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How to Create Folders in Gmail (Step-by-Step Guide)

how to create labels in gmail

A well-organized inbox is one of the easiest ways to improve email productivity.

Fortunately, Gmail offers several effective ways to manage your inbox — the easiest being Gmail labels (or folders). 

These folders enable you to organize your important emails better, making them easily accessible. 

In this article, I’ll first clarify how Gmail’s folder system works. Then, I’ll cover how to use folders in Gmail using its web app and mobile app, including how to create, nest, and remove your Gmail folders.

This Gmail Guide Contains:

(Click on links to jump to specific sections)

Let’s get started.

Further Reading:

Gmail Folders vs. Labels

Gmail doesn’t have a traditional folder system like Microsoft Outlook.
Instead, it has Labels.

How are labels different from folders?
In a conventional folder system, an email can belong to only one folder. However, you can add multiple labels to an email in Gmail.

For example, it’s possible to assign an email to the labels “Weekend plans” and “Personal” — without creating a copy of it for each label.

Since a Gmail label and a folder are essentially the same, I’ll be using “labels” and “folders” interchangeably in this guide.

Now that you know what a Gmail folder (or label) is, let’s go over how you can use it on the Gmail web app:

How to Use Folders on the Gmail Web App

Gmail’s folders can help you organize your inbox better and manage emails more efficiently.

But for effective inbox organization, you’ll first need to know how to create and manage labels inside Gmail. To help you out, I’ll talk about:

Let’s dive straight into creating folders on your Gmail web app:

A. How to Create Folders on the Gmail Web App

While there are several ways to create new folders in the desktop version of Gmail, I’ll cover the two easiest methods in this guide.

i. Method 1: Using Email Options to Create Labels

Step 1
Sign in to your Gmail account.

Sign in

If you don’t have a Gmail account, sign up and set up your new mailbox.

Step 2
Click the checkbox next to a message in your inbox to select it. Then, right-click on it to bring up several options.

Hover your mouse cursor over the Label as option and click Create new.

Remember, I’m using “labels” and “folders” interchangeably in this guide.

Create new option

Step 3
Provide a name for your new folder in the dialog box that appears and hit the Create button when you’re finished.

New label

Note: You’ll also notice the option to nest the label. You can nest one or multiple labels inside another label. Nesting a label is Gmail’s equivalent of creating a subfolder.

I’ll go into more detail on how to create a nested label later in this guide.

ii. Method 2: Using the left sidebar to create labels

Step 1
Open Gmail and scroll down the left sidebar until you see More. Then, click the More button.

More option

Step 2
From the additional options that appear, click + Create new label.

Create new label

Step 3
A pop-up appears, asking you to name your new folder. Enter the name and hit Create.

New label

Step 4
Instead of clicking Create new label,  you can also click Manage labels in the left sidebar to open the Labels tab.

Keep scrolling down until you see the Create new label button.

Create new label button

Step 5
Click the Create new label button, and you’ll see the same dialog box as before.

Name your new folder, click Create, and you’re good to go!

New label

Pro tip: To create a folder, you can also select an email, click the little label icon (or folder icon) below the search bar, and follow the steps outlined above.

label icon

Once you’ve created your new folder, you can add the relevant emails to it.

Go back to Contents

B. How to Move Emails into Folders on the Gmail Web App

Moving your important emails into Gmail folders is much easier than creating new folders.

Here’s how to do it on Gmail’s desktop version:

Step 1
To move a single email, click and hold to drag the message and drop it in the desired label on the left sidebar.

Step 2
If you’d like to move multiple emails at a time, check the boxes on the left of the emails you want to move.

Check boxes

Then, click and hold to drag them over to the required folder on the left sidebar.

Step 3
Alternatively, you can right-click the message you want to move, click the Move to option, and select your desired folder from the list.

Move to option

But how do you move important emails to a folder automatically? Let’s find out.

C. How to Assign Emails to a Folder Automatically on the Gmail Web App

Gmail also lets you avoid the hassle of manually assigning emails to folders.
All you have to do is create automatic email filters!

Here’s how it works:

Step 1
Once you open Gmail, click the Show more options icon in the search bar at the top of the screen.

Show more options

Step 2
If you want future emails from a specific email address redirected automatically to a chosen folder, enter that email address in the From field of the drop-down menu that appears.

