Gmail just rolled out one of its best features in years: Inbox tabs. (Actually, the feature was announced back in May, but is only just now starting to roll out to users.)
Borrowing a page from services like Alto and Swizzle Sweeper, Gmail can now automatically organize certain kinds of messages into tabs, greatly reducing inbox clutter in the process.
For example, all your notifications from social-media services (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.) will now be sorted into the Social tab, while offers from Groupon, LivingSocial, and other advertisers will land under Promos.
If you’re not yet seeing tabs when you sign into Gmail (in your Web browser, natch) or you want to make changes to the settings, do this:
1. On the right side of the Gmail interface, find and click the little gear icon (a.k.a. Settings).
2. Click Configure inbox.
3. Now choose which of the five available tabs you want to enable—or disable. (Personally, I see no harm in enabling all five.) If you’re not sure exactly what each tab will give you, just mouse over the name of each one; Gmail will show you personalized examples (based on your own inbox) of the kinds of messages that’ll get sorted there.
4. Once you’ve made your selections, click Save.
Note that if you already do have tabs showing in Gmail, you can simply click the little plus sign on the right-most tab to access this same settings box.
For the moment, Gmail offers no way to customize the tabs or add new ones. What’s more, if you enable any tabs at all (which is now Gmail’s default view), you’ll lose the old Priority Inbox.
Give the new interface a try, then hit the comments to let me know what you think of it.
For more than 20 years, Rick Broida has written about all manner of technology, from Amigas to business servers to PalmPilots. His credits include dozens of books, blogs, and magazines. He sleeps with an iPad under his pillow.