3 best features of the new Gmail

May 31, 2013: 9:33 AM ET

Changes are coming to Google's popular email service -- and they're good.

Gmail's new inbox approach uses Tabs and advanced auto-sorting.

Gmail's new inbox approach uses Tabs and advanced auto-sorting.

FORTUNE -- One of the most widely used email clients in the U.S. is about to get (even) better.

Over the next few weeks, Google (GOOG) will roll out a new Gmail inbox, with subtle tweaks many users ought to like. Launched in 2004, Gmail has become one of Google's most successful forays outside of its core search and advertising businesses.

As pundits called for the death of email over the years time and time again, Gmail's steady user growth proved the messaging system was anything but dying. Last summer, Google announced the service had 425 million active users worldwide, up 75 million from six months prior. The independent digital advertising company Quantcast, which measures a website's audience, also shows consistent user growth over the years, with nearly 14 million monthly active users in the U.S. alone. Here are three welcome features Gmail users can expect.

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Tabs
Advanced users who already have their email sorted into folders might not find this feature novel, but for the rest of us, Gmail's new approach to sorting out messages could make our digital lives far less cluttered. Inboxes will now be split into five categories -- including Primary (messages from people you regularly contact), Social (messages from well, social networks), and Updates (think receipts and reminders) -- with labeled tabs up top. Users can also customize those tab categories to their liking.

Auto-sorting
The best part about these new categories is that users won't have to change their behavior. Gmail's algorithms will organize their email for them, intelligently filtering out different types of messages into those different tabs. And as users continue to use it, Gmail will get better at sorting and filtering out all that obnoxious spam.

Don't like it? Opt out. 
Early adopters who can't wait for Google to introduce the new inbox approach can get a head start by heading to their settings, represented by the small cog icon in the upper-right hand corner, and clicking "Configure inbox." From there, it's just a matter of choosing which tabbed categories you'd like to appear, then pressing "Save." And whether users choose this shortcut or wait for the official upgrade, Google's playing it smart. Don't like it? Well, you can always revert back to the previous version, which well, let's face it, wasn't all that bad to start.

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 9.58.38 PM

Can't wait for Google to roll out the new Gmail? You don't have to...

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JP Mangalindan
JP Mangalindan
Writer, Fortune

JP Mangalindan is a San Francisco-based writer at Fortune, covering Silicon Valley. Since joining in 2010, he has written on a wide array of topics, from the turnaround of eBay to the evolution of net neutrality. A graduate of Fordham University, Mangalindan has also written for GQ, Popular Science, and Entertainment Weekly.

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