Gmail gets multiple inboxes, desktop email gets deader

Google just announced a new tool for Gmail through the Gmail Labs program, through which it tests new features: Multiple inboxes. Despite the name, this isn’t a way to access multiple email accounts in one Gmail window, but rather to create different inboxes within one account, and to see all of them at once.

For example, like many people, I’ve been signed up for multiple email lists, both voluntarily and involuntarily. For each of those lists, I’ve created a separate label, plus a label for all messages that were sent to me directly. Now through Multiple Inboxes, I can create panels for each of those labels, and view all of them in one window. In addition to being great way to filter and monitor messages, if you get a lot of emails, this could be a good way to separate work and personal emails.

I’ve already turned this feature on, but the program tells me I have to wait a while for it to activate, because I’ve enabled offline access for Gmail. This certainly sounds like another nail in the coffin of desktop email programs. I’m not just taking about stodgy, traditional options like Microsoft Outlook, either. One of the reasons I was impressed by Postbox was the way it uses a tabbed interface to filter your mail. The multiple inboxes tool accomplishes something very similar.

My one request is that I would actually like to access two email accounts in one window — namely, my personal Gmail account and my VentureBeat account. Right now, I can make that happen through a workaround, by having all my VentureBeat emails sent to Gmail, then creating a label and a separate panel for that label. But it’d be nice to see some official integration.

[Update: I think my understanding of Gmail's support for multiple accounts was a little fuzzy because I hadn't used it for a while. With multiple inboxes, this would be exatly what I want.]

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