How To Optimize The New Gmail

Forget January 1 — for us, this time of year has always been associated with reinvention, renewal, and refinement, even if we aren't going back to school. To help you jump-start the whole process, we're dedicating this week to getting your sh*t together, where you'll find little tricks, tips, and buys to get you and your space into a better place.
It's a little sad knowing that the freshest of the fresh graduates will be the last people to remember the joy of hearing AOL proudly exclaim, "You've got mail!" Nowadays the only thing you'll hear opening your inbox is a muffled groan at the glaring number of unread messages waiting for you.
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Enter: Gmail, Google's answer to simplifying the way in which we electronically communicate. Since its 2004 inception, Gmail has quickly usurped Hotmail, Yahoo!, and Outlook's e-mail platforms as the webmail service to use. That is until this summer rolled around, and out popped a newer, fancy-pants Gmail.
Google described its new interface as an "inbox that puts you in control." That's all nice and everything, but it probably didn't predict the audible grunts, groans, and keyboard slams when one-by-one our precious inboxes were suddenly divided into tabs. Our comfortable Gmail lives were turned upside down overnight; important e-mails were getting lost (sorry if your R29 newsletter went to the wrong folder), the sales we sought were missed, and advertisements found a home outside of our spam folder. But Google wasn't too far off with its original statement. The new inbox is, in our humble opinion, quite fantastic. All that's needed is a little primer, and we've got it for ya.
Learn 'em, use 'em, and breathe a little easier because there's still joy in finding you've got mail.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
First of all, if you've been switched over, and are banging your fists against your desk crying to help, there's an easy solution. Clicking "Configure Inbox" under the gear menu the top right hand corner of your inbox will bring you to this screen. Simply uncheck "Promotions" and "Social," hit save, and you're back to square one! No tabs, no problems.

Google will stop filtering your e-mails for you, and you'll be left to pore through everything just to get to one important e-mail all over again.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
When/if you decide to switch over (or when Gmail decides to switch you over) to its new layout, you'll be greeted by three tabs: Primary, Social, and Promotions. Google's idea behind the tabs functions in the same vein as filters would, only instead of you creating the rules, Gmail tries to figure it out for you.

Primary: E-mails that you want to see right away like threads with your family and friends. Your starred messages will pop up here, too.
Promotions: All those sale alerts you sneak away to on your lunch break will be found here (hello, R29 Shops!). Think of this tab as a virtual log of your previous and future purchases.
Social: Twitter mentions, Facebook comments, Tumblr followers — they're all here.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
Click the ( + ) next to the Promotions tab to add the additional Updates and Forums tabs. This will merely organize your inbox more (and might cause a little bit more stress, but it's all manageable!).

Updates: Bills, bills, bills.
Forums: If you subscribe to any newsletters or daily blasts, they'll crop up here (hopefully).
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
Here's an example of Gmail not knowing what folder to put a message in. This is a forwarded message regarding Seamless. Ideally, this would have wound up in the Promotions tab, but it was sorted into Primary because it was forwarded.

Let's focus on the ideal scenario here. Gmail is smart, but it needs training (much like we teach Siri to call us names like Celine). It won't always sort your e-mails the way you want.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
Training Gmail is incredibly easy, though. Simply right click the e-mail you want sorted, and click "Promotions" from the "Move to tab" drop-down menu.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
A yellow box will appear at the top of your inbox asking you if you want all messages from @domain.com to be filtered in this tab (it's best to check yes). Unfortunately, Gmail can't automatically organize mail by subject line...yet.

It's as easy as that! You can even drag and drop a message to a tab, if you're feeling adventurous.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
If the whole tab thing isn't up your ally, reverting back to the original inbox is simple.

Click the lil' gear in the top right corner, and click "Configure Inbox" (tip: This is also another means of adding tabs).
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
Imagine if this was your e-mail inbox and how flooded it would be? Messages would go unread for days because of all the junk you have to sort through. To each her own, though. There are still means of organizing your inbox (albeit tedious and unnecessary now).
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
Labels are essentially tabs with the hassle. Clicking the "More" menu on the left-hand side will lead you to the option to "Create A New Label." Select the message(s) you want nested underneath the new label, think of a witty name, and create it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
The select messages will be removed from you inbox and into their respective folders.
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Photo: Courtesy of Gmail.
This process is relatively time-consuming and tedious when compared to the tabs design — you must enter them all on your own. It's not rocket science (clicking your settings and going to "Filters" takes a minute), but why waste your energy when you could be catching up with your life quicker? All that's needed is a few extra clicks between tabs to get the full scope of your inbox.
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Photo: Courtesy of Boomerang.
When (if) you download the Gmail app, you'll see the tabs. Moving between them, however, isn't as easy as clicking. There's more swiping involved than necessary. That's where Boomerang comes in.

This app was just released for Android platforms and has been a fabulous plug-in to Chrome/Firefox browsers since its debut. It does so much more than sort your e-mails. You can schedule outgoing messages, schedule when you want to receive messages, have a message put back into your inbox if someone in a thread replies, and even keep track of those people you need to follow up with in case you get scatterbrained. It's basically a free personal assistant. Who can argue with that?
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Photo: Courtesy of Unroll.Me.
Finally, if you're a serial newsletter subscriber or somehow manage to wind up on every e-mail blast under the digital sun, this service will clean up your inbox for you.

Subscribing to Unroll.Me will drastically clean up your Promotions tab. It aggregates each "deal!," "sale!," and "free shipping!" e-mail you'd normally receive into one e-mail roundup. It sounds too good to be true, but it's a real thing that will save you time, energy, and effort. So much so that you'll actually have time to act on the deals. How's that for efficiency?
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