Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Brand New Tabbed Inbox of GMail



It was indeed a surprise for me, when Google activated the new brand new Inbox on my Mail, the Tabbed Inbox.  Rolled out gradually for users, this new feature promises to give more control over the different types of mails we receive in our inbox. 

 
As of now, this feature has been activated only for a select few of the Gmail users, and I am privileged enough to say that I have been one of them.  You’ll come to know when this feature is activated by visiting the Settings -> Inbox -> Configure Inbox.  There apart from the various types of inbox views available like Priority Inbox, Classic View etc, you will get to see Tabbed Inbox too.  As with the others, you can always go back to the Classic View, in case it doesn’t appeal to you. 

When you click Configure Inbox, you will be asked which optional tabs you will want. All the e-mails you receive will then be automatically categorized by a ‘Google algorithm’ which is intelligent enough, and placed in the appropriate tab for an easy retrieval. 

As of now, 5 default tabs are available and I don’t have any idea, as to whether Google will give me the option of adding my own customized tabs, akin to the labels/filters that I have. I don’t have an idea either as to whether Google will add more categories in the days to come or whether I will have the option to define my own tabs.  However, as of now, the 5 default labels that are available are as follows :- 

·         Primary, which is for messages from your friends, and family, or rather you can say, messages from your most frequently contacted

·         Promotions, which is for the emails containing Discounts, offers and deals

·         Social – which is for emails from social networking sites, their notifications etc. 

·         Updates – other alert emails including that from Banks etc, including bills and statements

·         Forums – emails from your mailing lists and groups. 

When you activate the Tabbed Inbox, you get the option of including the starred emails to the Primary Tab.  Google even gives you a preview of your own inbox, segregated to various tabs, before you even activate the same (Very Thoughtful of Google, I must say). 

You also get the option to drag an email from one tab to another and all similar emails in future are accordingly arranged and filed in the respective tab.  So even if, you think, a particular email has landed on a wrong tab, just drag it to the relevant tab once, and Gmail will save your preference for the future.  Each tab will notify you about the number of emails unread in each through a numbered indicator. 

In a way, I thought, this was an extension to the labels/filter combination that Gmail had provided us earlier.  Where the labels were completely customizable and user defined, Tabs have been relying on Google’s intelligent algorithm to a large extent rather than user intervention to categorize emails.  In fact, if you see this feature on your Smartphone, the UI looks exactly similar to the label/filter that you see on your phone.  The good thing is, as is the case with most other Google products, this feature too, learns as you progress and the experience of using this feature can only get better and better with time. 

Now, just to check the claims of Google, I asked one of my close friends to send me a promotional mail which she received from her e-mail ID.  I figured, the mail would land on the ‘Promotions’ Tab, but instead it went straight to my ‘Primary’ inbox.  So was that an anti-climax? Or did Google, wearing my hat, and thought, even if it was a promotional e-mail, I would give a priority because of the source of the source of the e-mail? You judge yourself? Rather, I hope the algorithm will learn itself and would give me a better experience as it learns from my usage.

Some other drawbacks which I found after enabling this feature was that when you activate the Tabbed Inbox, the Multiple Inbox feature gets disabled automatically.  So if you have e-mail forwarding enabled from another Gmail account with the Multiple Inbox feature, opting for this feature would then make a mess of your inbox.  Also, I would have loved this feature if Google had given me the option of customizing the tabs, or adding my own, or even giving me the option to define what all email should go to which all tabs. Absence of this feature, means, at least to me, that the feature is just a cosmetic facelift, bereft of any utility. 

At the end of the day, it was neither a cool new way of e-mailing, nor the design was very enriching.  And, I doubt, many will find this feature rather confusing and unreliable too. 

 

 

 

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