Gmail: How do you organize email messages into folders?

We all have too much email these days and it’s hard to stay organized.  Most email programs give you a way to create folders and store groups of email in those folders.  Gmail doesn’t have folders, but it has ‘Labels’ which accomplish the same goal … and then some!

Let’s say that you work freelance for 3 companies A, B, and C.  A and B are magazines, and C is a retail store.  You want to keep all your correspondence with these companies, so you want a folder for Company A, another for B and a third for C.  But, what if you also want to be able to see your emails grouped by Magazines or Retail?  You can’t do that with folders, but you can with labels.

How to Apply Labels

With a message open (or any number of messages checked) you click on the menu option for Labels and select the Label you want to apply to that message or those messages.  Notice that there are checkboxes next to the Labels so you can apply as many as you want. When you’ve checked all the Labels for the selected message(s) then click Apply. You can also ‘Create New’ to have more Labels available.


How Do you See what Messages have been Labeled?

When you’re looking at the messages in your inbox, you will see the applied labels


The Labels show up on the left sidebar and act like folders.  In the image below, the ‘Magazine Stuff’ label is selected, so all the messages which have that label applied are showing up on the right.


How to remove them from the Inbox

The key is to get them out of the inbox without deleting them. 



Archive is the key.  When you archive, the messages leave the Inbox.  Where are they?  Every message is in a storage area called ‘All Mail.’  Actually, ‘Inbox’ is just another Label.  Archiving removes the Inbox label.  Messages are in All Mail and can be found by searching for them, or you can view them by Label.  

A little more about Archiving

Emails arrive in your inbox, these should be new emails. Once I read or answer an email, I want it out of my inbox. In most email programs, the only way to keep an email but remove it from your inbox is by moving it to a Folder.  What if you don’t have a specific category for it, you just don’t want to delete it?  In Gmail, you have another choice. You can ‘Archive’ it. That means, ‘Remove it from my Inbox, but keep it in that giant storage bin called ‘All Mail.’ Imagine that your Inbox has 2 trap doors, one for delete and one for keep. Archiving means to drop it thru the trapdoor for keep. It goes to a much bigger box where it can stay indefinitely. You can always find it by using Search.
So now, using Gmail, I read an email message, reply if necessary, and then I just click the Archive button. The message is removed from my Inbox but it is still stored in ‘All Mail’ where I can search for it by any words it contains at any time in the future that I may want to see it again.

Gmail is a little different, but if you take the time to understand it, you’ll find that it is very useful.

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One Response to Gmail: How do you organize email messages into folders?

  1. Steven Slabaugh says:

    Thank you so much for this info,
    I would like more training on Gmail.
    Is there a way to send messaged later like in Outlook?
    What about Sent/Read Receipts?

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