Use multiple inboxes in Gmail for better productivity

Email inboxes can become a disorganized collection of messages that makes everything hard to find. Organise Gmail with multiple inboxes so you can easily which messages are most important.

The number of emails many people receive can become overwhelming and the inbox grows longer and longer as we fail to clear everything each day. When we need a particular email we know we received, it can be hard to find among a long list of messages.

There are many ways to organize Gmail so that it is easier to find the messages you want and to highlight ones that are important so you do not miss them. When you are waiting for an important email to arrive, it is too easy to miss it when the inbox has a lot of messages.

One of the tools that Gmail provides for organising emails and making your inbox easier to navigate is a feature called Multiple Inboxes. This is nothing to do with multiple email accounts, but if you do have Gmail fetch messages from other accounts, multiple inboxes is one way to display them. However, it works great with a single email account too.

Multiple email inboxes is a feature of Gmail and so it is not dependent on the operating system. It works on Windows PCs, Linux PCs and Apple Macs, and whatever browser you use to access Gmail. It is easy to set up and it can be up and running in a minute or two.

1 Go to Gmail settings

Settings on the menu in Gmail

It takes two trips to Gmail settings to configure multiple inboxes and the first time around, click the gear icon in the top right corner and select Settings.

2 Enable multiple inboxes

Enable multiple inboxes in Gmail

Select the Advanced tab in Gmail settings and find Multiple Inboxes among the list of items. This is where the feature is enabled or disabled. Enable it.

You are then returned to the Gmail inbox. It probably looks a bit different now because some default settings may be applied and we need to configure it with our own settings.

Repeat step 1: Go to the gear icon and select Settings. The gear icon might be in a slightly different place this time, but it’s somewhere on the right.

Do not forget to click the Save button right down at the bottom of this page.

3 Configure multiple inboxes

Configure multiple inboxes in Gmail

When you return to Gmail settings, there is a new tab called Multiple Inboxes. Click it and a form appears that enables you to configure how it works.

There are a number of panes and the contents of them are the results of search queries. Basically, anything you can enter into the Gmail search box can be entered into the pane.

In the screenshot above, I have is:starred which shows all emails that have been starred. Two more panes show emails that have labels attached to them, label:work and label:website. Labels can be manually added to emails or you can apply them automatically by creating rules. Emails from certain domains can be automatically labelled Work using a rule for example.

Below the panes is Maximum page size. This is the number of emails to show in each pane and it is best to keep the number in single digits because screen space is limited. In the screenshot I have set it to 5 items.

The last configuration setting is the position, which can be on the right, above or below the inbox. This is down to personal preference and you should try each of the settings in turn and see which works best for you. Click the Save Changes button to return to the inbox.

4 View your new Gmail inbox

Multiple inboxes in Gmail above the regular inbox

Saving the changes returns you to the inbox, but now it looks very different. Each pane that was configured appears separately and the contents contain whatever you specified. Here I have starred, Work and Website emails in three panes. Below them is the regular inbox.

I also have some fancy wallpaper selected from Themes on the menu. It is nothing to do with multiple inboxes, it just looks great in the screenshots.

Multiple inboxes in Gmail on the right of the regular inbox

Return to the menu, Settings, Multiple Inboxes and try a different position for the panes. This time the panes are on the right of the regular inbox, which is great if you have a wide screen.

As you can see, these are not really multiple inboxes and they are basically panes showing various searches. You can pull out what is important, such as a particular company, sender, topic, label or keyword and place it in a pane where it is easy to find.

If you have set up Gmail to fetch emails from other email accounts, you could show them in separate panes. It simplifies the inbox, organises the messages, and makes it easier to see what is important and what needs dealing with or can be ignored.