Why I like Gmail’s new tabs

Not long ago, Google added new “tabs” to the top of everyone’s Gmail account.  Here’s a bit about how it works:

Despite Google’s optimism on it, many users have rebelled against the new feature.  The main criticism of it is that it has a tendency to hide some emails and creates more clicks to get where you need to go.  However, I like for a few reasons:

  1. It’s smart and easy to train.  It’s done a great job of sorting my email in the proper tabs, and you can simply drag-and-drop a message into a different tab to teach it differently.
  2. Stars move items to the “primary” tab.  If I get a “social” message that I need to deal with but can’t get to for a few minutes, I can star it in Gmail and it’ll have it show up under the “primary” tab so that I don’t forget about it.
  3. gmail-faviconsI’m not interrupted by “other” emails. I use the “unread message icon” option (shown on the right) so I can see how many new emails are in my inboxes while I’m on other tabs.  This number only shows how many are unread in my “primary” tab, so it’s not being artificially inflated by Facebook notifications and similar messages.
  4. My phone buzzes less often. Along the same lines, my phone only notifies me of “primary” messages.  It buzzes far less frequently now, but when it does I can be more confident that it’s a legitimate message and not just another promotional email.  This is huge.

I’ll admit that it’s taken me a little while to get used to it.  My biggest problem initially is that I’d “lose” emails in some of the other tabs, but ultimately this just required a bit more diligence on my part.  As you know, I’m a big proponent of keeping an empty inbox.  Reading a message and failing to deal with it isn’t conducive to keeping your inbox clean, so this has forced me to work harder on that.  As I mentioned above, if I need to leave an email in one of those tabs for a little while I can just star it so that I’ll see it in my “primary” tab to be dealt with.

If you’ve decided that despite the above reasoning you still want to get rid of the tabs, it’s easy enough to do.  Just click the settings gear in Gmail, choose “configure inbox” and uncheck the boxes there.

What do you think of the new tabbed interface in Gmail?

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Mickey Mellen

Co-Founder and Technical Director

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  1. I love the new tabs. specifically for reasons 3 & 4 above. I get loads of social and promotional emails that I want to at least peruse, but not have to weed through to read my actual email. The separate tabs make it incredibly easy to flip through those when I have the time.


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