Email management app Mailbird has just added new functionality to its software, using a technique which flashes words one at a time on the screen so as to enable users to read their emails up to three times as fast, claims the team.

Mailbird now offers speed-reading functionality for emails


The recent arrival of a number of apps such as Spreeder and Velocity, which help people to read books and news articles faster, appears to mark a new trend. These apps use technology that flashes words one at a time on the screen, which apparently enables you to read text faster than when moving your eyes across a page. Boston-based startup Spritz, which developed its own speed-reading solution in 2011, is one of the leaders of the trend. Last month it raised $3.5 million in seed funding. Today however this type of technology is also available for emails, which many people nowadays spend several hours a day reading. Mailbird, a Windows-supported application originally designed to consolidate email management and improve handling productivity, which bears some resemblance to the popular Mac app – and Google acquisition – Sparrow, has introduced this new feature in order to save users time when reading long emails. Mailbird announced the ‘speed reader’ option on 21 April, claiming this new functionality will enable people to read their emails three times as fast as the current average of 200 words per minute.

Flashing words on the screen to make you read faster

To activate the feature inside the updated version of the Mailbird app and switch into the world of speed reading, users will be able to click a ‘glasses’ icon at the top of any email message. You can change the words per minute (WPM) rate to a level that feels comfortable, ranging from 100 -1,000 WPM. Most people would start out at 200-300 WPM, stepping up the rate over time as their speed-reading skills improve. The idea is to double your comfortable speed by forcing your brain to adapt. Most people are able to read at 600 WPM and still understand the content. Mailbird’s speed-reading option is in fact different from those designed for reading books or news items. Many emails for instance have headlined sections in the body of the message. Mailbird’s technology adjusts the WPM rate when it encounters this type of text, so as to allow you to grasp the meaning of the headline, by providing a headline or section break for a slightly longer period of time than the rest of the message. The app is available in free-of-charge or paid-for versions depending on the range of features the user requires.

Improving email-handling productivity

Up to now, Mailbird has been focusing on such email ease-of-use features as keyboard shortcuts, drag-and-drop attachments, integration with apps such as Google Drive, Dropbox and Evernote, quick previews, etc. CEO Andrea Loubier says she hopes integrating the speed-reading technology into the software will boost Mailbird’s appeal with small and medium-sized businesses and small work teams. Currently, the company has over 10,500 users for its email software, and is growing its paid user base at 50% month-on-month, with free to paid-for conversions running at 25%. The company, which so far has raised funding worth $800,000, is aiming to develop its product further so as to enhance users’ email handling speed and productivity. Mailbird is also working on building new features such as Wingman, a personal productivity coach. This feature tracks your emailing speeds, reports back to you and gives you personalized advice on how to increase your productivity depending on how you manage your email. It reminds you to stay in touch with important people you have not contacted in a while, sorts your emails to automatically put the most important items on top, and suggests temporarily removing less vital messages from your inbox so that they can be retrieved and read at a later time. 

By Manon Garnier