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August 31, 2010

Gmail Gets Enhanced with Priority Inbox

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

Google has hit a couple of bumps in the road with its Gmail service as of late. Last week, the company encountered a mishap that turned ordinary e-mail users into spammers. The company then celebrated with the successful launch of the Gmail VoIP calling system. Now, it seems Google (News - Alert) has set out to enhance the experience for Gmail users even more.

According to a BBC News report, Gmail has been updated with a feature that is designed to reduce information overload in the inbox. Known as priority inbox, this feature automatically grades e-mail according to four categories: important, important and unread, starred items and everything else. "There are a lot of signals in any message that indicate importance," Keith Coleman, Gmail director told BBC News. "Basic indicators include if this message is from someone you write to a lot or reply to a lot. Another category is terms - if the word Viagra is in the message, it is indicative of junk mail. And a third factor is something known as static features. That is if the message has been sent to you directly or to you and other people or a list of people."Google designed this feature to get smarter the more the user relies on it to manage messages. 

The solution learns what it important to the individual, while it also allows the individual to boost or reduce priority status with a plus or minus tool. This manual process drives the learning to create a better end result. "Our hope is that people can regain time and attention and not feel the need to constantly check e-mail in the middle of meetings," said Coleman. "We want people to walk away from e-mail and focus on what they are doing at that moment like thinking or reading, spending time with the family or taking part in a meeting. We hope this gives people a little more sanity and physical time in their day."

While this sounds like a great tool for any inbox, it can help to significantly drive productivity within the workplace. A tremendous amount of time is spent managing e-mails every day. In fact, the Radicati Group noted that in 2010, 294 billion e-mails are sent daily. The typical corporate user sends and receives roughly 110 messages a day."We have seen people who use priority inbox spend 13% less time reading unimportant e-mail. That adds up to a week a year. Even with that rough measurement people are gaining back a significant amount of time in the day which was being lost trawling through e-mail. 

"One of the biggest changes we have seen is people walking away and leaving their inbox and just not worrying about it as much because everything is marked and it's easy to see the important stuff," said Coleman.

Google is not the only company to approach a solution that enhances the productivity of the inbox. Hotmail was recently updated by Microsoft and standalone products like Xobni allow for organizations in any inbox application.

Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Juliana Kenny

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