Are you a fellow Gmail user? If so, you may have noticed that your inbox has changed recently.
Incoming messages are now being allocated to tabs, the defaults being Primary, Social and Promotions. You can also activate two other tabs, Updates and Forums, by clicking on the small "+" tab to the right of them. Here's a picture of what the top of my inbox now looks like..
As ever, if you can't see this image clearly, you can click on it to open a larger version, and use the Back button on your browser to return.
Which tab any email is allocated to is decided by Google, at least initially. Typically, any newsletters or mailings you may have subscribed to (including my own E-Writer Updates) will be delivered to your Promotions tab, where you may or may not get round to reading them!
So my first tip is that, if you don't plan on checking your Promotions tab regularly, you might want to ensure that any mailings you especially want to see go straight to your Primary inbox in future. You can do this easily with any message that is currently under the Promotions (or any other) tab. Just click on the email in question and drag it to the Primary tab to move it there. You will be asked if you want all such messages to be routed to Primary in future, so click on 'Yes' and - hey, presto! - all messages from that sender should appear in your Primary inbox from then on.
This won't work retrospectively, though, so you may just want to check you haven't missed any earlier gems from the same sender by scrolling down the list under your Promotions tab.
You can also remove tabs entirely if you like, so that Gmail goes back to how it was before. To do this, just click on the small plus tab to the right of the others, and the box below will appear...
One other thing you may have noticed in the box above is an option to include starred messages in Primary. This is a useful feature, and I recommend leaving it checked. What it means is that if you 'star' a message by clicking on the star symbol at the top right, then regardless of what tab it is under, it will henceforth appear under your Primary tab as well. This is great for keeping track of important messages you want to follow up.
Even if you don't use Gmail yourself, it's important to know about this change if you run a subscription-based newsletter or mailing list. Gmail is now the most popular and widely used email service, and it's a near certainty that some of your subscribers will use it. It may therefore be a good idea to write and let them know about the changes, and gently encourage them to take the action set out above to ensure that your mailings always arrive in their primary inbox.
From a personal perspective, I do like the new tabs, although I would prefer it if it was possible for users to choose and configure the categories themselves, rather than have to accept the defaults. Still, I gather this feature may be in the pipeline.
One effect Gmail's new tabbed inbox did have on me was to make me more aware of the large number of promotional mailings I was receiving. It was somewhat daunting to open Gmail in the morning and discover that the Promotions tab had over 50 new messages since I last visited!
Consequently, I spent some time going through all these messages and unsubscribing to a lot of mailing lists that I didn't feel were providing sufficient value for me.
I'm pleased to say that these numbers are under control now, and most of the messages that appear under my Promotions tab I do genuinely wish to read. So I can see that one possible consequence of the Gmail changes is that a lot of marketers will have to raise their game or risk a lot of people unsubscribing. Which is no bad thing for the rest of us, of course!
So that's my view, but what do you think? Are you a Gmail user, and if so do you like the new tabbed inbox or hate it? I'll be intrigued to hear your views. Please post any comments below as usual.
Photo by opacity on Flickr. Reproduced under Creative Commons licensing.