Looking to bring a little order to Gmail users' inboxes, Google today unveiled a new customizable tabs feature that automatically sorts message among five buckets: primary, social, promotions, updates, and forums. The news comes in the wake of the company's announcement that Gmail's new compose window, which has garnered mixed reviews from users, is now turned on by default and the ability to revert the old compose will be phased out.
Google has been hard at work bringing new features to Gmail of late, including these new customizable tabs, the new compose window, and the ability to automatically generate Calendar entries from email messages. Part of Google's goal here is likely to stay one step ahead of Microsoft, which not long ago unveiled a new and improved version of Outlook.com.
Gmail's customizable tabs are pretty straightforward -- and not quite a customizable as some users might like. The idea is that when a new email arrives, Gmail will automatically categorize it under one of five tabs. Facebook and Google+ alerts will shows up under the Social tab, and messages from the likes of Google Offers and Groupon would end up in the Promotions tab. If a message ends up in the wrong category, you can drag it to your preferred tab.
As far as customization goes, users can choose to use any or all of the five categories. However, they can't create their own categories, such as a Work category, a Family category, and so on. A user on Hacker News described the feature as a "disaster," citing the following shortcomings:
1) I just turned it on, and it is not customizable at all. You cannot create custom tabs, and you can't even pick what goes into the tabs they have created.
2) When you turn it on, it disables Gmail's multiple inbox. Multiple inbox is the only thing saving my email from being a complete and utter disaster right now.
3) Judging by how they are forcing the new compose on everyone, it is reasonable to expect that they will force us to use this as well. (The new compose screws up at least two workflows for me, btw. For example, sending a form email to several people is now a pain because I have to manually click "edit subject" to remove the "Fwd:").
If they force this on me, it will completely destroy my ability to use Gmail. If they want me to leave Gmail for good, that would be the way to guarantee it.
Google is indeed forcing the new compose windows on its users. The feature, first unveiled last October, opens a small window at the bottom of the screen when a user clicks Compose. Google has touted the fact that the smaller windows lets users see and access their inbox while writing a message.
"If you're already using the new compose experience, you've probably noticed it's gotten a lot of upgrades over the last few months, from a new way to send files with Google Drive to much-requested features like pop-out replies," wrote Phil Sharp, product manager at Google. "We've also added support for originally missing features like starring and labeling when composing and the Canned Responses lab."
Gmail users still have the ability to revert to the old compose window, but only temporarily.
This story, "Google adds tabs to Gmail for auto-sorting messages," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.