Here’s an interesting bit of trivia:
the Tab soft drink
turns 50 this year.

If you grew up during the 60’s or 70’s
you may have experienced the iconic taste experience represented by the above
can. Whether you liked it or not, I’m sure it was memorable. I tried Tab just
once (“Once,” Joe Piscopo hissed in the film “Johnny Dangerously“) as an
eight year old and wondered whether the soda had gone sour. I didn’t realize at
the time it was intended as a sugar-free drink (later replaced by Diet Coke,
although Tab still exists in some places).


How does Tab soda factor into the new
tabbed Gmail interface? To show that tabs have an enduring and distinct history
– in fact, in technology they continue to be all the rage, no matter what
medium (unlike their liquid counterpart, at least in my view). Since Firefox
first created the tabbed
browsing experience in 2002
the same handy
view has been applied to Office documents, Windows Explorer, my company’s backup administration tool, and even the command prompt.

Google is getting further into the
game by providing a new tabbed Gmail interface to bring similar benefits to its
users. Like many of its product updates, this is being released gradually on a
scale rather than all at once. You may have already received a welcome email
from Google announcing that the feature has been applied to your inbox.

Figure B

As you can see, the default tabs are “Primary,”
“Social” and “Promotions.” Gmail automatically groups new email
into these tabs based on the following criteria:

  • Primary – Friends/family/default location/items you’ve starred (think
    of this as your “Main” inbox).
  • Social – Emails from social media/websites involving gaming or dating
    for instance.
  • Promotions – Marketing messages (A Groupon deal for example).

You can drag and drop items into the
correct tab to manually reorganize them (or right-click the item and choose “Move
to tab.”) This will give you the option to have future messages from that
sender go to that tab next time.

Here’s what it looks like for a
typical user (image courtesy of

Figure C

The new message count is displayed for
each tab so you can easily keep track of what has come in lately.

You can also add two other tabs called
“Updates” (for financial messages, receipts and confirmation
notifications) and “Forums” (for emails from online discussion
groups/forums) as shown below.

Adding and removing your tabs

Click the + sign to the right of the
tabs to customize your view.

Figure D

You can check or uncheck the options depending
on your preferences. Unchecking ALL options will turn off tabs entirely. There
is no way to rename these tabs, however.

If you don’t see any tabs at all (and
thus no + sign to click), you might need to turn this function on to begin with.

Figure E

Click the gear in the upper right to
reveal the following menu.

Figure F

Choose “Configure inbox” and
the above “Select tabs to enable” window (Figure D) will appear, so
you can add the desired tabs.

The new look isn’t just for
browser-based Gmail; this is also available on Android (4.0 and later) and iOS
devices – so long as the tabs are already enabled in your browser. Here’s how
it looks for Android (image courtesy of

Figure G

For more details,
check out a Google video
discussing the new

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