Sunday, November 2, 2014

Labels, Inboxes, Tabs, and Bundles

We have had quite of revolution of these things - labels, inboxes, filters, tabs, and now bundles - that help us manage this thing we call the inbox.

I tend not to use many 'user defined" labels or filters. My general rule is 5 or less and that they are defined by solid search criteria. No hodge podge drag and drop filters / labels for me. Labels / Filters at their core are advanced search criteria. My experience has always been that it is easier to search than find a label in a haystack. On the other hand, limited filters whose aim is to keep emails from the inbox can be useful. I have always been a believer of archive not delete mainly because, psychologically speaking, archiving is less of a committment. I have seen too many inboxes grow in the thousands because of fear of the "trash comminttment". Time will tell if Done feels more like Trash or Archive.

There was a time in which you could select multiple inboxes in Gmail Labs, more recently Gmail introduced Label Tabs across the inbox. Initially I disliked these but over time really began to rely on them to get things done. Self selected organizing systems tend not to be very efficient in an age of information overload. These tabs allowed Gmail to automate the process of labels as well as allowing user action to make them more accurate. My favorite aspect of these "Tabs" was that while all Labels were accessible they stayed out of my Primary Inbox.

Now in Inbox comes Bundles which felt like two steps back. It brings all those Labels now Bundles that were removed from the inbox back with a vengence. While chaos seems to be the default setting, there are beneficial tools to filter your Bundles.

One issue with Labels, if its Gmail or yours, is it tends to be binary. It is Primary or its not. An advantage of Bundles and its corresponding setting is you can have only certain Bundles bundles in the inbox, and you can set notification daily or weekly. Some Bundles you may only need notifications weekly. There are other Bundles such as Promos and Forums that you may not want bundled in the inbox at all, or also want the messages to skip the inbox entirely. Lastly, and this is where Bundles can shine, is if you have a bundle like Finance in which at certain times of the month (end and beginning) you may want daily updates, but weekly is fine for other times of the month. With Bundles you can easily toggle those settings.

In Gmail Offline those Tabs which are now being called Bundles are at the top of the drop down menu. I actually prefer that, and I think it would be great to be able to move some of the panes in the drop down menu. Additionally, further customizations in Bundles such as time of day, specific dates etc. would be useful advanced features.