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How to Use Gmail Labels (Step-by-Step Guide w/Screenshots)

how to use labels in Gmail

Wondering how to use Gmail labels to organize your inbox? 

Having a well-organized inbox is one of the easiest ways to breeze through your emails and boost your productivity. After all, when everything’s neatly ordered, finding that important email you’re looking for should take no time!

And to help you stay organized, most email clients offer you folders. They allow you to categorize emails and make it easy to find them again later.

However, Gmail operates slightly differently from most other email clients as it favors labels over folders.

But what are labels, and how can I use them? 

In this article, I’ll walk you through what labels are, how to create and modify them, and how you can use them to improve your search results.

Additionally, I’ll even tell you how you can build email lists directly from Gmail’s labels.

This Step-by-Step Guide Contains:

(Click on a link to jump to the specific section.)

Let’s begin.

If you’re new to Gmail, check out my comprehensive guides on:

Labels vs. Folders

So what’s the difference between a label and a folder?

While labels are very similar to folders, they bypass some of the limitations experienced with folders.

Email folders function in the same way as folders do on your computer, where you can include a file in only one specific folder. To include it in multiple folders, you’d have to create copies of that file and paste them into the additional folders.

On the other hand, labels work more like sticky notes.

How?

Multiple labels can be assigned to the same email.

For example, with Gmail, you can assign the labels “Important,” “Work,” and “Project Y” to a single email, and you’ll find that same email under all three labels!

In other words, labels are like tags.

How to Create Labels in the Web App

There are several different methods for creating labels in Gmail.

I’ll cover two of the easier ways here:

Method 1: Create the label and move emails at the same time

You can use this method whether you’re looking to assign a new label to multiple emails or to add emails individually.

  1. Sign in to your Gmail account.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Web App

  1. From your inbox, select the message or messages you want to label.
  2. Click the Labels icon located just beneath the search box and click Create new.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Web App

  1. A pop-up will appear asking you to provide a name for your new label. Fill in the name and hit Create.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Web App

  1. Alternatively, you can right-click on a message, and from the list of options, move your mouse over to Label as and click Create new.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Web App

Then, add a new label name, and you’re good to go.

Method 2: Create the label and move emails separately

This method is probably the quickest way of creating a custom label, though unlike the earlier method, you can’t instantly add emails while creating it.

  1. Sign in to your Gmail account.
  2. From your inbox, you should see a list of labels on the left-hand side of the screen. Scroll until you find More and click it.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Web App

  1. This will bring up several label-related options. Scroll down to the bottom where you should find Create new label and click it.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Web App

  1. Then provide a name and hit Create to complete the process.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Web App_3

How to Move an Email to a Label on the Web App

Gmail also provides several ways of moving emails into a different label. I’ll cover two of these methods here:

Method 1: Moving one email at a time

  1. Sign in to your Gmail account.
  2. Open the email message you want to move.
  3. Then, click on the label icon with a right-facing arrow, located just beneath the search bar. This button will tell Gmail you want to move an email.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Move Email To Label

  1. From the drop-down menu that appears, select the label to which you want the email moved.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Move Email To Label

Method 2: Moving a batch of emails

  1. From your Gmail inbox, select the emails you want by ticking the little checkboxes to the left of each email.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Move Email To Label

  1. Select the Move to icon and select the Gmail folder into which you’d like to move the Gmail message.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Move Email To Label

How to Manage Your Labels on the Mobile App

Gmail’s mobile app lacks much of the web app’s functionality.

As a result, you can’t create new labels on the mobile app, but you can assign labels to emails.

The process is essentially the same for both Android and iOS devices:

  1. On your mobile device, open the Gmail app.
  2. Select an email and open it.
  3. In the top right-hand corner of the screen, tap the More option. On an Android phone, this looks like three vertical dots, while in iOS, it’s depicted with three horizontal dots.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Manage your labels on mobile app

  1. Tap Change labels.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Manage your labels on mobile app

  1. Add the multiple labels you want the email added to and tap OK.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Manage your labels on mobile app

To add multiple emails to labels at a time, follow these steps:

  1. Instead of opening the email, tap the sender’s icon to select the email. Do this with as many emails as you want.
  2. Once you’ve selected all the emails you want to label, tap the More option.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Manage your labels on mobile app

  1. Tap Change labels.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Manage your labels on mobile app

  1. Check or uncheck the boxes next to the labels you want to add and tap OK or Apply.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Manage your labels on mobile app

How to Show or Hide Labels on the Web App

Gmail gives you the option of using hidden labels — which are hidden from the left-side inbox menu.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Sign in to your Gmail account.
  2. Click the gear icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

This will bring up the quick settings menu.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Show or hide labels on web app

  1. To see the complete list of Gmail settings, click See all settings.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Show or hide labels on web app

  1. Navigate to the Labels tab located just under the search box.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Show or hide labels on web app

  1. Scroll down the bottom and select which labels you’d like to hide or make visible.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Show or hide labels on web app

How to Edit or Delete Labels on the Web App

If you’ve made a label and you want to change its name or delete it, no problem!

Gmail lets you edit or remove the label quickly.

Here’s how you do it:

Note: You can’t edit labels from the Gmail mobile app.

