How many contacts do you have in your Gmail account? Probably quite a few. After a while, juggling all your emails becomes a hassle, and being able to find who sent what becomes more than just searching in a search bar. Etacts is an online extension to Gmail that treats your contacts as relationships, and helps to sort all the information in your inbox. I have only recently begun to experiment with the service, but it seems they just might be on to something here, and there are a number of features that I know would be invaluable for my and your everyday emails.
Installing Etacts is easy from the start. All you do is enter your Gmail (or Google Apps) email address, and it uses OAuth to automatically add the service to your Google Account. And browser extensions come in both Firefox and Chrome-flavored. I'd say putting everything together took less than forty seconds, literally. Once installed, the Gmail interface is not changed completely, but there are certain discrepancies you will notice, primarily when reading or composing emails, that come into play.
The first, and probably most useful, feature, is the "Send and remind me" button. Below the subject bar is a checkbox that allows you to tell Etacts to notify you if the person you are sending this email to does not reply in a certain amount of time. Not too long ago, a post asking for this feature appeared on my feed, and it is almost magical how Etacts appears with the service a week or two later. Being able to have an automated service remind you about unreplied emails means you do not have to manage that task while the person is replying. Rather than keep something on your to-do list, and have to constantly check if you got a reply yet, you can click Send and forget about it for a week or so, when Etacts will tell you they have not gotten back to you yet.
But the "Send and remind me" feature is only part of the service's added interface. When composing an email, double clicking on an email address in the To: field brings up an informational box showing all recent conversations, and even tweets pertaining to that user. The information grows when you go into a email that has already been sent. A sidebar gives graphs of emails sent or received to that person over time, as well as notes you may have written about that person. All of these features allow you to treat your contacts as interactive people, and to make Gmail, as Etacts puts it, a "relationship-centered communications portal".
However, what would a new startup be without its shortcomings. The main issue I have with Etacts is lack of integration. (Wow, not only has this problem occurred with Google internally, but now their third-party add-ons are not integrating.) Checking what emails are awaiting a reply requires opening up a new window with a different website, rather than take advantage of Gmail's AJAX framework, and load the list up on screen. So while it is simply amazing how much the service is tied in with Gmail, it could go a little deeper.
Other than that, this service has a lot of potential, and I highly recommend taking it for a spin, and see if it helps with managing your contacts. Hopefully we will begin to see more features in the future, such as integration with other services.