Gmail user interface (UI)

Gmail has a few different features and functions that allow users to customize and organize their email. Some of these features are centered around email classification and includes the built-in capability of Priority Inbox, which identifies top email, and Smartlabels which organizes different types of email into tabs.

In addition to Priority Inbox and Smartlabels, users also get notifications of emails that appear to be fraudulent, have images on by default for authenticated email, and display icons called trustmarks that show email has been authenticated, among other special features.


Gmail Priority Inbox is a feature within Gmail that automatically recognizes a subscriber’s important incoming email messages and separates them from the rest of their email. Priority Inbox categorizes emails as the following:

  • Important and unread
  • Starred
  • Everything else


Gmail also has Smartlabels, which is a feature that is meant to further help subscribers classify and sort their email. Smartlabels separate incoming Bulk, Notification and Forum messages and then labels them accordingly.

  • Bulk: Bulk mail includes any kind of mass email campaign, such as newsletters and marketing emails, which are filtered into the Promotions tab.
  • Notifications: Notifications are emails sent to subscribers directly. These types of emails can include statements or receipts, or shipping confirmations.
  • Forums: Forums are email messages from group mailing lists.

Subscribers can edit Smartlabels on the Filters tab under Settings, and existing filters can be edited to avoid having them Smartlabeled. Subscribers can also:

  • Decide if  email in a Smartlabel should skip their inbox
  • Make edits by clicking on the label, then selecting or unselecting the check box

An email is still classified as being deliver to the inbox even if it landed in the Promotions or Forum tab so nothing can be done to get the email from the Promotions tab to the Primary tab.

User spam notification

Gmail has built-in technology to identify spam and suspicious emails by detecting viruses, finding patterns across messages, and using information gathered from Gmail users about messages they often mark as spam or phishing.

Gmail marks a message with a Spam label in the inbox when it believes something is suspicious. When subscribers open a spam email, a brief explanation displays at the top about why that particular message was placed in Spam.

Gmail spam filter

When subscribers report a message as not spam, which is officially referred to as This is Not Spam (TINS), Gmail randomly shows a pop-up asking them if they would like to submit the message to help make Gmail’s filters perform better. Unlike This is Spam (TIS) complaints, clicking TINS involves no implied consent from the subscriber to provide the full content of a message to Gmail. Gmail must ask the subscriber's permission to look at the full message.

If subscribers mark a message from someone on their contact list as spam, Gmail sends them a pop-up asking the following:

Was the message suspicious or does it seem like a scam?

It is possible that the email account was compromised and used by someone other than the account owner to send a malicious message. If it seems like that occurred, Gmail suggests that subscribers:

  • Do not respond. Subscribers should not:
    • Provide any personal information
    • Click any links
    • Wire money
    • Reply to the message
    • Download attachments
  • Let Google know. Click Message looks suspicious within the alert:
    • The message will be marked as sent from a compromised account
    • Subscribers will be asked for information so the Gmail team can improve its detection of compromised accounts.

The sender's account will not be penalized, and the subscriber will continue to receive messages from them.

Time travel (moving messages from the inbox to bulk after delivery)

Gmail Time Travel is a function that removes messages from the inbox after the recipient indicates that the message is spam. There are complexities involved to ensure that the recipient doesn’t encounter a bad user experience or subsequent issues with moving messages.

For example:

  • If a recipient gets a new message icon and then the message is moved to spam, the action is considered a bad user experience.
  • If the recipient sees new messages (4) in their primary folder and messages are subsequently moved, the action is considered a bad user experience.
  • Mobile notifications of new messages can also be problematic.

Google does not move messages that have already been opened or where the recipient has been notified.

Images on for authenticated email

According to Gmail's bulk sender guidelines, when email is properly authenticated the images will display automatically. Subscribers do not need to select the Display images below link.

Return Path confirmed that this is for inline images only; it does not include images that are hosted on an external URL.


Trustmarks are icons, which is a golden key, that Gmail places on an email after it authenticates the sender. If the icon is on a message, then the message was sent by what Gmail considers to be a trusted domain.

If senders want to have the authentication icon next to their messages, they must:

  • Send a high volume of messages over time that the largest number of Gmail subscribers think is not spam.
  • Publish a Domain-based Message Authentication Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) reject policy (p=reject). This ensures that the domain only sends authenticated mail, and unauthenticated mail sent by the domain should be rejected.
  • Automatically junk unauthenticated IPv6 mail.

Even after completing these steps, Gmail uses discretion placing the gold key next to emails. It is generally reserved for highly phished brands and may not be provided to all senders.

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