The Gmail team at Google has been busy lately, haven’t they?

Last week, Google introduced the Multiple Inboxes Lab, which works for both and Google Apps addresses. This lets you sub-divide your inbox into multiple views; check out Simon’s Multiple Inboxes screencast from yesterday for an overview. I didn’t enable the feature for a few days, thinking that I already had a pretty good system for getting to Inbox Zero and staying on top of what needed to get done. Turns out that multiple inboxes makes a good system even better.

You can get quite creative with the panes you have set up in your Multiple Inboxes beyond the default is:starred or is:unread that it comes with out of the box. Here are two inbox panes I’ve configured that are helping me stay organized.


It’s too easy to send an email and then forget that you’re waiting on an answer. Set a label (I use “waiting”) for those conversations that are stalled because you need someone else to do something. By making it into an inbox pane it’s in your face all the time, so that the loop isn’t closed.

I only wish there was a way to do a relative date (for example: before:7 days ago) in the search box so I could do a better job of keeping on top of only the most stale responses I’m waiting on as those are the ones that tend to slip through the cracks.

label:read-later label:unread

My goal is always to get email out of my main inbox as soon as possible. Ever get an email that you know you have to read in more depth, but don’t have time to do so at the moment? There may be a task hidden in there, or maybe not. It’s certainly not important enough to set as an actual task yet. So this label is for emails that I need to read later, but haven’t yet.

The key to this inbox pane is to label the message without marking it as read. Once you’ve read the message, there’s no point of seeing it as a message to read. To do that, select the email, and then the label from the new “Move to” drop down. It’s not actually moving anything – this is Gmail, after all. What it does do is to keep the status as unread while labeling and moving the message out of the main inbox and into the Archive. Now when you read the email, it will automatically be removed from the Multiple Inboxes pane.