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62. Manage Your Mail with Labels and Filters



Compose and Send Mail

Search Through Your Mail

What's the biggest problem that most people have with their email? Managing it. Many of us live in email, and we send and receive hundreds of messages a day.

To help you control it all in Gmail, you use what Gmail calls labels and filters. Here's one area where Gmail is more confusing than most email programs because it's not obvious how to use these features. So follow the steps in this task to master them.

Key Term

Labels (Gmail) A way to organize your mail in Gmail. Labels function much like folders in email programs.

Filters A rule that is applied to incoming mailfor example, to move it to a certain label.

Manage Your Mail with Labels and Filters

Select Messages to Put in a Label

Labels in Gmail are used much like folders are used in email programs such as Outlookyou use labels to organize your mail. One difference between Gmail and other mail programs, however, is that a single piece of mail can show up in many labels, as well as in your inbox. Think of each label as a particular search; email in that label matches certain search terms.

To create a label, enable the check boxes next to the messages in your inbox that you want to be put into the label you're about to create. To create a label for the messages, select New label from the More Actions drop-down menu.

Give the Label a Name

In the Please enter a new label name text box that pops up, type a name for the label and click OK. The label is created and you receive a notice at the top of your inbox telling you that your label has been created and how many email messages (which Gmail calls conversations) are in the label.

View the Messages in Your Label

To view the messages in your label, click the Labels link on the left side of the Gmail page to see a list of all the labels you've created; then click the name of the label you want to view. You see all the messages contained in that label. Each message has a check box next to it; you can take actions on the messages by choosing the desired action from the More Actions drop-down menu.

Start Creating a Filter

When you create a label, you're essentially creating a placeholder. The label contains the messages you've told Gmail to put into it. But no new incoming messages are automatically included in the label, even if those messages have the same subject lines or sender information as other messages in the label (all incoming mail, by default, appears only in the inbox).

You can, however, create a filter that automatically places appropriate incoming messages in a specific label. A filter is essentially a rule that is applied to all incoming messages; the filter tells Gmail how to handle specific messages. You can create a filter to tell Gmail to make certain messages appear in certain labels. You can, for example, create a label named Mother and then have all incoming messages from your mom show up in that label.

To create a filter, click the Create a filter link at the top of the main Gmail page (to the right of the Search the Web button). From the page that appears, tell Gmail what information it should filter on. You can tell it to create a filter based on the subject's email address, on the email address to whom the email is being sent, on the subject line, on whether the incoming email message has an attachment, whether it has certain words, and whether it doesn't have certain words. When you're done filling out the criteria for filtering incoming email messages, click Next Step.


If you want to see what results the filter criteria you have specified will create, click Test Search before you click Next Step. You'll then see what messages in your inbox will be filtered.

Finish Creating the Filter

The next page of the filter-creation process enables you to tell Gmail what action to perform on the filtered mail. You can select multiple actions so the filter can perform multiple actions on the filtered mail.

Enable the check boxes next to each action you want the filter to take. You can have the filter skip the inbox; star the message (that is, enable the star icon next to the message in the inbox to identify the message as having some significance); have the mail show up in a certain label (you can choose from the list of labels you have already created, as explained in steps 13); forward the message to another email address; or move the filtered mail to the trash. When you're done specifying the actions to be taken on the filtered mail, click the Create Filter button.

The Mail Settings page opens to the Filters tab, which shows all the filters currently in use. (You can also access this page by clicking the Settings link in the top-right corner of the main Gmail page.) From the Filters tab, you can edit any of the filters, delete any filters, and create a new filter.

Use Your Labels

To see all the messages contained in any label, click the Labels link on the left side of the Gmail page to display a list of all the labels you've created. Click the name of the label for which you want to view messages. You can then take the normal actions on those messages.

To apply a label to a single message when you read the message, select the label you want applied from the More Actions drop-down list.

Manage Your Labels

You can delete, rename, and create new labels. To do it, click the Edit labels link at the bottom of the Labels list on the left side of the Gmail page. The Mail Settings page opens to the Labels tab; click the rename link next to a label to rename a label, or click the remove link next to a label to remove a label. Note that the messages still remain in your inbox.

To create a new label, type the label name in the Create a new label text box and click Create.


You can archive your mail by putting it into Gmail's Archive in two way. To archive a single message when you're reading it, click the Archive button. When you're in the inbox, enable the check boxes next to mail you want archived, and then click the Archive button.

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