Are you a Gmail user wondering where all your WVFC emails went? Are you worried about how you are going to get all the latest and greatest WVFC stories?

Here’s the thing: Recently Google decided that it would partition your inbox for you.  How nice. Now what?

This is just another example of the fine line we all must learn to draw and redraw when it comes to technology: What do you consider reasonable, useful, and helpful, and what do you consider annoying, unnecessary, or even an infringement? How are you going to respond? Think about it—Gmail has always partitioned your inbox. I’m talking about the partition between spam and not-spam (which is called ham, as it were). Spam, the ubiquitous canned pork product, inspired this mocking Monty Python sketch—and this satire must have inspired Internet inventors to use the term spam for unwanted email.

But this new separation into four categories, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums, is not quite the same thing.  If I were to humor my dramatic side, I might go so far as to be outraged by Gmail’s fascist presumption that everybody’s mailbox can be neatly organized into perfect little pristine boxes. I think my life, even my comparatively boring online life, is far more interesting and complex than these boxes suggest.  If I were to create my own categories, they might be something like this: Polar Geophysics Group. WVFC, Sustainability Media Lab, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Data Science, Dance Classes, Concerts/Performances, Museums, Restaurants.  But honestly, I am not the type to organize my life in this way.  My desk is a disaster, my directory structure on my computer is in a similar state, and my email is just fine, thank you.

I must add that I was a happy early adopter of Gmail; I got an account when you had to be invited to join.  I still think it’s a good service, and I am going to continue to use it.  But I’m going to disable this “categories” nonsense, and you should, too!

Welcome the WVFC emails back into your inbox with the following steps:

  1. It’s always good to know what you’re tinkering with, so familiarize yourself with the Categories.  Locate the Categories dropdown menu on the left side of your inbox.  Click it and observe the bins: Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums.  If you are curious, click around to see what is in each of the bins.  You should find that each one contains a subset of emails from your inbox.
  2. Locate the settings button (it looks like a gear) on the upper right hand corner.  Click on it.  Scroll to the Configure Settings button and click on it.  
  3. Uncheck everything except for “Primary” so that all emails you receive go into your inbox and not into separate folders.  These categories do not impact your spam filter, so unchecking the boxes will not cause your inbox to overflow with spam.
  4. Save your changes.

Aaaaand it’s all back to normal.

TechTip: Disabling Gmail’s inbox sorting. 

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  • Dylan August 26, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    Gmail is always changing and it can be frsutrating. I didn’t know there was a way to avoid all those tabs. Thanks for sharing how to do it! I don’t like that there are too many ads on Gmail these days though…

  • Micmic August 6, 2013 at 10:31 am

    I have two email accounts: Yahoo and Google. I like gmail very much but I use it much less. The yahoo account is sooooooooooooooo annoying. Way too much advertising, way too invasive on either side of your every important email messages. And you have to wait for the blankety blank ad to load before you can look at your email. Aeeh.

    Thanks so very much for those wonderfully clear instructions. I too felt annoyed at gmail for categorizing my email. Thanks but no thanks.

    I subscribe to Brain Pickings and it went into “Promotions”(“!) Irritating. And it looks like my spam filter is ntt working now because there were two ad campaigns for something, VistaPrint and another, oh, yes, school, a college. Yes, I do so want another school loan I can’t pay so their collection agency will call me three times in the morning and three times after 12 noon and once or twice in the evening. Yes, those calls make my day.

    Thanks again. Just had my coffee. How I do run on.

  • Kate August 6, 2013 at 9:49 am

    I’ve been on gmail for a couple of years now and it seems like every 6 months or so they reprogram it and all the buttons get moved around! Of course they do this whenever I start getting used to the previous changes 😉 I like the service overall though, and I’ll probably just keep using it and dealing with the changes!