  1. Sign in to your Gmail account.
  2. Locate the label from the label on the left-hand side of the page.
  3. Hover your mouse over the label, and you should see three vertical dots; click these.
  4. To edit the label, click the Edit option. If you want to delete it, click Remove label.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Edit or Delete labels on web app

How to Create Nested Labels on the Web App

While you’re busy creating labels and moving emails around, you’ll likely come across something called nested labels.

But what are nested labels, and how do I make them?

A nested label functions in the same way that subfolders do — where there’s one parent folder with smaller related folders lying within it.

Similarly, you can create a child label under one parent label to reduce the clutter in your label list.

Luckily, creating a nested label in Gmail very easy; here’s how to go about it:

  1. From your Gmail inbox, select a label from the label list on the left-hand side of the screen. Move your mouse over the label’s name and click on the three dots.
  2. A pop-up menu should appear. Select Add sublabel at the bottom.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Create Nested Labels on web app

  1. A pop-up asking you to edit the label will appear.

Select the checkbox titled Nest label under and select the parent label.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Create Nested Labels on web app

  1. Finally, click Create, and you’re good to go.

How to Use Labels to Improve Your Search Results

You can use Gmail’s labels for more than just organizing your inbox.

Labels can also be used to narrow your search when you’re trying to find an email from your message list.

Using labels to improve your search can be done on all platforms, and the steps remain the same whether you’re using mobile or desktop.

Here’s how you do it:

  1. Log in to your Gmail account.
  2. Locate the search bar at the top of the screen.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Use Labels to Improve Search Results

  1. If you’d like to search for an email in your work label, type label:work into the search bar. You can do this with any existing label by substituting any of your labels for “work.”
  2. You can combine several labels to narrow your results even further. For example, if you want an unread work email, label:work label:unread will highlight all unread messages marked with the work label.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Use Labels to Improve Search Results

How Gmail Can Automatically Apply Labels to Incoming Emails

While Gmail’s labels are an excellent system for organizing your inbox, manually adding labels to emails can be time-consuming.

Fortunately, Gmail has an effective workaround.

Gmail can automatically assign any incoming email to your labels after you’ve created a filter.

Here’s how you create a filter to do that:

Note: You can only do this on the web app.

  1. In your Gmail inbox, find the grey downward-facing arrow located within the search bar at the top of the screen and click it.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Automatically apply labels to incoming emails

  1. In the drop-down that appears, fill in the From section to have Gmail filter emails according to the sender. You can fill in the other criteria depending on how you want Gmail to filter messages.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Automatically apply labels to incoming emails

  1. Once you’ve included all the relevant information, hit the Create filter button.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Automatically apply labels to incoming emails

  1. The next screen will ask you what you want Gmail to do with the incoming messages.

For example, you can have Gmail automatically apply a specific label to the message, or you could have it automatically forwarded to another email address.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Automatically apply labels to incoming emails

  1. Click Create filter, and Gmail will automatically manage these emails according to your criteria.

For example, if you chose the “Apply the Label” option, all emails from that specific email address will automatically go to the label you specified.

How to Edit or Remove Filters on the Web App

If you’ve told Gmail to assign an email to a particular filter but then find you no longer need or want emails to be filtered that way, just follow these steps to edit the filter criteria:

  1. From your Gmail inbox, click the settings icon in the top right-hand corner of the screen.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Edit or Remove Filters on Web App

  1. This will bring up the quick settings menu. At the top of this menu, click See all settings.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Edit or Remove Filters on Web App

  1. Navigate to the Filters and blocked addresses tab at the top, just below the search bar.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Edit or Remove Filters on Web App

  1. You should now see all the filters you’ve created.

You can now edit or delete them.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Edit or Remove Filters on Web App

Bonus Tip: How to Build Email Lists Using Gmail Labels

It doesn’t matter if you’re a business owner or in charge of a book club; all of us need to maintain important email lists.

However, manually creating a mailing list can be a time-consuming and tedious task.

Fortunately, you don’t have to do it manually anymore.

With powerful email outreach tools like GMass, you can easily create massive mailing lists in seconds.

GMass works in tandem with your Gmail label to quickly streamline this process.

Here’s how to use GMass to build an email distribution list using Gmail’s labels:

  1. Log in to your Gmail and select the label of your choice from the label tab on the left.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Build Email Lists using Gmail Labels

  1. Select the Build email list button (red magnifying glass icon)

How To Use Gmail Labels - Build Email Lists using Gmail Labels

  1. GMass will begin compiling a mailing list of every email address in that label. When complete, Gmail’s compose email window will appear where you can write your email.

How To Use Gmail Labels - Build Email Lists using Gmail Labels

  1. Compose the subject and body of your email. When you’re ready to send, click the red GMass button.

However, that isn’t all GMass can do.

From scheduling emails to automatically personalizing your emails, GMass takes care of everything.

Other features include:

Wrapping up

While Gmail’s label system may take some getting used to, labels are an easy way to organize your inbox quickly. They go beyond the traditional folder method — they can be used to enhance your searches and automatically classify any incoming messages.

And with the right tools, they can even help you create email lists!

If you’re looking for hassle-free email management, GMass is your best bet.

Download the Chrome extension today and see the benefits for yourself!

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