Gmail’s New Tabbed View vs. Classic Email Filtering

by Koosha Araghi on June 25, 2013

Google recently began rolling out a major update to its Gmail layout on the web and mobile apps. The changes bring a new tabbing experience to the inbox along with some automated filtering features. For power users like myself that have spent hours perfecting labels and filters, I was hesitant to embrace the new format. Before I get into the differences and changes between the two varieties, I'd like to briefly go over creating labels and filters for those of you who may have limited experience or have yet to embrace one of Gmails most powerful features.

Creating Labels

Within Gmail, folders are simply referred to as labels. As the name implies, you can mark or label emails based on certain criteria your filters have been created with. You can also simply select messages and mark them with a specific label as well.

  1. In your inbox, select create new label located on the left hand side

  2. Type in the name you would like to use

  3. Your label will now be part of the list to the left

  4. You can also customize things like color and visibility by selecting the arrow to the right of the name. You can also create nested folders by selecting Add sublabel

Creating Filters

Filters allow you to create different types of rules to help increase the efficiency and management of your inbox. Google's powerful search functions come to play here and creating a filter is as easy as generating a label.

  1. Select the Gear icon located at the right of your inbox screen and select settings

  2. Select the filters tab

  3. Select create new filter

  4. The search bar will come up providing different criteria to work with. Once entered, click on Create filter with this search

  5. The next section will allow you to select different types of actions that your emails will take. In this example I want  any emails coming from Chris to have the label from the previous section attached to it. You can also choose to have any of these actions apply to existing messages as well.

The New Tabbed Experience

The newly designed inbox provides a series of tabs that are separated into different categories that automatically filter your messages based on the following criteria: Primary: Messages from friends and family, as well as any other messages that don’t appear in other tabs. Promotions: Your deals, offers, and other promotional emails. Social: Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, gaming platforms, and other social websites. Updates: Notifications such as confirmations, receipts, bills, and statements. Forums: Messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists.  

Enabling the New Inbox

  1. Click on the gear icon and select Configure Inbox

  2. A popup window comes up and allows you to choose the tabs you would like to have displayed at the top

The Verdict

As mentioned earlier, I was a bit hesitant to embrace the new change. Over the years, I had really perfected my workflow with dozens of labels and filters as well as a split pane view that separates incoming mail and starred messages.  The new tabbed view can definitely offer some advantages for both personal and business users. For those of you that have not created any filters, the new tabs will automatically sort and categorize your mail. If you have created labels and filters in the past, these will still apply and continue to be tagged alongside the automated sorting process.

For business users that receive little email that would apply to the Social or Promotions tabs, you can put the categories to good use by adding this to your filters:

The new tabbing experience is definitely an interesting take on email workflow. I've had it enabled on my personal inbox for a few weeks now and  it has helped keep things organized and clean. On my work account, my workflow is far more efficient with the split view and filters and I will probably stick with that until Google rolls out additional updates like the ability to add custom tabs. For more info, take a look at the Gmail Features Page.

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Koosha Araghi
Director of Marketing at UpCurve Cloud
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