Super Priority Inbox

I love gmail priority inbox. I can't imagine doing email in an email client that doesn't have this feature. For those who are not familiar with priority inbox, it's a feature that splits the gmail inbox into three sections.

The top section is your "priority inbox." Google tries to figure who are the most important mail senders to you and it puts their mail in the top section. You can and should train it by using the +/- buttons to identify who is actually priority and who is not.

The middle section is the emails you have starred to return to later.

The bottom section is "everything else." For me this is mostly mail I don't want or need but it not technically spam. I do a quick scan of my "everything else" mail every day or two and pull the one or two emails out of it that I want and then delete the rest.

Now that we've gotten through what priority inbox is and why it works so well for me, I'd like to suggest a new feature to the gmail team. I'd like a "super priority inbox" which would be a fourth section on the page and above everything else. I'd enter the email addresses of a couple dozen people who I always want in my super priority inbox.

I know you can do this with filters and labels. I've done it. But the layout of the main inbox page in gmail is powerful. If I have to click over to a label to get to a filtered view, I just don't do it regularly.

One last thing about priority inbox and super priority inbox – it is even more awesome on mobile. The gmail client for android supports the priority inbox and ideally would support the super priority inbox when this feature is rolled out 🙂

UPDATE: Seems like this may be supported already. I got this comment below. I will try it out later. So excited.

Hi Fred – you can do this now..

goto settings, select priority inbox

There is a section called priority inbox sections:

1. Important and unread Options
2. Starred                              Options
3.                   Options
4. Everything else              Options

You can set the first to be the label that you have predefined, second to be important, 3rd starred, and 4th everything else.


Comments (Archived):

  1. itamarl

    What about creating a filter that would “Star” these emails? It’s not as efficient but you’d see these emails in your priority inbox as starred. Only works if you don’t use the star for another purpose.

    1. fredwilson

      i use star as “come back to and deal with”

      1. falicon

        Side note…this is both the power and the problem with things like stars and ‘likes’…everyone has a personal definition or use for them…which is great for users, horrible for machine learning. =D

        1. FAKE GRIMLOCK


  2. Riaz Kanani

    Hi Fred – you can do this now..goto settings, select priority inboxThere is a section called priority inbox sections:1. Important and unreadOptions 2. Starred Options 3. “undefined” Options 4. Everything else OptionsYou can set the first to be the label that you have predefined, second to be important, 3rd starred, and 4th everything else.

    1. fredwilson

      wow. i had no ideai will try that

      1. RichardF

        with that solved maybe you’d better write a new post for today 🙂

        1. Sheldon Thomas


    2. itamarl


    3. fredwilson

      i got around to implementing this feature. thank you so much for letting me know about it.

      1. Riaz Kanani

        no problem 🙂

        1. fredwilson

          i’ve got this working but i can’t figure out how to set it up so only the non-archived emails in the label i select for priority inbox are shown

          1. Riaz Kanani

            it depends a bit on your setup but either of the following might work:inside the filter setup area, in the textbox called “has the words” can either use:”in: inbox” (this will show friends who are still in your inbox – read or unread)or”label: unread” (this will on show you friend’s messages that are unread)though I havent tested the first option.. and google gives a warning so will need some testing!

          2. Riaz Kanani

            sigh: maybe that will not work in practice after all using labelling. I’ll let you know if I think of anything.I set the number of messages to 5 and just have the archived messages showing.

          3. fredwilson

            so the “in: inbox” thing did not work?

          4. Riaz Kanani

            no – the basic problem seems to be that once you have labelled a message, the label stays and therefore is always show in the PI section.what we really need is dynamic labelling – or to put it another way, the ability to select a filter in the PI section rather than a label.

  3. Neil Braithwaite

    If I write “Super-Duper Priority” in the subject line should I expect a response?

  4. kirklove

    Your need for instant gratification never ceases to amaze me. It’s super. 😉

    1. Donna Brewington White

      I wonder if it comes from living in an internet world? It’s a different reality…or is it?

    2. Alex Murphy

      Instant is better than delayed 😉

      1. kirklove

        I know you’re joking. It’s actually something I struggle with. I want it now 😉 Interestingly it’s been proven that delaying gratification is actually very beneficial in the long run:

  5. ShanaC

    Meanwhile under my main account, I still can;t get priority to work….

  6. Alex Murphy

    Try multiple inboxes too, also powerful!On a related note, I think that Priority Inbox is a game changer for the email industry. Right now, I think this tool is used by “super” users. But, this will migrate to the general population, either by choice or Google and other Email companies (Hotmail, Yahoo, AOL) will force it. When this happens, marketing to consumers via email will be even harder. There will be an even higher premium on a relationship between the user and the company. After years and years of fighting spam or email that is “near” spam, Priority Inbox has the ability to really cripple it. This will change the economics for a lot of companies.

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Interesting phenomenon how technology is actually forcing us, in some ways, to pay more attention to relationship than not…you’d think it would be the other way around.I would call this phenomenon driven by technology a “social revolution”, but unfortunately, that term has already been taken.

