Gmail’s Priority Inbox: An Email Review

It’s been one week since I started using Gmail’s Priority Inbox, so I though I’d summarize my experience with an email review. For those of you who haven’t heard about this handy little tool yet, the idea is that Gmail sets up “priority inbox” for important messages and sends the rest to your regular mailbox. Although I’ve been marking tons of emails as important (or not), Priority Inbox is still getting a sense of my email priorities and yes, still marking some of my daily emails as important despite my marking them as not important.

However, as I recently discovered, you can fast track this process by creating filters. So, for each of my regular clients, I can set up a filter and instruct Gmail to make all of their emails as important (since client emails rank a whole lot higher than, say, newsletters or press releases). It’s a bit more work than simply marking something as important or not important, but it ensures that all of those emails make it to my priority inbox.

In case you need a quick tutorial, here’s how to set up a filter:


1. Click the “create a filter” link in the upper right corner.

2. Fill in the email address of the sender whose messages you’d like to be marked as important (or you choose other criteria like subject line or keywords).

3. Check the box for “always mark it as important” (or choose another action like starring it, forwarding it, deleting it, etc.)

4. Hit “create filter” and you’re done!

Another neat little trick I discovered (courtesy of Gmail’s blog) is that instead of clicking the buttons for important or not important, you can select a message (or multiple messages) and hit “+” or “-” to indicate importance.

Unlike other email tools I’ve tested, Priority Inbox really relies on you putting in the time to train it properly and customize it for your needs. Services like Boomerang serve a much different function but don’t require as much of a learning curve before you start seeing results. Although I find Priority Inbox to be useful, it hasn’t drastically changed how I manage emails.

What about you? Any thoughts on Priority Inbox?

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Susan Johnston is a freelance writer/blogger who has contributed to publications including The Boston Globe,’s blog,, and Yahoo! HotJobs. Her own blog,, covers tips on productivity, brainstorming, and more for fellow writers.


  1. Lyday Creative on the 14th September

    I guess I don’t get the point. If you have to go through the trouble of using filters anyway why don’t you just do that? That’s what I do. I filter emails into different categorized labels. Then for something that’s not important like a sales email, I categorize it and make it auto-archive so it goes in the label’s “folder” automatically and skips the inbox. Isn’t that what the priority inbox is trying to achieve anyway. I think it’s just easier to use filters and labels so you know where everything is.

  2. Clinton Paquin on the 14th September

    Thanks for the review. I’m having a similar experience, but opted to keep babysitting the priority over changing the filters. We’ll see if it “learns” anything in the coming weeks.

  3. Edwin (Little Handy Tips) on the 14th September

    I have to agree with Lyday Creative. I’ve been using priority box for a week too but haven’t really seen the benefits of it. I try to keep an empty inbox and have two folders @action and @deferred (using that GTD -Getting Things Done system)for anything which I need to action later or which is to be deferred later into the week. And this process isn’t based on who the email is from, but the content of the email.

    The priority is good if you’re getting lots of emails. But as Lyday Creative as said, that’s what the filters and labels are for. It’s just a different way of doing the same thing.

  4. elliott on the 15th September

    i have found it doesn’t know what’s important. it’s kind of a disappointment since their spam filter is so good.

    btw i think i notice some design updates on the site this week?

  5. Miss Britt on the 16th September

    Actually, it’s made me realize how much of my email is unimportant.

    It has also, unfortunately, caused me to leave a lot of items as “act on later” for longer than I normally would so I need to adjust for that.

  6. Matt Clark on the 18th September

    I have been using the Priority Inbox for a couple of weeks now and enjoy the ability to get to the important stuff and respond to right away. However I to had used labels in the past and had no problem, not sure if this is any better or just a addon that takes time.

    It does a good job and seems to be getting better with knowing which emails are important. I will continue to use for a little while and see if it is worth the change. I would say for new users of Gmail/Google Apps this might be nice because they might not be used to labels etc. depending on the email system they came from.

  7. Ask the Gooru on the 25th June

    I made this video to help you set up Priority Inbox in Gmail. Hope this helps!

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