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Gmail Labels: Everything you need to know

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Gmail Labels: Everything you need to know

Jul 11, 2024
7 min read

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Be honest, do you regularly spend time trying to locate emails in your Gmail inbox?

Don’t worry, we have all been there. Inbox management skill requires learning and mastering. You can’t expect it to come to you automatically.

If you want to improve your inbox management skills, one of the first things you need to master is Gmail labels. It’s a powerful tool to keep your inbox neat, tidy, and easy-to-manage.

In this article, we will take a complete look at how to use the feature, as well as offering some hints and tips along the way.

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Gmail Labels: the basics

Although Gmail Labels might seem like a simple feature on the surface, it can get complicated as you explore further. So, let’s cover some of the basics first:

1. What are labels in Gmail?

Gmail label is a tag that can be added to every email you receive or send. You can also add them to drafts. These labels can be used to keep your inbox organized. They are similar to folders, however, unlike folders, you can apply more than one label to a single message.

2. How can you create a new Gmail label?

Gmail label is a free feature and can be created by any Gmail user. To get started, log in to your Gmail account.

There are two ways to create a new Gmail label, they are:

1. There is a ‘create a new label’ button in the left sidebar above the chat window. You will have to press ‘more’ and scroll down to see the button.

Creating a Gmail label

2. When you select or open an email in your inbox, a ‘tag icon’ will appear below the search bar, clicking on it will display a drop-down menu, and at the bottom of that menu, there is an option to create a new label.

Creating a new Gmail label with tag icon

After creating a new label, you will be able to access it by selecting it from the ‘label list’. It can be found on the left-hand sidebar of your inbox.

3. How to add a label to an email?

Feel free to select an email from your inbox, then go ahead and do this:

Multiple Gmail labels

1. Click the tag icon below the search bar

2. A drop-down menu listing out all the available labels will appear and you can select the label(s) you want to assign to the email.

3. Click apply

Unlike folders, it’s possible to add multiple labels to an email. This means the same email can be accessed under different labels.

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4. How to move an email to a label?

If you want a particular email to only appear under a label and not in the primary inbox, then you should move the email to that label. You can do this in two different ways:

First method:

Moving an email to a Gmail label

1. Open or select the email

2. Click on the ‘folder’ icon below the search bar

3. A drop-down menu listing out all the available labels will appear and you can select the label(s) you want to assign to the email.

Second method: You can also move an email by dragging and dropping it on a label (left sidebar).

5. The difference between adding a Gmail label to an email and moving an email to a Gmail label

An email that is added to a label will still appear in the primary inbox. Whereas, when you move an email to a label, it won’t appear in your primary inbox. You will still be able to access it by simply selecting the respective label.

Many email users consider emails as tasks or their to-do list. Seeing an important-but-not-urgent task in the inbox could be distracting. Such instances can be avoided by simply moving those emails to corresponding labels the moment you receive it.

Note: Although you can add, remove, or change labels, you won’t be able to create new labels from your mobile devices.

Managing Gmail labels

With that knowledge in hand, let’s dive in and learn how you can manage Gmail labels.

6. What is a nested label in Gmail?

Gmail allows you to create sub-label(s) nested under a parent label. These sub-labels are called as ‘nested labels’ in Gmail.

For instance, you can create a top-level label called ‘tasks’ and have nested labels for each of your teammates under it.

7. How do I create nested labels?

There are a couple of different approaches to creating nested labels, here they are:

A. If you want to create a new nested label under an existing label

1. Click on the small arrow button beside the label name in your label list

2. A drop-down menu will appear, click on ‘add sub-label’ at the bottom

3. A pop-up menu will appear where you can create a new sub-label

B. If you want to turn an existing label into a sub-label

Nested label - how to turn a label into a sublabel

1. Click on the small arrow button beside the label name in your label list

2. Click ‘Edit’ from the resulting drop-down menu

3. Chose which label it should be nested under

8. How to rename a label?

In case you want to rename a label, then click on the small arrow button beside the label name in your label list, click ‘Edit’ (like in the previous image),and you will see a pop-up menu to edit the name of that label.

