Gmail was likely your gateway drug to the other addictive products in Google's apps stash. Perhaps you tried Gmail in college, and before you knew it Google Drive and Calendar became daily habits, while you were also regularly using Google Music, News, and Photos.
If you have found yourself at the mercy of Google's myriad apps, then you have probably cobbled together a system that keeps them at your fingertips. Google provides a button on many of its apps -- including the Google homepage, Gmail, Google Drive -- that lets you access a panel of app icons. This panel, however, includes only a limited number of Google's apps, and each is opened in a new tab.
Firefox add-on Integrated Inbox places Google's apps -- along with some popular third-party apps such a Dropbox, Evernote, and Twitter -- under one roof. Which is to say, on a single tab. Integrated Inbox uses Gmail as a hub and lets you create a customizable, collapsible list of apps. Here's how it works:
Install Integrated Inbox and when you reload your Gmail inbox the add-on will take effect. You may not notice it at first because the add-on is rather stealthy -- careful not to mess with the look and feel of your Gmail inbox. But look closely and you'll see that it places a small settings button at the top of the page. (It's an open box that looks like a colorful version of the Dropbox logo.) And if your scroll to the top of your inbox, you'll see a line appear with the Gmail logo. To the right of this line you can click a button to access its settings or another button to collapse your inbox.
When you collapse your inbox, you'll get to the meat of Integrated Inbox -- the customizable list of apps that you can access from the comfort of your Gmail inbox. Each app on the list opens right within your Gmail inbox pane. Just scroll to the top of an app to access the button to collapse it and return to the list again.
Some apps don't quite conform to the limited space of Gmail's inbox pane, but you can tweak the pixel count of most apps to improve the layout via an app's settings icon. And you can simply drag and drop apps on the list to reorder them.
To add new apps, click the colorful box icon at the top your Gmail inbox and choose Settings. On the Integrations tab of settings you'll see two columns: Available Services and Your Integrated Inbox. You can drag each app (or click on its arrow icon) to it from one column to the other.
You see that some apps are available for free while others require a Plus or Pro account. The free account also limits you to only two integrated apps, while the Plus account provides a meager five apps. Pro lets you add an unlimited number of apps, and it also provides Cloud syncing and multi-account support.
A Plus account currently costs $29 a year, and a Pro account costs $49 a year, which seems a bit steep to me, but then again I have no problem with keeping 48 Firefox tabs open on a given afternoon (to say nothing of the number I may have open in Chrome). If you are more of the orderly type, then give Integrated Inbox a whirl. To get a taste, there is a free 14-day trial that does not require your credit card information.
Integrated Inbox is currently available as a Firefox add-on, but a Chrome extension is listed as coming soon.