Google Adds Category Tabs to Gmail Inboxes

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-05-30

Google Adds Category Tabs to Gmail Inboxes

Google's Gmail service is now rolling out a new appearance for users' email accounts by adding tabs that organize incoming mail into individual "compartments." Google hopes that the new tabs will make it easier and quicker for users to find the messages they are seeking.

The tab feature was unveiled May 29 in a post by Itamar Gilad, product manager for Gmail, on the Official Gmail Blog

"We get a lot of different types of email: messages from friends, social notifications, deals and offers, confirmations and receipts, and more," wrote Gilad. "All of these emails can compete for our attention and make it harder to focus on the things we need to get done. Sometimes it feels like our inboxes are controlling us, rather than the other way around."

To better organize that clutter, Gmail is getting a brand-new inbox on desktop and mobile browsers that puts users back in control of their email using simple, easy organization, he wrote. "On the desktop, the new inbox groups your mail into categories which appear as different tabs. You simply choose which categories you want and voilà! Your inbox is organized in a way that lets you see what's new at a glance and decide which emails you want to read when."

The tabs include areas for primary email from friends and family; one for messages coming in through social media; a tab for promotional and advertising messages; one for updates for bill payments and other personal account messages; and another for incoming messages from online forums that users visit and follow.

"You can easily customize the new inbox—select the tabs you want from all five to none, drag-and-drop to move messages between tabs, set certain senders to always appear in a particular tab and star messages so that they also appear in the Primary tab," wrote Gilad.

Mobile users will also see the new tab features in the Gmail for Android 4.0+ app and Gmail for iPhone and iPad app, he wrote. Mobile users will see their primary mail when they open the app, and then they can navigate to the other tabs.

The new interface is optional, however. Users who don't like the new inbox can turn off all optional tabs to go back to classic view, or switch to any of their other favorite inbox types, wrote Gilad.

Google Adds Category Tabs to Gmail Inboxes

All Gmail users will eventually see the new feature in their inboxes, but for now the feature is being rolled out gradually, according to Gilad's post. "The desktop, Android and iOS versions will become available within the next few weeks. If you'd like to try out the new inbox on Desktop sooner, keep an eye on the 'Gear' menu and select 'Configure inbox' when it appears in the Settings options."

Google is seemingly always working on new features and services for Gmail, especially as competitors such as Microsoft and Yahoo are improving their email products.

In February, Microsoft launched a revamped free email service to all users to replace Hotmail, Microsoft's longtime email offering, as the company continues to try to lure users over from Gmail and other services. Microsoft is transitioning all user accounts over to accounts by this summer. Among the key new features of are a fresher and intuitive experience on modern browsers and devices, tighter integration with social media networks such as Facebook and Twitter, and smarter and more powerful inboxes to handle the email needs of users, including SkyDrive for sharing virtually anything in a single email. The new is the first major refresh of the 16-year-old Hotmail product.

For Microsoft, taking on Gmail could still be an uphill climb. Gmail claims to have more than 425 million active user accounts worldwide and has already been offering many of the same kinds of features that is just incorporating, such as the ability to send very large attachments—up to 10GB in size.

Meanwhile, Gmail hasn't been sitting on the sidelines. Last October, Google expanded the Gmail user interface to allow multiple messages to be composed at once, which resolved a longstanding Gmail shortcoming. Also in October, Google expanded a "field trial" it began in August 2012 that lets users try out a new service—the ability to find their information faster when searching, whether the information is in a Google Search or even buried somewhere in the user's Gmail account.

Earlier in May, Google also unveiled a new feature that allows users who have Google Drive, Gmail and Google+ Photo accounts to put all their files in a unified place, rather than having to maintain separate storage areas depending on what kinds of files were being stored.

Also unveiled earlier this month for Gmail users was the ability to send money to others by sending "cash" in an email message. The new capability is possible because Google has integrated its Google Wallet payment services with Gmail, allowing users to safely and securely send up to $10,000 per transaction to another person.

Google's Gmail turned 9 years old in April, having started on April 1, 2004.

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