You’re here to learn how to create folders in Gmail, right?
Well, you’ve come to the right place 😎
In this article, I’m going to show you how to create folders in Gmail. Let’s dive right in!
Table of Contents
- What are Gmail Labels?
- How to Create Folders in Gmail (or Labels)
- How to apply labels to existing messages in Gmail
- How to Apply Gmail Labels Automatically
- Gmail Labels vs. Outlook Folders: Which is Better?
- Ideas for Labels in Gmail
What are Gmail Labels?
Gmail labels are Gmail’s version of Outlook folders. Outlook calls them “folders” and Gmail actually calls them labels. But they’re basically the same thing.
In Gmail, you can create as many labels as you want. Each label will assign some meaning or category to an email.
For example, you could create a label for emails related to “marketing” or one for “legacy client” emails. Then, you’ll assign labels to the appropriate emails; you can assign many different labels to a single message, or leave some messages completely unlabeled.
You can also “nest” labels, creating sublabels that function as subfolders within the parent label.
When created, your labels will appear in the left-hand side of your screen. There, you can click individual labels (and sub-labels) and manage all emails that have that label applied. It’s essentially the same as opening a specific folder.
How to Create Folders in Gmail (or Labels)
Let’s get down to it. Here’s how to create folders in Gmail (or “labels”, whichever term you prefer).
If you’re creating labels from scratch, head to the Settings menu.
The second tab from the left is Labels, where you’ll be able to manage existing labels and create new ones.
Scroll past “System labels” and “Categories” to get to “Labels” at the bottom. There, click “Create new label.” Name your new label.
You’ll also see an option to “Nest label under.” This is intended to serve as a type of subfolder. If you check this box, you can use the dropdown menu to select an existing label, and “nest” your new label under that parent label.
That’s how to create folders in Gmail. It really is as simple as that!
Once you create a few Gmail labels, you’ll be able to manage them high-level from the same menu.
You can choose to show the label by default, hide it by default, or show it only if it’s unread. You can also edit these labels or remove them at any time.
If you remove a label, it will not delete the messages that are marked with that label.
How to apply labels to existing messages in Gmail
First, open the email you wish to label. In the top row of icons, you’ll see a tag-like icon toward the right. Click it.
From there, you’ll be able to check any and all labels that you want to apply to this label.
You can also use the search bar at the top to search for a specific label by name, or “Create new” labels with a single click at the bottom of this submenu. There’s also a shortcut here to “Manage labels,” which will take you to the Settings menu we just explored.
You can label and relabel your emails at any time.
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Note that you can also label outgoing or “Sent” emails. When you open a Compose email, click on the vertical ellipses in the lower-right corner. You’ll be able to apply a label using the same submenu pictured above.
How to Apply Gmail Labels Automatically
There’s a way to apply Gmail labels to incoming or existing emails automatically. You need to create an automatic filter, and use that filter to automatically apply new labels. We have a complete guide on Gmail filters here.
As a basic overview, you can create filters within the Settings menu or by using the default email search feature, and saving your search criteria as an initial basis for your filter.
For example, you could list a few email addresses in the “from” field that apply to one of your clients—let’s call them Client A. When you’re satisfied with the search parameters, you’ll click “Create filter.”
Then, you’ll check the box next to “Apply the label,” and you’ll choose a label to assign to those emails. In this case, you’d mark those emails as “Client A.”
You can use many different search parameters to create complex filters, either by themselves or in combination with each other. The possibilities are pretty much limitless.
When you save this new filter, it will automatically apply your new label selections to all new emails that match your search criteria. It will not retroactively apply to existing emails that match these criteria.
Gmail Labels vs. Outlook Folders: Which is Better?
If you’re used to using Outlook, or if you’re just confused as to why Gmail would use of labels instead of folders, it helps to understand the distinct advantages of using labels:
1. Multiple label assignment.
The biggest advantage of Gmail labels compared to Outlook folders is the fact that you can apply many different labels to a single email. Labels essentially function as a tagging system, rather than a relocation system.
With folders, you’re forced to remove an email from your inbox and move it to a singular alternate location.
If you copy the email, you may be able to include it in multiple folders, but this is a waste of time and creates unnecessary copies of emails.
With a good label system, you can rely on as many or as few notations as possible for each message.
Gmail labels are also much more searchable. If you have a folder system, you can either search for the content of a specific message, or you can use a trial-and-error approach to dig through various folders until you find the right one.
With a label system, you can search for one or more labels simultaneously using Gmail search operators, and more easily find your desired message(s) with a single search.
3. Core inbox retention.
Applying labels doesn’t permanently change your inbox. Moving an email to a folder takes it away from its original position, which removes it from immediate visibility and can disrupt your perception of email timing (not to mention organization).
With labels, you can still group emails as you desire, but your “core” inbox view will never be permanently altered (at least until you start archiving and deleting).
Ideas for Labels in Gmail
Now that you know how to create new folders in Gmail and manage them in various ways, you might be unsure about how to create Gmail labels that are meaningful and helpful.
To get you started, here are a few of the main types of labels and sublabels that Gmail users create to stay organized:
- Clients. If you choose your main contacts or an entire domain of email addresses as part of your filter, you can assign labels to emails based on the client they come from.
- Projects. You can also apply Gmail labels to different projects, either manually or by creating a filter for various keywords on the subject or body of each message.
- Level of urgency/due dates. It can also be helpful to create labels based on the urgency of a given message, though this can be problematic if levels of urgency change. You may also group them by due date, creating new labels weekly to keep yourself on task—but here, you may be better off using stars or “important” markers, which you can toggle on and off easily.
- Level of urgency/due dates. If you plan to keep certain types of attachments grouped together, like videos, invoices, or spreadsheets, you can apply those labels to your emails, respectively.
- Memos/updates. Creating a “memos” or “updates” label can help you keep track of messages you’ll need to refer back to regularly in the future. The value of this one will increase over time.
- Notifications. Gmail can automatically detect and group your automatic notification emails using the “Social,” “Updates,” and/or “Forums” categories. However, you may wish to take more control over how those messages are labeled. Either way, it’s a good idea to keep your inbound automatic emails organized.
If you’re looking to save time in Gmail or improve your overall email productivity, learning how to create folders in Gmail is one of the best things you can do because it helps you stay organized.
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Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before selling it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics.