Does Gmail Priority Inbox Actually Work?

Q: What's all the fuss about Gmail Priority Inbox? Does it actually work? Should I switch to it?

A: Yes.

If you haven't heard, Priority Inbox is a new tool from Google that algorithmically (i.e. automatically based on a few factors) separates your incoming email into two categories: Important and Everything Else.

And it's awesome.

Now, Priority Inbox works best for heavy volume emailers. It works doubly best if you get CC'd on a lot of things or have news alerts, random newsletters, etc coming into your inbox. For me, the emails marked Important actually reflect my own evaluation of them. After three weeks of heavy usage, only two emails have been mislabeled.

Over the six years I've had Gmail, I've signed up for a number of things that are no longer essential, but not so bothersome that I don't want to receive them. All my Google alerts for "history + solar," NASA press releases, or emails from my athletic club all fall into that category. Having a place to store them without cluttering up my main inbox is brilliant.

Could I have accomplished much the same thing by setting up a bunch of filters? Sure. But the extra work required always seemed to outweigh the minor hassle of not reading or deleting a bunch of semi-precious emails. Now, Google's done all the work for me in one simple stroke.

I did make one important tweak to the default Priority Inbox settings. The default setting is that your priority inbox only shows things that are Important and Unread. That made me feel uncomfortable. I like seeing the important things even after I've read them.

Priority Inbox might not be for everyone. If you're tidier about how you run your email already, maybe you don't need it. If you don't manage a huge volume of email, again maybe you don't need it. But if your email inflow is variegated and heavy, it will be a useful tool for you.

Tools mentioned in this entry:

More questions? View the complete Toolkit archive.

Presented by

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well. Bestselling author Mark Bittman teaches James Hamblin the recipe that everyone is Googling.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

How to Cook Spaghetti Squash (and Why)

Cooking for yourself is one of the surest ways to eat well.

Video

Before Tinder, a Tree

Looking for your soulmate? Write a letter to the "Bridegroom's Oak" in Germany.

Video

The Health Benefits of Going Outside

People spend too much time indoors. One solution: ecotherapy.

Video

Where High Tech Meets the 1950s

Why did Green Bank, West Virginia, ban wireless signals? For science.

Video

Yes, Quidditch Is Real

How J.K. Rowling's magical sport spread from Hogwarts to college campuses

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

More in Technology

Just In