OK, so the process is actually easy. Just click on the gear icon at the top right of your inbox for settings. Then click “Configure inbox”. From there, check or uncheck any of the five tabs to activate them or turn them off. You can also choose if you want to keep all starred messages in the primary inbox, even if they’re in tabs.
Of course, there’s a chance you don’t want to do this. A system that yanks out all the recurring updates that clog up your inbox — Facebook, Twitter, LivingSocial, etc — and shoves them into their own siloed tabs can actually be really helpful, especially once it learns what’s supposed to go where. You can drag and drop individual messages into the tabs, or right click them and move to specific tabs. It’s fairly simple, really. So why get rid of them?
There are legitimate enough reasons grounded in productivity and sense, like concern that you’ll forget about an important message because it gets shuffled into the wrong tab, or maybe you already have separate accounts for those sorts of emails. Sure, OK. That works.
But honestly the single best reason to get rid of the new Gmail tabs is that without the spammy non-spam you load yourself up with your inbox is a sad, desolate, lonely, airport-at-3am-without-reception place. After tabs kicked in, my primary inbox has a few Google alerts, some fantasy football threads from 2009 that I forwarded around recently to be a dick, and a note from my dentist. It’s grim.
The whole idea behind imposing tabs on an inbox feels like it’s from an earlier time, from when email was still a primary means of communication, and the accounts we used for that were mashed up with work or personal messages, along with all the spam from everything else we were doing. Now though, most of our communications are through Google or Facebook or whatever the hell else. Our email doesn’t scream out for this sort of refined sorting (even though it can be nice), because email itself is already a junk drawer. And when you take out all the junk, what you’re left with might be a little too lonely.