Google will roll out on Wednesday a series of changes to Gmail's labels, the feature designed to let people categorize and organize their e-mail messages in lieu of folders, which the company has resisted providing in its webmail service.
Google hopes that the changes, which are intended to make it easier and more intuitive for people to use labels, will put an end to the gripes over Gmail's lack of folders, which are the most common method of filing and sorting messages in e-mail systems.
"We're always striving to improve label functionality in Gmail to make it easier for people to organize their mail," said Todd Jackson, Gmail product manager, in an interview.
Google has always defended its decision to eschew the folders concept, saying labels are better because they provide more flexibility, for example, by allowing users to apply multiple tags to a single message, as opposed to having to choose only one folder for it.
For starters, labels are now getting a more prominent position in the Gmail interface. Instead of having their own section, they're getting moved up the left-hand column, above the Chat section and closer to the links for the Inbox, Sent Mail and Drafts.
At the same time, Google will eliminate the option to put labels in the right-hand side of the interface, a functionality that never matured out of its experimental Labs phase and that the company views as unnecessary now.
Google is also adding the option for users to hide labels that they don't use often under a link called "More," which, when clicked on, displays these less popular labels.
Another new feature is the ability to drag and drop messages into labels, and vice versa, so that it will be easier for users to categorize and organize their mail. The look of labels themselves has changed in an attempt to make them resemble "sticky notes."
These changes will be rolled out throughout the day on Wednesday to all Gmail users, including to those who use it as part of the Google Apps hosted collaboration and communication suite.
It remains to be seen if these changes will in fact endear Gmail users more to the labels concept, which has been considered unfamiliar by many so far.