Google recently introduced a tabbed interface to access automatically categorized email messages. If that's not for you, I'll show you how to turn that off.
Full disclosure: that was me asking the question.
While I was out on a trip, Google enabled their new “tabbed” inbox. My first reaction?
How do I turn this thing off?
Gmail’s tabbed inbox
Here’s what I discovered when I logged in to Gmail:
Above my inbox was a series of tabs. You can’t see it here, but when I looked initially, Gmail had “helpfully” categorized my email and put some in the “Social” tab, and some in the “Promotions” tab. Not only did I not need the help (I can manage my email very well on my own, thank you), it felt like Gmail’s categorizations were just … wrong.
And of course, because I was away from home for a few days, exactly the same thing happened to my wife’s Gmail account as well. Right or wrong categorization, I knew that she didn’t need or want this new feature either.
Turning it off
Click on Gmail’s gear icon in the upper right, and you’ll display an interesting new menu item:
The “Configure inbox” item is exactly what we want:
The “magic” is right there: “Deselect all categories to go back to your old inbox”.
That’s exactly what I did and what I did to my wife’s account when I returned home.
For various reasons, I’m not convinced that that top-level “Configure inbox” item is going to last. It gives too much prominence to what is basically just one of a hundred different Gmail features. I expect it to go away.
Fortunately, you should be able to control all this via normal Gmail settings.
Click the gear, click Settings, and then click the Inbox tab:
If you’re using the “Default” inbox type, then the process is the same: uncheck all of the categories you can and you’ll get your inbox back.
I’m all for change, but I’m also all for choice. I’m very grateful that Gmail has made this an optional feature.
The issue is simple: the feature doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t fit the way I handle email. I also don’t want to give up control to Gmail to make its (rather odd at times) categorizations.
But when inboxes are overflowing, I can certainly see that this might well be a useful addition.