    2. fredwilson

      agreed on PI being a game changeri don’t like multiple inboxes

  7. baba12

    I have to figure how to trick Fred’s mailbox behavior so that when I do email him it ends up on the top of the list. Just like SEO maybe there will be a way to get your emails to the top of the pile for the many “Fred’s” of the world to read what you are selling them.

    1. fredwilson

      this is coming, it’s called deliverability 2.0

  8. Nik Cubrilovic

    Fred – I also find that organizing in columns rather than rows is better since you have more vertical real estate in a browser.Enable ‘multiple inboxes’ in labs (under preferences) and in the settings for multiple inboxes specify a label or search you want to appear in the right-hand column (I have label:_TODO and is:personal etc.)at the bottom check ‘position at right side of inbox’.

  9. jfccohen

    I think there is a better way to do it. Email servers should collaborate with social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn) to create an API that ranks your emails by connectivity. Nearly all emails that I dub as important come from people I know or people who know people I know.I see it like this – there are four filters: * My friends (facebook for social and linkedin for professional) * Friends of my friends (same platforms) * Number of replies on thread * Number of emails back and forth with specific recipientsEmails get prioritized in the following way: 1. Emails from people with whom I have the most correspondence (ranked) 2. Emails that have many replies 3. Emails from my friends 4. Emails from people who share connections with me (ranked by number of connections shared – API already exists)Granted, the lines between the priorities need to be clearly defined and the priorities can be reorganized, but why not use all of this rich social data to help us organize our communication better??Imagine how this would play into our mobile habits – if we organize our contact lists on our phones by social networks and are able to refilter emails from people in different networks to show up a) as a new message from that network and b) as a new message against a specific contact, our whole communication process would be efficiently segmented and compartmentalized. Cool.Thoughts? How would you guys organize these priorities better??

  10. RexDixon

    I just started using Nudgemail – @nudgemail – a Jeremy Toeman startup. I like the service, you should give it a try.

  11. ajaimk

    I actually had this setup going on before Priority Inbox using the Multiple Inboxes add-on.It truly changes the way you use filters. Priority inbox gives you some more intelligent AI for this too.

  12. Clay Johnson

    Fred,You should really check out sanebox. I’ve been using it for a few months now– it does exactly this, and unlike Priority Inbox, it maintains the label. Works on top of gmail.

    1. fredwilson

      i tried it. i didn’t like the idea of all my mail going into different labels. i want a sorted inbox.

  13. Donna Brewington White

    With all the great tips I find here, why go anywhere else?Thanks, Fred.

  14. Andrew Wong

    I haven’t given the priority inbox a try yet. I set up filters myself with Gmail and now I’ve got 300+ filters set up. But looks like I have to give it a try now.

  15. John Rorick

    Little did Jerry Seinfeld know that his episode, “The Millennium”, included an early hack of email inbox priorities: speed dial rankings.

  16. paramendra

    Fred still has a point. It has to be a default thing.

  17. Roland Haddad

    I remember when Gmail came out in Beta and we had to be invited to use it, the experience was such a quantum leap from the one Hotmail was offering; simpler UI, much much faster loading on slower connections and NO SPAM. Love the “Hooray, no spam here”

  18. Andy

    Setting up my gmail to do this right now.Thanks for the heads up.

  19. File Search

    For the few emails I get that go into my box unsorted it is about 90% right. The problem is over the years of using GMail my filter-fu has gotten pretty good and between filters and labels very little hits my inbox that was not already deemed important. (Edit comment)

  20. sbmiller5

    I always just assumed VCs had a separate email for those 20-50 people they need to communicate with regularly…

    1. fredwilson

      i pump all my email addresses into one inbox. i can’t wrap my head around more than one email inbox.

  21. Sanford Dickert

    Fred – not sure if you use this product, but Boxbe is a still-running spam/prioritizing toolset that i use for filtering nowadays. It was built around the time of the anti-spam product boom, but it works pretty decently. And it has cut down on my crazy spam and annoying magazine emails.

    1. fredwilson

      i’ve got three spam filters between spammers and me and i use the “everything else” feature in priority inbox to deal with the newsletter issue

  22. Sanford Dickert

    One problem with the filtering is that you can not AND all of the labels into one “Inbox”

    1. fredwilson

      i created one label for a bunch of email addresses

  23. Vic

    Ha ha… I can recommend you http://www.priorityinboxfor… which is an Outlook plug-in that has exacty the behavior you envisioned. As you might guess is a priority inbox for Outlook with a few extra features. Try it and let us know what you think about it!http://www.priorityinboxfor

  24. Andrej

    Your post sounded so interesting, that I have had to try priority inbox. On first look it felt like a productivity tool, however I have the feeling that it keeps me from getting my inbox to zero, because I only focus on the “priority” email.There is probably a difference in the usage depending on how many emails you read per day. I usually don’t get more than 50…

  25. Fernando Gutierrez

    Same problem here. The only solution I’ve found is installing Thunderbird, make it connect with IMAP, sort by size in TB and do whatever you wanna do.I always work in Gmail, but having TB is also good to have a local backup (if you set it up to download messages) and for those rare times you are offline (Gmail offline feature is very limited).

  26. Alex Murphy

    If you click on search options (kind of like advanced search) you can search for mail that has an attachment.If you know who sends you the large ones then you can search for them with an attachment and scrub the ones that are more obvious.