Does Gmail Priority Inbox Actually Work?

By Alexis C. Madrigal

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.

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This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2010/10/does-gmail-priority-inbox-actually-work/63998/