How Gmail Marks Mail Important for the Priority Inbox

Gmail studies specific criteria to determine which emails are important to you.

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Gmail doesn't have the priority inbox feature turned on by default. When you decide to use it, the contents of your regular inbox are automatically split into three sections on the screen: Important and Unread, Starred, and Everything Else. Gmail decides what is important so you don't have to make the decision and places those emails in the Important and Unread section. It uses criteria such as how you treated similar messages in the past, how the message is addressed to you and other factors.

Importance Markers

Each email has an importance marker located immediately to the left of the sender's name in the Inbox list. It looks like a flag or arrow. When Gmail identifies a particular email as being important based on its criteria, the importance marker is colored yellow. When it is not recognized as being important, it is just the empty outline of the shape.

At any time, you can click the importance marker and change its status manually. If you want to know why Gmail decided a particular email was important, hover your cursor over the yellow flag and read the explanation. If you disagree, just click the yellow flag to mark it unimportant. This action teaches Gmail which emails you think are important.

How to Turn on Priority Inbox

You turn on Priority Inbox in the Gmail Settings:

  1. Open your Gmail account.

  2. Click the Settings icon located in the top right corner of the screen.

  3. At the top of the Settings screen that opens, click the Inbox tab.

  4. Select Priority Inbox from the options next to Inbox type at the top of the screen.

  5. In the Importance markers section, click the radio button next to Show markers to activate it.

  6. In the same section, click the radio button next to Use my past actions to predict which messages are important to me.

  7. Click Save Changes.

  8. When you go back to your inbox, you'll see the three sections on the screen.

How Gmail Decides Which Emails Are Important

Gmail uses several criteria when deciding which emails to mark as important or not important. Among the criteria are:

  • Which emails you open
  • Which emails you reply to
  • Who and how often you send emails to
  • Keywords that occur in emails you usually read
  • Which emails you star
  • Which emails you archive
  • Which emails you delete
  • Which emails you mark important manually
  • Which emails you mark unimportant manually

Gmail learns your preferences from your actions as you use Gmail.