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How To Enable, Disable & Use The New Gmail Tabbed Inbox

Gmail is rolling out a tabbed inbox for its users and if your initial reaction to this is panic, then you’ll happy to know that the new interface is opt-in, and should Google decide to make the change permanent for everyone, you don’t have to worry because firstly, it’s just awesome once you start using it and secondly, you’ll still be able to choose one of the older views if you want. The new tabs act as filters for the messages already in your inbox. Messages can be moved from one tab to the other, and Gmail can be told to treat all future emails from that address the same way. At present, you’re limited to the tabs that are available by default i.e. you can’t create and name your own tabs, but we’re hoping Gmail will allow users to customize that in the future.

To enable the tabbed view for your Gmail inbox, click the cog wheel button and choose the ‘Configure inbox’ option. If you don’t see that option there yet, fret not; Google is rolling out the feature for all users in all regions, so you’re bound to get it pretty soon – just keep checking back.

configure inbox

Once you enable it, Gmail will ask you to choose which tabs you want to see in your inbox. You can select/deselect any of the options listed there. This menu can be viewed again for customization after enabling the feature by clicking the add new tab button i.e. the plus sign at the right end of the row of tabs.

messsage categories

Gmail will now automatically detect and filter the emails in your inbox to their relevant tabs. The ones that it can’t place in any tab will appear in your ‘primary’ tab. You can manually sort emails by dragging & dropping a message from the Primary tab to any other tab.

move messages

When a message is moved to another tab, Gmail asks if you would like to do the same for all future emails received from the same email address.

create rules

If you’re apprehensive about this new view, you can easily turn it off by either disabling all other tabs, or by choosing one of the other inbox types (including the Priority Inbox) that are all still available under ‘Inbox’ in Gmail Settings.

Gmail Inbox Type Selection


That said, I personally love this feature, as it’s very similar to the filters that Mailstrom provided, allowing me to quickly filter, delete and archive emails. Gmail’s options are limited at the moment compared to that, but these few tabs will still help tame an inbox.

Google has been busy and the changes it has made aren’t in any way frivolous or perfunctory. The tabs alone will help users like me pay more attention to the emails that actually need my time and attention.


  1. Disabling it doesn’t work. All the useless, pointless categories still shows up in the Labels dropdown without my permission, and emails are still being automatically tagged with them, again without my permission, and incorrectly to boot. Is there any way to actually disable this useless pain in the ass?

    Hey, remember when Google was dedicated to making their user’s life easier, instead of the other way around? Those were the days, my friend. We thought they’d never end.

  2. The category labels are so stupid. How many emails do people never even see because of them. Google used to great but the past few years with these dumb changes and enhancements they are really losing a lot of users. If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

  3. Thanks gmail for deleting every email I had saved. Oh, almost forgot to thank you for not allowing me to get any NEW email either. All of that extra storage capacity is coming in handy. SWELL!

  4. The “tabs” in the tabbed interface are contrived and useless, because _YOU_ cannot control what the tabs are, or which tab a message will go into. You cannot rename a tab, or add additional tabs.

    On my Android phone, I can’t even turn them off; somebody forgot to put in an “OK” or “Save Settings” button. I can de-select the tabs on my phone – but can’t save or apply the change. If I go back to the previous screen, it abandons my changes.

    • Exactly what I was running into. I’m slightly less irritated by the tabs on my PC, but really find it annoying (and more work – can’t just see all my mail at a glance) on my Android phone. I’d like to keep it a device of convenience, not extra work.

  5. I don’t like this new feature, I have disabled the tabs on my desktop, but they are still present on my phone. when I go to the settings on my phone and untick all the categories, there is no where to press save, so when I press the back button they are all still there.
    How can I turn this off on my phone?

  6. The new tabs are great on my PC, but not so much on my mobile. Do you know if it’s possible to disable tabs on the Gmail mobile app?

    • Same problem. Have successfully disabled these hateful tabs on my PC but unticking boxes for these new categories under settings in gmail android app does nothing. Please help! Makes the mobile app much less useful to me

    • Managed to fix this by uninstalling updates to the system app on my Galaxy SII and re-updating, whew.

  7. It seems like every 6 months (or less), Gmail has some new feature that it forces on me, making me worry I’ll “lose” some of my emails (by not being able to find them).

    This one really sucks. I see that I can uncheck all tabs except for “Primary,” but that doesn’t tell me if I’m turning off all of the auto-filtering (and who gave Gmail permission to do that anyway?) or if I’m just permanently hiding emails from myself that Gmail decided were “Social,” “Promotions,” etc.

    Admittedly, I’ve only been studying this now for about 10 minutes, but I’m not happy at all about it. Users shouldn’t panic that they don’t know how to ensure that they won’t lose emails!

  8. I had my emails arranged by year (2013, 2012, etc.) and it worked just fine for me. I ajust finished realigning all my emails into the four categories just to see what it looks like and how this works out. If it does, fine. If it doesn’t, I’ll just realign everything back to “annual folders.” It’s a lot simpler that way.

  9. I hate the new inbox and I really hate categories. Even if you disable catgories they still show up in your DROP Down labels list. for example I have a label called social already now I have two socials in my label list and I dont knwo which is which its just messy as hell and I hate the categories in general cause I DONT CONTROL THEM

    • I feel the same way. KILLLLL THE CATEGORIES TABS! I can’t control them and I already had my OWN tabs set up! I often have to un-do the stupid a$$ promotions and other categories and THEN mark them how I want them! TOO MANY IRRITATING STEPS!!! ALLOW US TO DISABLE THIS GMAIL! PLEASE!!!

    • you can disable categories and back to old inbox by unchecking all the categories (except the primary) under the new + button.

    • but they still show up in your drop down category list even if you disable them.

  10. You guys literally are the best, this post came just in time as i had actually started worrying about why i wasn’t getting the tabbed interface 😀

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