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Gmail Priority Inbox Sorts Your Email For You

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David Silversmith
David Silversmith

In the latest iteration of "Google knows best" the Priority Inbox tool will now identify which of your email messages are most important.  Much to my amazement, it does a pretty good job too! 

It looks like email overload may finally be meeting its match. Gmail has release Priority Inbox that which looks to be a great feature those of us who are drowning in email. Google has created a system that figures out which of your messages are important and shows them at the top of the screen so you don’t miss them. Don't fret, all the rest of your messages are still there, but you won’t have to dig through dozens of newsletters and confirmations to find the most important messages.

A post on the Official Google Blog clarifies the purpose of Priority Inbox. "Gmail has always been pretty good at filtering junk mail into the "spam" folder. But today, in addition to spam, people get a lot of mail that isn't outright junk but isn't very important--bologna, or "bacn." So we've evolved Gmail's filter to address this problem and extended it to not only classify outright spam, but also to help users separate this "bologna" from the important stuff. In a way, Priority Inbox is like your personal assistant, helping you focus on the messages that matter without requiring you to set up complex rules."

Like most successful web applications, the beauty of the system lies in its ease of use. You’ll see a prompt asking you if you want to enable Priority Inbox. You can choose from a few options (the order of your various inboxes and if there are any contacts you’d like to always mark ‘Important’) but you don’t have to setup any rules or ‘teach’ Gmail what you want it to mark important. It just starts working looking at your past email behavior to figure out what is important to you.

The Priority Inbox appears to use a range of criteria to decide which messages are most important: how frequently you open and/or respond to messages from a given sender, how often you read messages that contain a certain keyword, and whether the message is addressed solely to you or looks was sent to a mailing list.

When you see a message that’s been marked important when it shouldn’t have been (and every user will come across some of these), you can hit an arrow to tell Gmail it’s got the priorities wrong. Likewise, if a message that should have been flagged gets sent to the ‘everything else’ area, you can promote it by clicking on the same arrow icon. These behaviors will help to train Gmail so the system should work better over time.

Google's estimate is that the Priority Inbox will have a significant impact on your productivity. Google claims that "When we tested Priority Inbox at Google, we found that people spent 6 percent less time on e-mail after enabling this feature. This translates to a week's worth of time saved each year for information workers who typically spend 13 hours per week on e-mail today."

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