Google Adds Tabs to Gmail, Here is What to Expect

Google recently announced it would be rolling out a brand new interface to its Gmail service. The popular web-based email client is set to receive a brand new tabbed look, and that roll-out is now in full swing reaching customers everywhere at a gradual pace. The new look is much different, and likely will be polarizing. Here is what you can expect.

When the update hits your inbox you will have no problem noticing the change — it is far from subtle. Google will place an overlay that points out what has changed and you can not continue without clicking an “OK, got it!” message. There is also a “Learn More” option for those who wish to receive that bit of extra information.

gmail tabs overlay

Once you are past this introduction, you will find your messages have suddenly been moved around — regardless if you wanted this to happen or not. Google proclaims that “Inbox tabs put you back in control with simple organization so that you can see what’s new at a glance and decide which emails you want to read when”. You can be the judge on this.

Your messages will be classified into different categories, such as Primary, Promotions, Social and Updates. You can choose to use categories as inbox tabs, and as labels. These categories aim to make it easy to focus on messages that are important to you and allow you to read messages of the same type all at once.

Categories can be controlled by you — to a certain extent. Click the “plus” to the right side of the last tab (the one to the far right). This will launch a dialog box that gives a bit of control over which categories become tabs.

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gmail tabs select categories

You can move messages between tabs, which is nice. This works via a simple drag and drop method. At least Google allows for a bit of customization.

gmail tabs move messages

The Downside

As you likely notice from the image above, there is no way to add your own categories, nor can you choose which messages go where. The is a rather large shortcoming of the new update. While labels still work, it would certainly be nice if Google allowed its customers to choose what to do instead of playing the Apple “we know best” card.


Its a major change, but one that can be disabled by simply unchecking each category. As I previously stated, this is likely a polarizing change — some will love it, while others will rage about it. I only just received it and am still uncertain, but willing to try for a few days.

In the end, one can only hope that Google will eventually open this up to allow for customization. Until that happens, users are stuck with the ready-made tabs that are provided by the search giant — or going back to the old way.



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