This way, all future emails from this email address will automatically go to the folder you assign.

Note: You can also fill in other filter criteria to create a more restrictive filter.


Step 3
Click the Create filter button when you’re done.

Create filter

Step 4
From the new window that appears, select the Apply the label to add a label to these emails. Then, choose which label to apply.

Choose label

Step 5
Finally, click the Create filter button.

Gmail will now send all incoming emails from that email address to the specific folder you have chosen.

Alternatively, open the specific emails to which you want to apply a filter, and click the three vertical dots next to the label icon (folder icon).

Folder icon

From the drop-down menu that appears, select Filter messages like these and follow the steps outlined above.

Filter messages like these option

Go back to Contents

Next, I’ll discuss the steps to nest a folder inside another in Gmail.

D. How to Nest Folders on the Gmail Web App

Nesting folders in Gmail is very similar to creating subfolders inside a parent folder.

i. Method 1: Create a New Nested Folder in an Existing folder

Here’s how to create a new nested label inside an existing label:

Step 1
Open your Gmail inbox. Then, navigate to the label list on the left-hand side of the screen, and find the label you want to make the parent label.

Step 2
Hover your mouse over the folder and click on the three vertical dots that appear. Then, from the list of options available, pick Add sublabel.

Add sublabel

Step 3
Then, give it a name and hit Create.

New label under work

ii. Method 2: Turn an Existing Folder into a Subfolder

Follow the steps below to take an existing label or folder and turn it into a subfolder:

Step 1
Hover your mouse cursor over the desired folder to reveal the three vertical dots.
Then, click Edit from the drop-down menu.

Edit option

Step 2
All that’s left is to choose which folder it should be nested under — click your choice.

Edit label

Besides creating, moving, and nesting folders, you might often need to rename folders. I’ll share the steps to do so in Gmail.

Go back to Contents

E. How to Rename a Folder on the Gmail Web App

Want to change the folder names you’ve already created?
Here’s how to do it:

Step 1
From Gmail’s left sidebar, select the particular label you want to rename and hover your mouse over it to reveal the three vertical dots.

Step 2
Click Edit and rename the folder.

Edit option

Type in the new name and save. That’s all there is to it!

Edit label under marketing

Now how do you delete a folder from Gmail? Let’s explore that next.

F. How to Remove a Folder on the Gmail Web App

Follow the below steps to remove a label from the Gmail web app:

Step 1
From your inbox, find the folder you want to remove from the left sidebar and open it.

Step 2
Then, click the three vertical dots next to the folder name and click the Remove label button from the drop-down menu.

This is a Delete Folder equivalent as it removes the folder from Gmail.

Remove label

Note: When you remove a label, Gmail doesn’t delete the emails under that label. It only erases the label.

Go back to Contents

G. How to Assign Colors to Your Folders on the Gmail Web App

If you want to maximize your inbox organization, you can assign different colors to your folders to easily differentiate between them.
For example, you can mark an important folder in a bright color like red to make it easy to spot.

Here’s how to color-code your Gmail folders on the web app:

Step 1
In your mailbox, go to the left sidebar and find the folder you want to color.

Step 2
Hover your mouse over the desired folder and click the three vertical dots that appear.

Step 3
Then, click Label color from the drop-down menu and pick the color of your choice.

label color

H. How to Show or Hide Your Folders on the Gmail Web App

If you have tons of folders and don’t want them crowding up your sidebar, Gmail lets you choose between showing and hiding folders.
To do this, follow these simple steps:

Step 1
From your Gmail inbox, click the More option from the left sidebar.

More option

Step 2
Next, click the Manage labels option.

Manage labels options

Step 3
This will take you to the Labels tab, where you can see all your folders listed.

Labels tab

To select the folders you want to make visible or not, click the show or hide buttons next to the folder name.

Go back to Contents

Next, I’ll go over how you can use and manage folders on the Gmail web app:

How to Use Folders on the Gmail Mobile App

The Gmail mobile app lets you move emails and also automatically assign email addresses to folders.

I’ll show you how to:

Let’s first go over how to move emails to folders on the mobile app.

A. How to Move Emails into Folders on the Gmail Mobile App

While the mobile app won’t let you create new folders, you can move emails into your existing folders.

Here’s how to do it:

Step 1
Open the Gmail app on your mobile device.

