Labels and Filters in Gmail and Google Apps

If you use Gmail or Google Apps, you should be using labels and filters to automatically organize some of your incoming mail. Setting these up properly can save you a lot of time in the long run.

  • Gmail (for personal email accounts, ending in
  • Google Apps (for business or other professional email accounts, at your domain name)

Why and How to Use Labels

You can use labels to organize and color-code your messages, which makes it easier to find them later. In Gmail and Google Apps, labels are used instead of folders. If you want to have a hierarchical folder-like structure for your labels, you can enable Nested Labels in the Labs menu.

You can manage your labels in the Settings > Labels menu, and you can change the colors of your labels by clicking on the colored icons next to your list of labels. You can assign a label to a message either by dragging that message onto the label, or by selecting the message and choosing the appropriate label from the Labels drop-down.

More information on using labels

Why and How to Use Filters

You can use filters to automatically perform actions for certain messages. You can use filters to label, star, archive (skip your Inbox), mark as read, forward, and/or delete messages based on specified criteria. For example, you can automatically label incoming messages from a particular sender. If this particular sender’s emails are never urgent (i.e. a newsletter), you may want to have those messages skip your inbox as well. This way, you can keep your inbox cleaner, and you will be less likely to overlook important emails.

You will be able to improve your overall email productivity by reducing the amount of distracting emails. You can easily review your unread, filtered messages later. Any labels with unread messages are displayed in bold. If the unread message is assigned a child label (a label underneath another label), the parent label will also be displayed in bold, so you will know which of your labels has unread, filtered messages. Consider filtering these message types:

  • Ads and promotions from online shopping websites
  • Business customers
  • Business expenses
  • Newsletters
  • Networking or social groups
  • Personal vs. business-related messages

You can set filter criteria based on the “to” address, the “from” address, keywords in the subject line, keywords in the message body, and whether or not the message has an attachment. Filters can be programmed with Boolean logic and certain advanced operators. For example, you can set a single filter to match messages from multiple senders, such as using “([email protected] OR [email protected])” in the “From” field.

More information on using filters

Advanced operators for filters (can also be used for searching your messages)

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