligence applied to the Respondable feature, and a few other extras that you find in higher levels of service.
Next is the Personal account, which only works with Gmail, not G Suite addresses. It includes everything in Basic, but with unlimited message credits, plus support for mobile apps and the ability to add notes.
Pro accounts work with both Gmail and G Suite addresses. This tier of service includes everything that comes with the Personal account, as well as AI in the Respondable feature, and ability to set up recurring messages. You don’t get much more at this level, consider how much more expensive it is compared with the Personal account. The only big difference is the ability to use it with business G Suite accounts.
Finally, the Premium tier of service, which is quite expensive, has everything the Pro account has, plus Track by Default (which lets you set up custom tracking rules that apply to every email you send), a Toolbox feature that lets you further customize the Boomerang experience, premium support, and the ability to integrate with Salesforce or another CRM system.
It’s hard to gauge Boomerang’s value by comparing its price to that of other email assistant services because they all offer something totally different. SaneBox, for example, charges more than Boomerang for its lowest level of service ($7 per month for SaneBox Snack), but less for higher tiers of service ($12 per month and $36 per month for Lunch and Dinner, respectively).
ActiveInbox, which turns your Gmail inbox into a to-do list, costs about the same as Boomerang Personal: $49.92 annually for one person, which works out to be just $4.16 per month. Nudgemail is another plug-in assistant for email, and it costs between $5 per month and $20 per month, depending on the account type and features you choose. Nudgemail may be the closest to Boomerang in terms of what the two have to offer, and for my money, Boomerang is better.
Setup and Security
My contact explained that the date header is used to disambiguate multiple scheduled messages in the same thread. The Subject, To, From, CC, and BCC headers are used to display information about scheduled messages, in email notifications, and to display read receipt data. The size of the message in bytes is also used to ensure that the message is compliant with platform rate limits. All data is stored in an encrypted format. Furthermore, Boomerang does not store any header information for messages that you do not apply Boomerang features to. When asked how long the company stores the data, I was told that the information may persist in backups for an indefinite amount of time. Enterprise customers can choose to store the Subject, To, From, CC, and BCC headers in a one-way-hashed format.
When you install Boomerang, your Gmail won’t look any different at first. Compose a message, however, and you see a few new options at the very bottom of the window. Once you start using Boomerang features to send emails, you’ll also notice the service creates new Gmail labels called Boomerang Outbox and Boomerang Returned.
What Does Boomerang Do?
To get a real sense of what Boomerang adds to Gmail, it helps to look at its features one by one. As mentioned, the namesake Boomerang Reminders feature boomerangs a message back to you when you send an email and don’t get a reply by a date and time you set. In fact, you can customize a reminder even further. Instead of waiting for a reply, you can have Boomerang remind you about the message if the recipient never opens it by a certain time or doesn’t click on it. You can also set Boomerang to send you a reminder about a sent message regardless of how the recipient interacts with it.
After an email is sent and is being tracked, you can find a copy of it with status updates, such as how many times the person opened it and clicked on content in the email, in a new Gmail label called Boomerang-Returned. Those stats update roughly every 10 minutes.
While Boomerang offers read receipts, the email recipient is alerted to them and can turn them off, which is good for reasons related to privacy and transparency. More commonly email tracking uses what’s called click-and-open tracking, and usually it’s done in secret. If you’re the recipient, you don’t know that the sender can see when you opened the email, how many times you opened the email, whether you clicked on any links in it, and so forth. At least with read receipts the recipients can opt out.
Send Later is another key feature in Boomerang. It lets you schedule emails to send at a date and time you set. Recurring Message are similar, but they send repeatedly on schedule. For example, if you send out a reminder every Friday telling people in your office to wash their mugs and remove old food from the communal refrigerator, you can write it once and schedule it to send every Friday at 4 p.m. Outlook already has this capability built into it, but Gmail does not.
I like the ability to attach notes to a message you schedule to send using Boomerang, as you can add more context and information that only you will see about the purpose of the communication.
Respondable guides you toward using different language in emails that you write to make them more palatable to the reader. Respondable analyzes your word choices and the length of the email and subject line while showing you a few rating scales off to the side. When you edit your email, those scales adjust to reflect your changes. Respondable looks at word count, subject line length, and the ratio of questions to statements. With Respondable’s advanced AI features (which are for paying customers only) you also see ratings for positivity, politeness, and subjectivity. An email that closes with a question about getting together over coffee on a specific time and date, for example, will be rated higher than one that ends, “Please advise.”
Boomerang in Use
Using Boomerang, there were times when I felt like it would have been better named Ping-Pong. Send an email. Receive confirmation that the recipient did or didn’t open it. Look in the Updates tab of Gmail for Boomerang message that accidentally got shuffled there. Check the Boomerang-Returned label in Gmail for updates on messages that were sent.
It takes a while to get used to the return mails, where they go and how often they update. I don’t like them at all, but then again, I don’t send hundreds of emails a week. In fact, my whole strategy for reducing the demands of email on my life is to simply use it less. (I know it doesn’t work for everyone, but it works for me!) Getting more messages seems counterintuitive to “solving the problems of email.” I feel similarly about Nudgemail, an app that’s pretty similar to Boomerang. I’d rather watch for updates about the status of sent messages from a totally separate app. Give me an email marketing and tracking application over Boomerang any day.
Of course, a full-fledged email marketing tool isn’t for everyone, and it doesn’t meet the needs of people in small or micro businesses who chase their work through email but don’t necessarily run email campaigns. Promoters, agents, very small public relations agencies—plenty of people benefit from having a much more localized way to track email responses, or lack of responses.
It’s worth noting that SaneBox has some of the same features and functionality as Boomerang. SaneNoReplies, for example, is a folder (or label in Gmail) that SaneBox creates where it keeps track of emails you send that have not received a reply. I much prefer this option of keeping the emails in a separate space rather than having them reappear in my inbox.
What SaneBox brings that Boomerang does not is an automatic filtering of all incoming messages. Without getting into the nitty-gritty of how it works, SaneBox essentially learns which emails are important and which ones likely are not, and it sweeps to a different folder or label all the unimportant ones. You still get those messages, but they aren’t clogging up your inbox.
SaneBox has an excellent tool called SaneLater, which snoozes email. By “snoozes,” I mean it hides messages from the inbox and puts them back later. That way, you can still get important messages in your inbox, but you can temporarily keep them out of sight when they might be distracting. Boomerang just recently added a very similar feature. It used to be a separate product called Inbox Pause, but it was just added to Boomerang. The Pause option temporarily hides all incoming email messages until a time you set. It also has handy options so that you can create exceptions to the rule and send an automatic response to people explaining the your inbox is paused until, say, you return from vacation, a leave of absence, or just the weekend.
A Niche Service
Boomerang adds new tools to Gmail that solve the problem of scheduling emails to send later and tracking emails after you send them. It’s a little confusing at first and takes some time to get used to, especially because the end result is that you have more email, not less. It’s a fine tool if it does what you need, but I would suggest looking at all the available features in SaneBox before committing to Boomerang. The two tools share some overlap, but SaneBox simply fixes your inbox in ways you didn’t even know it needed fixing.
Boomerang solves a very specific problem in a slightly clunky way. SaneBox makes email better for everyone who is struggling with email in some capacity. For that reason, SaneBox is the Editors’ Choice among email assistance tools. But Boomerang is a perfectly fine option if it does what you need.