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Gmail Conversation View: Did we really need an off button?

Gmail Conversation Button will soon get a toggle switch, allowing users to receive messages individually or in the context of a larger thread.

By Matthew Shaer / September 30, 2010

Gmail Conversation View gets an off-button.

Newscom

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Gmail Conversation View – the functionality that collects emails into a single thread – will soon come equipped with an off button, allowing users to receive each incoming message individually. In a post on the official Gmail blog, Google tech lead Wiltse Carpenter said the update is a response to "an outspoken minority" of users who dislike, well, having things made easy for them.

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"I haven’t had to wade through multiple messages to follow a conversation in years," thanks to Conversation View, Carpenter wrote in the blog post. Still, he added, "it turns out not everyone feels the same way." The Conversation View off button will be rolled out over the next few days; users can toggle the functionality via the settings menu.

Like most Gmail users out there, we prefer the conversation view. (And in fact, we're prone to making fun of friends unfortunate enough to be stuck with an early iteration of Outlook.) It keeps our mailbox uncluttered, and more important, by linking instead of isolating individual messages, it allows us to follow the thread of a conversation. But not everyone loves threaded messages.

Over at PC World, Liane Cassavoy has posted a missive headlined "Why I Hate Gmail's Conversation View." (Subtle, it isn't.) Cassavoy acknowledges that she may be in the minority of folks who really, really dislike Conversation View. And she admits that "Conversation View can, in theory, keep your inbox uncluttered. By grouping messages into conversations, Gmail can make my inbox a little bit neater."

Still, Cassavoy argues that Conversation View purists are actually, well, really messy people. "[I] reality, this organization system is the same as sweeping everything off the top of your desk and into your top drawer," she writes. "Sure, anyone who walks into your office may think you have a tidy work area, but if you're looking for a box of paper clips, you could be digging through that drawer for a long time before you actually find it."

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