Gmail Label Improvements Reduce Need for Folders (and Sub-folders)

1 Lug/09

Gmail labels thumbGoogle’s rolling out some improvements to Gmail labels today, including drag-and-drop labeling, smart hiding of labels you use less often, and a location promotion to right below your inbox. Gmail product manager Todd Jackson told me that about 29% of users actually try out labels in Gmail at all, and these tweaks aim to increase that number.

Label Placement

Folder-loving users will now find labels right underneath their Inbox, Starred, Sent Mail, and Drafts items, where folders would typically go in a desktop email program like Outlook. Labels you use the most will show in the list, the rest will collapse into a drop-down menu. You can show or hide any label by clicking on the down arrow next to it and choosing the option from the list. (As someone who names my folders things like _FOLLOWUP to get them alphabetized at the top of my list, this smart ordering makes me happy as well as the people who never use labels.)

Here’s what it looks like.

New Gmail labels

Drag and Drop Conversations into Labels

Another slick web-as-desktop feature is the ability to drag and drop conversations into a label. Personally I prefer the keyboard shortcuts, but this is really nice for mouse-lovers.

What About Subfolders?

Given the popularity of the excellent Folders4Gmail Greasemonkey user script (included in my Better Gmail 2 extension), I had to ask Jackson about subfolders. He said that the Gmail team is committed to labels, but that they have been asked about and discussed subfolders before. In general they want to keep the interface as clean and simple as possible. He also said that user requests for subfolders have declined over time, which means users are getting more comfortable and having their needs fulfilled with straight-up labels. (Of course, Gmail’s IMAP implementation still creates subfolders for labels that contain slashes.)

I’m not sure what the fate of Folders4Gmail is in light of these new Gmail changes. Either way, you should see them in both your Google Apps and vanilla Gmail account by the end of the day.

Labels: drag and drop, hiding, and more [Official Gmail Blog]

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