9. How to remove a label from an email?

In case you messed up or if the label is not valid anymore, you can always remove it in a matter few clicks:

1. Select/open the email,

2. Click on the tag icon below the search bar

3. Just uncheck the label(s) you want to stop using.

You can also remove a label by merely clicking the ‘X’ button next to the label name.

Removing a Gmail label

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10. How to remove a Gmail label from messages in bulk?

Worry not, you don’t have to do it individually. Thankfully, Gmail has made this process pretty easy, here’s what you need to:

1. Select label you want from the left sidebar

2. Select the emails you want to remove the label from

3. Click ‘Remove label’

Bulk removal of Gmail labels

11. How to color code your Gmail labels?

You can color code your Gmail labels by following these steps:

Color coding Gmail labels

1. Click on the small arrow button beside the label name in your label list

2. Click on ‘Label color’ from the resulting drop-down menu

3. Select a color of your liking

Color coding your Gmail labels makes email processing a lot easier. For example, a label like ‘Top Priority’ could be given red color, so that it will catch our attention almost immediately. Similarly, green could be given to project or campaign that is currently running.

12. How to show/hide labels from the label list?

Label list is where you can view all the Gmail labels you have created. You can find it on the left-hand sidebar above the Google Hangouts Panel.

If you don’t want a particular label to appear in the label list, then follow this process: click on the small arrow beside a label in the label list and select hide from the resulting drop-down menu.

Gmail also allows you to hide labels that do not contain unread messages. To set this, click on the small arrow button beside the label name in your label list and from the resulting drop-down menu select ‘Show if unread’.

13. How to show/hide labels from the message list?

If you don’t want a particular label name to appear in the inbox: click on the small downward arrow beside the label and select hide in the resulting drop-down menu.

This comes in handy if you regularly apply multiple labels to a single email. It can make your inbox look cluttered and hard to read.

You can do the last two actions by visiting the labels menu in Gmail settings (click on the gear icon – top right corner).

14. How to delete a label?

In case if your label list is getting too long or filled with obsolete ones, you can do a clean up by visiting the ‘labels’ tab in Gmail Settings.

Note: deleting labels does not delete messages.

15. How to merge Gmail labels?

In case you want to compile two or more Gmail labels, you can follow these steps:

1. Enter the names of the labels you want to merge in the search bar in this format ‘label:name OR label:name’. For example, if the two labels you want to merge are ‘May Customers’ and ‘June Customers’, then it should be – ‘label:May-Customers OR label:June-Customers’.

2. Select all the emails that are appearing in the search results.

3. Create a new label.

16. How to create a label in Gmail and push email automatically into that?

Although Gmail doesn’t have features likes folders or rules, you can pretty much do all of its functions with a combination of Labels and Filters. So, yes, you can get emails to go directly to a label by setting up filters.

For instance, you want a dedicated label for emails from your managers, here are the steps you need to follow:

1. Create a new label called ‘top priority emails’.

2. Go to Gmail settings (Gear icon),open the ‘Filters and Blocked Addresses’ tab, click on ‘Create a new filter’.

3. Set criteria for the filter. In this case, you can add the email addresses of all your managers in the ‘from’ column. Once you are done, click ‘create filter with this search’.

4. In the next menu, you will be asked to select an action for when an email arrives that matches the search query. In this case, it’s ‘apply the label – top priority emails’.

Pushing emails to a Gmail label

After this, you will be able to locate all the emails from your managers under that label.

17. How do you manage labels using the Gmail mobile app?

While Gmail labels have to be created using a computer, and more complex operations have to be done on a computer as well, you do get some options on how labels can be used on your iOS or Android mobile device.

To add a Gmail label to an email using the Gmail app on your iOS or Android mobile device, make sure to follow these steps:

1. On your mobile device, open the Gmail app and select the email you want to label
2. Tap the three-dot icon in the top right of the screen
3. Select “Change labels”
4. Select the labels you want to apply to that email

gmail labels on mobile

Using Gmail labels can greatly improve email management and organization. Labels allow you to categorize and sort your emails into specific groups, making it easier to find and access important messages. They also provide a more flexible way of organizing your inbox compared to traditional folder systems. With Gmail labels, you can label and color code the same email in multiple ways, giving you greater control over how you want to categorize and access your emails. 

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Sucheth is a content marketer at Hiver. He is a marketer by day and an avid reader by night.

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