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Summary:

Google has released a new Gmail Labs feature called Smart Labels that should help to keep your inbox more organized and free of clutter. It automatically labels and filters certain types of email, such as group mailing lists, social network notifications and newsletters.

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Google is continuing in its efforts to make your inbox more intelligent. Last year, it launched Priority Inbox, a feature that automatically surfaces more important emails, and it has now released a new Labs feature, called Smart Labels, that should help to keep your inbox more organized and free of clutter. The new feature will automatically categorize certain types of email, such as group mailing lists, social network notifications and newsletters, and apply appropriate labels, making it easier to keep your inbox streamlined and free of clutter.

To activate Smart Labels, click on the little green flask icon in the top-right of the Gmail window (next to your email address), or go to Settings -> Labs. Scroll down to Smart Labels, or search for it using the Search box, enable it, then scroll to the bottom and hit “Save changes.”

Once activated, Smart Labels scans incoming mail looking for three different categories of email:

  • Bulk. Any kind of mass mailing, such as newsletters and non-spam promotional email
  • Notifications. Automated messages sent to you directly, like account statements, receipts and social network notifications.
  • Forums. Email from group mailing lists

I had the opportunity to get an early look at Smart Labels on my personal Gmail account, and the categorization seems to be pretty accurate for the emails in my inbox. You can help the system to learn by clicking  on the “Not Bulk/Notification/Forum” button, but I haven’t felt the need to do that just yet.

By default, all incoming mail that Smart Labels categorizes as Bulk is labeled and moved out of your inbox, while Notifications and Forums are just labeled, but you can easily change the way it works via Settings->Filters. For example, I’ve set mine up to have Notifications skip my inbox, too (I’ll just need to skim through the Notifications and Bulk labels once in a while to make sure I haven’t missed anything). If you already have labeling systems set up using filters, you can edit them to avoid having them Smart Labeled, if you wish.

I’ve only had a chance to play with it for a short while, but, personally, I think Smart Labels will actually be more useful than Priority Inbox, which I’ve now stopped using. It provides an automated yet very controllable way to deal with those messages that aren’t exactly spam because you’ve signed up for them, but maybe aren’t all that useful. This type of automated email is sometimes called bacn, and most of us are drowning in it. Using Smart Labels can clear out this clutter and help you to concentrate on the emails that actually need reading.

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  1. You too disabled Priority Inbox lol. I thought it’d help me to nicely manage my gmail inbox but no, it didn’t.

    I bet, everyone will find this a useful feature, unlike Priority Inbox.

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  2. Am I the only one unhappy to see how much information Google is mining from our e-mails, in the name of making our lives easier?

    This type of sorting should be done by tools under your control, not some organization making $29 billion every year selling ads to who knows who.

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    1. Google’s already been mining that data for years in order to sell targeted advertising in Gmail, so you could argue that using that data to make our inboxes more productive is a much better use for it. Of course, if it makes you uncomfortable you shouldn’t use Gmail.

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      1. Yes, google has always mined the information, but ads were only targeted based on the content of the message and looked like simply keyword extraction. In other words, they were dumb.

        This new feature seems to be using From fields and other data, and I don’t see how this information applies to targetting ads?

        Also this now asks users to help “teach” the system, something that wasn’t there before.

        All together makes me uncomfortable, I will definitely be moving elsewhere.

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  3. What about OtherInbox? They organize your emails into folders and send you a daily digest. Also, a one click unsubscribe option. It makes my life easier…

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