Google Gives Gmail a Better Inbox

Cringing under a barrage of email? A new interface for Gmail promises to help.

Pretty much everything Google does these days is a work in progress, so it’s not surprising that on Wednesday the company announced that it’s giving its popular Gmail program something of a facelift.

In effect, Google is creating filters that will automatically sort incoming messages into five specific categories – primary, social, promotions, Updates and Forums – which will appear as tabs along the top of the page. You can display all or none of the tabs.

Slideshow: First Look at Gmail's Latest Redesign

As you'd expect, primary messages are those you want to see right away; the social box contains messages from social networks such as LinkedIn and Google+ (the announcement on Google blog didn’t mention Facebook, though it would be quite an omission); Promotions will help you keep tabs on offers from retailers; Updates for tracking packages and checking on flights, and a Forum tab for keeping up with discussions.  

Rather than give you a lot more detail on how the new inbox will work, here's a video on YouTube that explains it quite well and has the bonus factor of playing one of my favorite oldies  -- "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes.

"We get a lot of different types of e-mail: messages from friends, social notifications, deals and offers, confirmations and receipts, and more," wrote Itamar Gilad, a product manager at Google, in a blog post announcing the update. "All of these e-mails can compete for our attention and make it harder to focus on the things we need to get done."

The new in-box will begin rolling out for the desktop in the next few days, and will be available for iOS and Android devices within a few weeks. If you don’t like the new system, you can default back to a classic view. If you like it, but want to modify the new inbox to suit your taste, check out this page for details on how to do that.

I have yet to use the update; if it’s really terrible, which I doubt, I’ll let you know.

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