Boxer E-mail for Android

I recently wrote about my travails with e-mail apps on Android but I wrote it too soon.  Using the default – least worst – e-mail app was stuck in my craw so I looked around a bit.  Imagine my surprise to find VMWare’s Boxer app in the Google Play store.  It does everything I need, as well as adding some nice features.

Boxer was an app that was acquired by VMWare.  That struck me as odd, although VMWare had also once owned the Zimbra e-mail server.  I’m not clear what angle they have for e-mail, which complements their endpoint management products but wouldn’t seem a requirement, but it’s likely to include a business-orientation that would benefit lawyers and other professionals.  Even in this version of Boxer, I found a couple of interesting features:

  • you can disable screenshots, so that there is no way for the device to capture a screenshot of your e-mail inbox or contents while the app is open.  That’s good for security and privacy.
  • you can view attachments separately from your email.  Boxer lists all of the attachments in a separate view, so rather than scrolling through a folder for e-mails with attachments, you can just scroll through all the attachments in your mail system.

You can select an attachments-only view from the main, left menu bar

Interface is Easy on the Eyes

Boxer’s user interface is pretty and light.  In fact, if you’ve ever used the default Android e-mail, there is a distinct similarity.  But it’s the nuances that set Boxer apart.  They include:

  • color coding of e-mails (along the right margin) by account, so if you use the combined inbox view, you can immediately see the different accounts by color, which you select.
  • sender initial, which can help to quickly focus on an e-mail from a particular person.
  • being able to flip from combined inbox to individual accounts (same as the default Android app) and then into the subfolders of those accounts (not something I could do on the default).  This is without leaving the combined view; you can also set a single account either as the default view or the default sending account.

Accounts are color-coded on the right margin, senders are marked by initial, and a small blue dot and bold text emphasize unread email

Backend Setup

This was critical for me, since the reason I was dropping the Google GMail app was because it would no longer allow me to accept certificates.  Boxer works the same way the default Android app does, so if you point it at a server that has an SSL/TSL certificate that needs to be accepted manually, you can do it.  This manual configuration access is still an important feature for me since I host my own email.

When I was setting up the Microsoft Exchange option, I was stuck for awhile.  When I originally set it up for the default Android app, the three pieces of information where:

  1. username:  dwhelan
  2. domain:  \dwhelan@lsuc.on.ca
  3. e-mail address:  dwhelan@lsuc.on.ca

But Boxer kept throwing me an error when attempting to log in.  In the end, I had to leave domain blank, and Boxer was able to configure the account.  Since this seems to be the creation of an underlying Android Microsoft Exchange sync account, I’m not sure why they’d be different.  In any event, it was one of those things that, once configured, I can forget about.

I’m thrilled to have found VMWare’s Boxer.  It’s the sort of thing that, you don’t know what you were missing until you see something new.  Enterprise business using the VMWare Airwatch Enterprise Mobility Management to control the BYOD endpoints will find a lot of very useful tools built into the app.  But I think any business person can benefit from the thought the Boxer folks put into the productivity and interface features of the app.