by Kristin Burnham

Gmail’s New Priority Inbox Gets You Organized

Aug 31, 2010
Enterprise Applications

Google announced a new feature today that categorizes your e-mail messages based on importance. Here's a first look.

My morning routine goes something like this: coffee, boot up computer, sign in to Gmail, peruse Twitter, browse online news headlines. Somewhere around 10 a.m. I realize I forgot to sign in to my corporate e-mail account, then spend the next 15 minutes deleting exclusive offers for male enhancement pills, weeding through miscellaneous press releases, piecing together e-mail threads and responding to the one or two relevant nuggets lurking somewhere in the bunch.

E-mail can still be an overwhelming time-sink. Today, Google announced a new feature I’d love to have with my corporate email—Priority Inbox.

Priority Inbox, which is currently in beta, is an experimental feature that essentially separates the junk from the important stuff, and organizes it to help you focus on the messages that matter.

The new feature splits your email inbox into three sections: “Important and unread,” “Starred” and “Everything else.”


Google will be rolling this out to Gmail users in the next week—look for a link in the top right corner of Gmail that says, “New! Priority Inbox.” If you elect to try this feature, Gmail will show you a quick video, then automatically categorize your messages as important or not. Google says it bases how it categorizes your e-mails based on a number of factors including people with whom you e-mail the most and which messages you reply to and open.

To help Gmail recognize which e-mails are important to you, you can click the yellow (+) button to indicate it’s relevant or the white (-) button to send the message to the “everything else” group. You can also set up filters to make sure you see important e-mails.

Priority Inbox: My Thoughts

On first glance, Priority Inbox actually works quite well. My “Important” emails were all from people I communicate with regularly. Most of the emails assigned to “Everything else” were emails from retailers, or e-newsletters that I typically delete or scan quickly. There were a couple of e-mails in this section that I assigned a higher importance to, but overall it was accurate.


I also found it helpful that there was a prominent section displaying all the emails I’ve starred. Some of the items, as I discovered, were from over a year ago. Dedicating a section to starred emails will help me stay on top of important items that would otherwise be buried and forgotten about a few days later.

Another notable feature is the customization options. Gmail gives you the option to decide what you want displayed in each section—whether it’s “Important and unread,” “Important,” “Unread” or “Starred” e-mails. There are also controls to determine whether you want each section to display five, 10, 25 or 50 e-mails, or to hide the entire section if it’s empty.

Overall, I’m looking forward to playing with this feature to see how accurately it will work over time. Is Priority Inbox something you’ll use?

Kristin Burnham covers Consumer Technology, SaaS, Social Networking and Web 2.0 for Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from on Twitter @CIOonline. Email Kristin at