The new free, web-based IMAP email client is aimed at combatting what AOL describes as "inbox fatigue", involving people having multiple different accounts.
Working similarly to products like Tweetdeck for Twitter, Alto does not require a new email address, but rather provides a platform for users to bring together their existing accounts in one place, including support for Gmail, Yahoo Mail, AOL Mail and Apple's .mac and .me accounts.
"We built Alto for people who believe, as we do, that organisation is beautiful, who are overloaded with email and aren't happy with the status quo of existing email experiences," said Joshua Ramirez, senior director of product for AOL Mail.
"The way we use email has changed radically over the years, but the core email application experience hasn't. We've taken a deep look at how people use email now, and designed an application around that reality."
For Alto, AOL has created a range of organisational tools that it claims will "put the user back in control of their email experience".
Most notable among these is the "stacks" system, which automatically pulls out and organises important pieces of the user's inbox for quick viewing.
There are stacks for junk mail and daily deal alerts, while any photos that users send and receive are automatically sorted into a dedicated photo stack. These images can be stored, or shared directly on Facebook and Twitter via the app.
Attachments get their own stack too, covering documents, PDFs, spreadsheets or other content. Thumbnail previews display what is in the stack and users are able to view the material from within Alto without need to download to their machine.
Users can also drag and drop individual emails to create customised stacks based on sender, recipient, keyword or other indicators.
"When you sort through physical mail, you put it into stacks because it's a natural way to decide what's important, what's junk, and what to save for later," Ramirez said.
"We wanted to recreate that experience with Alto, but make it intelligent and automatic, to easily deal with the hundreds of emails we get every day."
Other features in Alto include links to social networks Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to see the latest social updates from contacts and associated people.
There is a real-time visual search system for seeing results categorised by matching emails, contacts, photos, and attachments.
"Alto brings together some truly fresh thinking about online communication with the depth of experience that you'd expect from the company that's been offering consumer email longer than anyone else in the market," Ramirez concluded.
Alto is available today in limited preview, and is expected to go into public launch in the first quarter of 2013.