AOL isn’t exactly a hotbed for innovation, but its Alto mail did introduce a few neat concepts. The chief among them is the idea of stacks and automatic categorization. Unfortunately, Alto also had too many inconveniences to ever become a mainstream product. However, the good news is that Google is taking a leaf out of Alto’s book. Yes, Gmail is taking inspiration from an AOL email product.
Google has annoucned a new tabbed inbox for Gmail that builds on the automatic categorization concept featured in Alto to reduce your inbox clutter. Gmail already has Priority Inbox, which surfaces mails that matter to you. Now, it will be grouping mails further, depending upon its source of origination. For example, one can tuck away all notifications from Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn under the Social category. Similarly mails from Groupon and its likes can be put under the Promotions category. You can setup custom categories and customize how you want your mails to be categorized.
Google will also be updating its Android and iOS apps (for iPhone and iPad) to add support for a categorized inbox. You will see your uncategorized mail by default when you open the Gmail app. You’ll be able to navigate to your categories from the left menu, as shown in the above screenshot. The updated Gmail app will be released within a few weeks, while the desktop version will be rolled out gradually.