Ray Tomlinson is credited with sending the first e-mail message over a network in 1971. Over the last forty years, e-mail has evolved from a purely text-based medium to one that can display a range of fonts, colorful backgrounds and images. You can also attach documents, video clips and music files to your messages.
Some e-mail programs will sort your messages: e-mail from friends go into one folder; spam into another. But what it can't do is prioritize messages–figure out which messages to read and answer first–until now.
A few weeks ago the New York Times ran a story about a computer scientist, Hillary Mason, who grew tired of the constant barrage of the undifferentiated messages flooding her Inbox. She solved the problem by writing a program, the E-mail Classifier, which uses a set of rules to prioritize her e-mail. For instance, messages from people who have corresponded with Mason in the past rise to the top of the list.
To my mind, it sounds like one of those must-have programs, but unfortunately, it's not commercially available. But wait. A few days ago Google announced a new Gmail feature–Priority Inbox. What does it do? You guessed it. It uses a set of rules to determine which messages take priority. The video above shows how it works.
If you use Gmail, give it try. Although I have a Gmail account, it's not my prime e-mail address, so I can't comment on how well it works. For any readers that have tried it, let us know.