Boost Your Inbox’s IQ With Gmail Smart Labels

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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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