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Gmail lets you cancel its 'conversation view'

Gmail is letting users opt out of a simultaneously beloved and controversial feature--the "conversation view" it uses to group a message and all subsequent replies in a single thread.


The news came in a blog post that compared conversation view to cilantro--a some-love-it-others-hate-it thing. I like cilantro (aside from its habit of dying overnight in my garden), but I have mixed feelings about conversation view.

When I'm following a lengthy discussion, it helps to see each message in context. But when Gmail groups similar messages from the same sender into a conversation, I find it too easy to lose track of some of those e-mails. For example, a month ago, Gmail grouped two mobile-boarding-pass e-mails from United Airlines into one conversation--which, to my sleep-deprived eyes, looked like a single message on my phone's screen. That had me thinking that I'd somehow forgotten to check into the second flight.

Now you can quash conversation view--if that option has arrived in your account yet. (It has not in mine.) To do that, log into Gmail, click the Settings link and look for a "Conversation View" option.

This represents a further softening of Google's ambitions to rewrite the customs of e-mail. Back when it launched its free Web-mail service on April Fool's Day of 2004, it touted Gmail's labels and conversation view as two of its most important features. Back in February of 2009, it allowed users to move messages out of the Gmail inbox into separate folders, and today it's letting them back out of conversation view too.

Now that you have the choice, how will you take your Gmail: conversationally threaded or not?

By Rob Pegoraro  | September 29, 2010; 12:30 PM ET
Categories:  E-mail  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Hotmail adds account defenses (but one's Windows-only)
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I like the threading, but it would be nice to be able to 'unthread' individual conversations.

Posted by: wiredog | September 29, 2010 3:05 PM | Report abuse

No way, folders? I had no idea. I have become used to label+archive to keep the inbox looking clean.

I hated threading forever. Now I'm not sure if I will stick w/ it out of inertia.

But if that's what it takes to let me be able to change subject headers mid 'conversation', then threaded view might be out the window at long last.

Posted by: HardyW | September 29, 2010 5:12 PM | Report abuse

Threading is gone. Apple Mail's highlighting of similar messages is better.

The worst part of threading for me was having the sent messages built into the inbox.

Posted by: ah___ | September 29, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Given that an archived message that has been tagged *looks* like it's in a folder, and acts like it's in a folder (and is presented that way via IMAP), the difference I've noted along the way was that some time ago, Google changed things so that you didn't have to named your tags starting with IMAP/ just to have them appear in IMAP.

As for conversational threading, I haven't noticed any problems with it -- on the other hand, I've gotten used to doing quick searches to find what I'm looking for, regardless of how it's grouped or tagged.

Posted by: washpost86 | September 30, 2010 10:24 AM | Report abuse

I never "got" the conversation view feature. It seemed appropriate for keeping track of 20 ongoing conversations among a bunch of college students but it was just annoying to me. How annoying? I've been using Outlook Express! That annoying. I'll give the web interface another try, now.

Posted by: augrim08052010 | September 30, 2010 11:20 AM | Report abuse

I'm a big fan of both labels and conversation view. I love having the ability to track conversations that go on for days (or weeks) without having to scroll through my inbox. I hate having to track threads in my office inbox as I have to sort by subject or sender and then figure out which one came where. It's a pain in the rear.

I apply labels for most "permanent" stuff (permanent in that I might want to reference it again). Everything stays in my inbox, though, so when I want to see it, I simply select the label on the left side and !voila! only those messages are displayed.

I still haven't gotten a sense of what priority inbox is good for, but then again, I feel the same way about buzz, so maybe it's just me and not the feature (ha!).

Posted by: SamFelis | October 1, 2010 1:23 PM | Report abuse

There are times when the conversations are helpful but often when they are not. I use my emails to determine what I had been doing on any particular day. What was I doing last Monday? Can;t do that with conversations view. Also if you have a conversation going and you get two or three respo9nses before you open it again, it is very easy to loose important responses. This happened to me with a response from my boss and another individual. Of course, I missed the one from my boss.

Posted by: abiegen | October 1, 2010 5:22 PM | Report abuse

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