gmail has been my primary personal email service since 2004. I’ve had other accounts longer (mail.com, yahoo) but gmail offered so much coolness out of the box that I switched immediately and never really looked back. gmail has continued to improve over the years, but some refinements have launched recently that I think make gmail’s web interface an obvious choice for anyone who spends a fair amount of time wrangling their inbox.
I had been using the multiple inbox feature (available in labs – access lab features in settings) to get some control over the flood:
multiple inboxes was useful in that it kept items I had labeled a particular way in front of me. but the elephant in the inbox remained the lefthand column: the inbox itself.
priority inbox just says no to opt-in spam
we as a species are too generous with our electronic attention. we sign up. we agree to hear from valued partners. we might realize that we don’t actually care that much about a particular newsletter, but we don’t have the time or the energy to shut it off. this is the grey zone. we’ve agreed to receive it, but we don’t really want it. google has the gall to state “hey, we’ve been watching you a while, and we think we know what’s really important to you.”
priority inbox puts the new items it thinks are most important right up top. it’s willing to learn, though – note the two boxes with the + and – signs up top. items gmail thinks are important will have the + sign. if you disagree, change it to the – sign and gmail will know for next time. out of the box you get three buckets – “important and unread” (gmail thinks it’s important), “starred” (you think it’s important) and “everything else.”
what made priority inbox right for me, however, is its ability to display items I want to see, including archived items. how? if you open the settings (and you should), you see four (including the everything else):
notice that I have added an unread bucket immediately after those items that google has recommended. sort of a trust but verify step for me. I’m pretty sure gmail will get it right, but I don’t want to miss an important message because gmail deems the sender unworthy.
notice also that third bucket is all starred. the basic options show stuff that’s in the inbox:
clicking on “more options” reveals a world beyond the inbox:
so – go ahead and archive those starred items – they won’t get lost forever in the everything else tank.
what’s left? bringing priority inbox to mobile gmail. pulling out the most important messages is even more important when you are on the road, pressed for time and/or attention span. steve rubel suggested a way to get some of the functionality using the mobile web version of the program, but no such luck for the native gmail app on android.
that might change with the pending gingerbread update – or I might have recommendation for you later this week…