How to Switch Off GMail Conversation View

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Even the most ardent Google basher has a GMail account. What’s not to like? It’s fast, free, offers several GB of storage, and has one of the best spam filters available. It’s great — even if you only use it for throw-away website registrations.

However, one of the more controversial features is “conversation view”. This groups related messages into threads and it’s been the only option since day 1. It’s a hotly-debated topic: the view works well, but takes a little mental re-configuration if you’re used to a traditional inbox such as (pre-2010) Outlook or other email clients.

According to Google’s blog:

We really hoped everyone would learn to love conversation view, but we came to realize that it’s just not right for some people.

Many people simply prefer a non-threaded inbox. If you’re in that group, you’ll be pleased to hear that Google has made conversation view optional. To change it:

  1. Click the “Settings” link at the top-right of the screen.
  2. On the General tab, select Conversation on or off (it’s the sixth option down).

GMail conversation view

(Note that the facility is being rolled out this week so you may have to wait another day or two before it appears. Business users should ensure “Enable pre-release features” is selected in the Google Apps control panel.)

It’s a welcome addition. I know several people who abandoned or struggle with GMail because conversation view is too different to their previous experiences. Automated threading has benefits — especially if you receive a lot of mail — but standard inboxes can be easier to understand and work well for many users.

But seriously Google, it’s taken 6 years implement this option! Better late than never, I suppose.

Do you love or hate threaded email views? Did you abandon GMail because of it? Does the new option encourage you retry the service?

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