A few weeks ago Google started rolling out Priority Inbox, a feature for Gmail that promises to sort your incoming mail so that all the important stuff is shown at the top of the page. Although the algorithm claims to improve automatically over time as it gets accustomed to your e-mailing habits, there’s a simple way to make ensure that certain kinds of e-mails are always marked as important or unimportant.

Priority Inbox

Perhaps you’re familiar with the concept of filters. Filters tell Gmail to take a certain action when an e-mail meets certain conditions. For example, you can instruct Gmail to assign the label “Work” to all incoming e-mail from your boss. You can create a filter in two steps. First, you pick the conditions that will trigger the filter. Secondly, you’ll have to tell Gmail which actions it should take when an e-mail meets these conditions.

Since Gmail unveiled Priority Inbox, you can let it automatically mark certain e-mails as important. You could, perhaps, mark all mails from Facebook as “Not important”. If your phone carrier sends you your monthly bill via e-mail, you might want Gmail to put these messages onto the “Important” pile. The possibilities are endless.

So how do you go about setting up a priority filter? First of all, make sure that you’ve enabled Priority Inbox. You should be able to find it by clicking on Settings (the link in the top right corner) and then going to the Priority Inbox tab. If there’s no such tab in your Gmail settings, it is possible that the feature hasn’t been rolled out to your account yet. All you can do in that case is wait for it to arrive.

Creating a filter - Step 1

Now you can start creating your filters. Go back to Settings and find the Filters tab. Click Create a new filter. Now you can set up the conditions that will trigger the filter. After clicking Next Step, you’ll see a list of e-mails that meet the conditions you just picked. Take a close look at that list to ensure that you’ve set up the filter correctly. Perhaps certain e-mails you’d expect to be listed there are not showing up. Or maybe the conditions you picked are way too broad and e-mails you didn’t want to be affected show up in the list. In both cases, you’ll have to go back and tweak the conditions until you get it right.

Creating a filter - Step 2

All that’s left to do now is choose the action that should be taken when an e-mail matches the filter requirements. Check either Always mark it as important or Never mark it as important, depending on your needs. You might want to take a look at the other actions that can be taken – perhaps you want to apply a label to selected e-mails. Having Gmail automatically apply certain colored labels on incoming messages can hugely reduce your inbox chaos. Optionally, you can select Also apply filter to conversations below if you also want the filter to be applied to the e-mail threads that are listed below the filter setup box.