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How to tame your Gmail inbox with labels



Let’s face it: if you use your Gmail account more than occasionally to contact friends and relatives, it’s likely to get out of control. It’s hard to keep track of work-related emails, online events, invitations, promotions from your favorite retailers, and just plain spam.

There are several ways to organize your email. A powerful option is to apply labels that are Gmail-like folders. Attaching labels to emails makes processing easier. For example, you can tag everyone you want to send holiday greetings to. anyone interested in purchasing your graphic novel collection; everyone working on your current video project; Anyone you knew in college ̵

1; the options are almost limitless.

Here are some basics and strategies for using Gmail’s label features. Note that they all run on a desktop computer. There are several ways to manage labels on a mobile device, which I’ll talk about at the end of this article.

Create labels

To use labels, you first need to create some. There are several ways to do this.

First, you can create a label in the left column of Gmail:

  • In the left column, scroll down from the inbox until you get to “Manage Labels” and “Create New Label”.
  • Click the latter and enter the name of your new label. You can nest it under an existing label if you want.

You can create new labels in the left column.

You can create new labels in the left column.

You can also create a new label and apply it to multiple emails immediately:

  • Select the emails you want to flag by checking the boxes to the left of the emails. When you’re done, right-click.
  • Move the mouse pointer over “Label as”. You can type the name of your new label in the box in the pop-up window and press Enter or click “Create New”. There you can enter the name of your new label and nest it under an existing label if you want.

You can create a new label and apply it to multiple emails instantly.

You can create a new label and apply it to multiple emails instantly.

Color your labels

One of the easiest things you can do with labels in Gmail is to give them colors. It may seem like a small thing, but when you search your emails, colored labels immediately make it clear which category an email belongs to.

Different colored labels can make it easier to find messages.

Different colored labels can make it easier to find messages.

To assign colors to a Gmail label:

  • Move the mouse pointer over the name of the label in the left column.
  • Click on the three dots to the right of the label name.
  • Click on “Label Color”.
  • Select the color you want to assign to this label. You can either choose a base color combination or create custom colors for the background and text.

You can choose a standard color combination for a label or create custom colors.

You can choose a standard color combination for a label or create custom colors.

To return to the default colors (black text on a gray background), click Remove Color.

Automatically apply labels to incoming emails

You can automatically label emails as they arrive. For example, if I was going to write a story about different types of face masks and flag emails that might affect that subject, I could set up a filter that will be labeled automatically. Put the “mask” label on those emails. Like this:

  • First create the desired label. In this case, I used the instructions above to create the “Masks” label.
  • Go to your Gmail search box. Click on the small arrow to the right of the search field to open the advanced search.
  • Enter your search term in the appropriate fields. For example, to create my search, I’m looking for emails with the word “mask” on them. I can also easily apply it to emails that end up in my inbox (so I don’t label emails that end up in spam) by clicking the box next to “Search” and “Inbox” from the dropdown list select menu.

Create the search terms that determine which emails are tagged.

Create the search terms that determine which emails are tagged.

  • Click the “Create filter” button.
  • A warning is displayed that different types of filters do not apply to incoming email. Click “Okay” to show that you understand.
  • You will then be taken to a page where you can choose what the filter should do. For example, I could delete or archive the filtered emails immediately, mark them as important (or not important) or have them forwarded to another address. In this case, I will check the box next to “Apply label:” and then select the “Masks” label from the drop-down menu. (You can also create a new label here if you want.)

Check the box next to

Check the box next to “Apply label:” and then select your label from the drop-down menu.

  • This only marks future emails. To apply the label to current emails as well, select the “Apply filter to matching conversations” check box that appears at the end of the checklist. (Note: this last feature is a bit strange, so it may not work in all cases.)
  • Click on “Create filter”.

Edit your filters

If you’d like to edit or delete any of your filters, you’ll need to do so from Gmail’s main settings page, which you can access by clicking the gear in the top right corner and then clicking “Show All Settings”. Then:

  • Click the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab.
  • You will see a list of all of your filters. To edit or delete one at a time, click the “Edit” or “Delete” links to the right of each label.
  • You can also delete or export a group of labels by checking them and then clicking the “Export” or “Delete” links at the bottom of the list.

Show or hide your labels

If you have a lot of labels, these can be overwhelming. As a result, Gmail offers ways to show or hide certain labels.

Clicking “Manage labels” in the left column will take you to the “Labels” tab on the “Gmail Settings” page. Scroll down on the resulting page to find a list of all of your captions.

There are two ways to determine whether a label is visible: “Show in label list” and “Show in message list”. “Label List” refers to the list of your labels in the left column of Gmail. This is convenient because you can click on the name of a particular label to search for all emails with that label. Here in the settings you can choose whether this label should be displayed in the left list, hidden or only displayed if you have unread emails with this label.

With “Show in message list” you can show or hide the caption in the main message window. In other words, you won’t see the caption next to the first few lines of the email. However, the email will still be labeled.

You can manage your labels in Gmail settings.

You can manage your labels in Gmail settings.

Finally, you can edit or remove any label. (Removing does not delete the email, only the label.)

Manage labels on a mobile device

While Gmail labels have to be created on a computer and more complex operations have to be done on a computer, you have a few options for using labels on your mobile device.

To manually add a label to an email:

  • On an iPhone and an Android phone, open the email you want to tag.
  • Tap the three-dot icon at the top right of the screen.
  • Select “Change labels”.
  • Select (or deselect) the labels you want to apply to this message.

Select the option from the drop-down menu

Select “Change Labels” from the drop-down menu.

Select the labels you want to apply to the email.

Select the labels you want to apply to the email.

If you’re using an iPhone, you can add labels to multiple emails at once:

  • In your email list, tap the icon to the left of each message you want to flag. The message is changed to a check mark.
  • Tap the three-dot icon at the top right of the screen.
  • Select “Change labels”.
  • Select the labels you want to apply to these messages.

You can also do some basic label management on a mobile device. However, what you can do depends on whether you’re using iOS or Android.

To manage your labels on an iPhone:

  • Tap the three-line hamburger icon in the upper left corner.
  • Scroll down and select “Settings”.
  • Tap the Gmail account you want to optimize.
  • Scroll down and select “Label Settings”.
  • Select the label you want to customize.
  • Tap “Add …” if you want to add this label to future messages. You can specify a number of factors, including origin, subject, person, and words to include or exclude.
  • You can also tap “Name” to change the name of the label or “Delete”

Select the labels you want to manage.

Select the labels you want to manage.

Add the criteria that determine which emails will receive this label.

Add the criteria that determine which emails will receive this label.

On an Android device:

  • Tap the three-line hamburger icon in the upper left corner.
  • Scroll down and select “Settings”.
  • Tap the Gmail account you want to optimize.
  • Scroll down and select “Manage Labels”.
  • On an Android device, you can only choose whether your mobile device syncs the labels with your computer. The Manage Labels page lists all of Google’s categories (e.g., Primary, Social, etc.) and then all of your labels. It also shows whether the categories / labels have been synchronized.
  • To sync your labels, scroll to and tap the label name.
  • Touch Sync Messages. No messages are downloaded, but the application of this label to the corresponding messages is synchronized. You can apply the captions to messages that have been received within the past 30 days or to all messages.
  • After marking the label you want to sync, you can choose to receive a notification on your phone every time a message with that label appears.

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