Step 2
Select the message or messages you want to move from the Gmail inbox.

Blue tick

Step 3
There are three vertical dots at the upper right corner of the mail app screen; tap on them.

Three dots

Step 4
Now tap Move to and select the desired folder.

Move to option

This is how the Move to (destination folder) window looks:

Move to tab

It’s a label list from which you can select the folder of your choice.

Go back to Contents

B. How to Move an Email to Another Folder on the Gmail Mobile App

If you wish to move your emails from one Gmail folder to another, you can do so easily on the mobile app.

Step 1
Open the Gmail app on your mobile device and click on the Menu icon. If you don’t have a Gmail account, download the mobile app, sign up, and set up your brand new mailbox.

menu icon

Step 2
Click on the folder that contains the email to be moved.

Work folder

Step 3
Select the email you want to move to a different folder and click on the three-dots icon on the upper right corner of the mail app screen. To move multiple emails, click on the checkbox next to them to select them.

Three dots icon

Step 4
From the drop-down menu, click on the Move to option and select the desired label.

Move to icon

The Move to window will have all the folder names except the parent label (parent folder) that contains the selected email.

Move to window

Go back to Contents

You can also use Gmail’s mobile app to redirect emails directly to specific folders.

I’ll go over that next.

C. How to Assign Labels to an Email Automatically on the Gmail Mobile App

Note: You can only assign labels automatically in iOS devices to move incoming emails to a specific folder. This feature is absent in Gmail’s Android mobile app.

Here are the steps to automatically assign labels to a folder on the Gmail mobile app on iOS devices.

Step 1
Open the Gmail app and click on the Menu icon.

Menu icon 2

Step 2
From the Menu, click on Settings.

Settings folder

Step 3
Select your Gmail account.

Select gmail account

Step 4
From the list of options in the Settings Menu, click on Label settings.

Label settings

Step 5
From the list of labels, click on the label name of the particular folder. In the subsequent label window, click on Add.

Label settings tab

Add label

Step 6
Type a name or email in the “From” field. To add other search criteria (like a keyword), click on And. Then, click Save. 

Specific emails from the email address will now be automatically sent to the folder.

Save label

Note: You can’t rename or edit a Gmail folder from the mobile app. You also cannot create a custom folder (custom label) in the mobile app either.

Go back to Contents

Wrapping Up

Organizing your mailbox can be a pain. But with Gmail folders, it becomes far easier!

You can quickly create, delete, rename, and even assign colors to folders in minutes. And while the mobile app may lack some features, the web app more than makes up for it.

Try out the handy steps I covered here to organize your Gmail inbox easily!

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  1. Mr. Goel:
    I’ve been using Gmail for 10 years now.
    Here’s my problem:
    I created a label named (i.e. 2022 Rec’d Emails) w/sub folders
    and another named (2022 Sent Emails) w/sub folders.

    I can drag and drop a Rec’d Email into a “label” or folder and it stays there and is gone
    from my Inbox – so ONE copy of the Rec’d email in a folder – no problem works perfectly.

    The Sent emails are the problem. I can drag and drop a Sent email into any folder
    just like the Rec’d emails – BUT… the Sent email, now in a folder (label), AND it
    STAYS in my SENT folder as well – So I’ve now got two copies of the same email.

    If I “delete” the Sent email in the Gmail Sent folder it also deletes it from my personal
    folder, so I can’t figure out why this is the case – the Rec’d emails don’t work like that
    at all.

    Appreciated your webpage, good layout.
    Look forward to your solution if one exists.
    Thank You
    Louis Duenweg
    Southern Oregon

  2. Why do these articles talk about folders when there are none that can be created – only labels. Very annoying attribute of Gmail is the inability to create folders.

    1. I couldn’t agree more. Author straight up tells you there is a difference between folders and labels, but then wants to use both terms interchangeably. There are NO FOLDERS in gmail, only labels. Grab an apple and an orange. Take a bite of both. They aren’t the same, but I’ll write an article that tells you they are.

  3. This article is awful. I have NO tab called LABELS.
    The drop down lists presented here bear no resemblance to the ones i have.
    Its ridiculous that i have to go onto internet to try and find out how a mandatory app works.
    Gmail is torrid. Its unuser friendly but im stuck with it.

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