Labels help keep us organized, both in real life and on the computer. You might, for example, put a sticky note on something to remind yourself that you need to deal with right away, or that it’s something you need to follow up on by the end of the week, or that it’s just something funny from a friend that you can safely put away. When the people at Google designed Gmail, they asked, “Why can’t our email service work the same way?” Gmail’s “Labels” feature allows you to keep your emails organized while still keeping them accessible, meaning that you don’t have to go rummaging through folder after folder to find a certain email, like you do with certain other email clients.
How to Create Labels in Gmail
- Go to www.gmail.com and log in (if you haven’t already). When you get to your main “Inbox” folder, click More in the left-hand menu.
- Now, click Create New Label in the new menu that drops down.
- A new window will pop up asking you to name your label. Type in whatever you want to call it (we’ve called this one “Business”) and then click Create.
- You will now see that your new label appears in the left-hand menu. If you click on it, you will notice that it doesn’t have any conversations as part of it yet, though, because you haven’t applied this label to any conversations yet. Don’t worry; the next part of this tutorial will teach you how to do just that!
How to Apply a Label in Gmail
- Go back to your main “Inbox” screen (click Inbox in the left-hand menu) and click anywhere on a conversation (except for one of the buttons at the very left) that you want to apply a label to, in order to open it.
- Click the labels button () in the menu across the top to bring up a drop-down menu with all of your labels. Click the name of the label that you want to apply to your conversation. Or, if the label you’re looking for is not immediately visible, you can click in the search bar in the drop-down menu and type in the name of the label to narrow down your choices. Then click it once you find it.
- You can also apply a label to multiple conversations at once. Go back to your main “Inbox” screen (click Inbox in the left-hand menu), and instead of clicking on a conversation to open it, click on the boxes next to each conversation to which you want to apply a label, in order to mark them with check marks. You should notice that the top menu changes.
From here, just follow the previous step: click the labels button () to bring up a menu of your labels, and then click the name of the label that you want to apply to your conversations, or click in the menu’s search box and begin typing in the name of your label that you’re looking for, and then click it once it appears.
How to Remove a Label in Gmail
Oops! There’s been a change of plans, and that email you needed to respond to by the end of the week just got a lot more urgent! How do you fix your labels so that you can remember to watch that conversation a lot more closely and respond A.S.A.P.? Fortunately, Gmail makes it easy; the method for removing a label from a conversation is practically the same method as applying one!
- Go back to your main “Inbox” screen (click Inbox) and click anywhere on a conversation (except the three buttons at the left of it, of course) that you want to remove a label from, in order to open it.
- A fast way to find a conversation with a certain label that you want to remove is by clicking on the label’s name in the left-hand menu. This will bring up a list of all conversations with that label (as well as any other labels that they have, in this case “Inbox”).
- Click the labels button () in the menu across the top to bring up a drop-down menu with all of your labels; the ones with check marks next to them are labels that are applied to the conversation that you have open. Click the name of the label that you want to remove from your conversation. Or, if the label you’re looking for is not immediately visible, you can click in the search bar in the drop-down menu and type in the name of the label to narrow down your choices. Then click it once you find it.
- In the same way that you can apply a label to multiple conversations at once, you can also remove it from multiple conversations at once. Go back to your main “Inbox” screen (click Inbox in the left-hand menu), and instead of clicking on a conversation to open it, click on the boxes next to each conversation from which you want to remove a label, in order to mark them with check marks.
From here, just follow the previous step: click the labels button () button to bring up a menu of your labels (the ones that are applied to your selected conversations have a check mark beside them), and then click the name of the label that you want to remove from your conversations, or click in the menu’s search box and begin typing in the name of your label that you’re looking for, and then click it once it appears.
- There’s actually also a really quick way to remove any label from any single conversation that you have open. Somewhere very close to the subject line of the conversation, there will be small boxes that list the labels applied to the conversation. Just click the “X” next to the name of any label to remove it from that conversation. It’s that easy!
How to Edit your Labels in Gmail
There are other thing that you can do with Gmail labels in order to keep your inbox even tidier. You can change their names or colors, or tell Gmail to show or hide them depending on certain conditions.
- In the left-hand menu, click More.
- In the menu that drops down, click on Manage Labels. (Note: you can also get here by clicking the settings button () and selecting Settings, then clicking Labels at the top of the window that you’re taken to).
- Scroll down to the bottom of this page to see the custom labels that you’ve made, and the options for them. We’ll discuss them briefly below.
Create New Label – You can create a new custom label here. It works pretty much the same way as it was described above in “How to Create a Label in Gmail.”
Show in Label List – This lets you select whether or not the label’s name shows up in your left- hand menu. Selecting Show means that it will always appear there. Selecting Hide means that it will never appear there. Selecting Show if Unread means that the label’s name will only appear in the left-hand menu if you have unread emails in conversations marked with that label. This last option is useful for being able to quickly tell if you have a new email regarding an important topic, so you can respond as soon as possible.
Show in Message List – This lets you select whether or not a particular label has been applied to any conversations when viewing a list of conversations (as opposed viewing a single conversation and the emails that it contains). Click Show to display that label on conversations when viewing a list of conversations. Click Hide to hide the label; you will have to open a specific conversation to see whether or not it has that label. This is useful if other people use your computer or are in the same room and you don’t want them snooping on your email.
Remove – You can delete a label and remove it from all conversations to which it has been applied. Note that, as Gmail explains, this won’t delete the actual conversations or emails that had that label, so you can rest easy!
Edit – You can change the name of the label, or make it part of another label (to add another layer of organization, if you feel like it)
- You can also access most of these options by hovering over the name of your label in the left-hand menu and clicking the arrow icon () that appears beside it. In addition to the options above, you can hover over Change Color and then click one of the samples in the box that pops up to have your label name display in that color. This makes it easy for you to distinguish one label from another; for example, you might have your work-related label in a blue color and your friends-related label in yellow or orange so that you can easily tell them apart.
- As you can see in the screenshot above, you can also select Remove Color to reset the color of your label to the default, or select a Custom Color. The latter option will open a new window that will allow you to select both the label’s background color and its text color (just click on each of them to pick them). When you like what you see in the preview, click Apply.
And that’s pretty much everything there is to know about how to use labels in Gmail!