A friend confessed she had deleted much of her email — emails she should have kept.
Why? Because she had recently switched to Gmail and didn’t understand how it worked.
Unable to find things in her overflowing In Box, and unjustly concerned about space for her email, she’d taken to mass deletes.
A few moments of showing how Labels and Search worked set her right. Now, I’ll share this information here.
Gmail has only one folder
If you’ve moved to Gmail from a specialised email client, such as Eudora, you probably want to move all the emails you receive into folders based on some criteria, such as ‘from family’ or ‘xyz project’.
In Gmail all emails are just dumped into one ginormous folder named ‘All Mail’. All of them.
‘Folders’ such as InBox and Sent Mail are in fact just a grouping of all emails labelled ‘Inbox’ or Sent Mail’. When you look at your Gmail In Box what you’re seeing is messages from the All Mail folder that happen to have the label ‘Inbox’ attached to them.
Select a message and click the Archive button to remove the Inbox label. The message was already stored in the ‘All Mail’ folder, so it doesn’t actually go anywhere, it just no longer shows up in the specialised ‘search’ for messages labelled Inbox.
Use as many labels as you like
Because all email messages are stored in only one place, you don’t have to worry about where to find them. But you may wish to make collections of some messages, such as all those from Mary, or all those connected with the 2009 Project, or even all those that are both from Mary and that are part of the 2009 Project.
This is really easy to achieve: apply labels to messages, either as part of a filter, or manually.
Select one or more messages and click on the Labels drop-down menu just above the list of messages. The drop-down displays all the labels you already have.
Type part of a label’s name in the search box there to filter a long list.
To create a new label type it into the search box and click the ‘create new’ line.
After you select a label it is applied to the selected messages.
Labels are listed in the sidebar to the left of the list of messages. Click a label to see a ‘mailbox’ displaying all messages that have that label attached.
Any one message can have no labels, one label, or a multitude of labels. To follow-up on my example above, messages from Mary could have the label Mary, and messages about Project 2009 could have the label Project09.
Search by word, label, read status or date
To find a message click in the email search box above the list of messages — it’s visible in the first screenshot — and type something you want to search for. Then click the Search Mail button.
Gmail uses Google’s powerful search techniques to quickly produce a list of all your emails.
But that’s an easy search, and Gmail has a lot more power than that.
To get back to my example about emails from Mary that are connected to the 2009 Project, and assuming you’ve used the labels I describe above:
- Click in the Search Mail text box.
- Type this search:
- Click the Search Mail button.
Gmail returns a list of all messages that have both labels attached.
To find only those messages that match the criteria above and that are unread, add
label:unread to the search criteria.
How about messages dated after a certain date?
after:2009/12/1 finds messages after 1 December 2009. Or try
before:2009/12/1 to find messages before 1 December 2009.
Saved searches (quick links)
There may be searches you often want to use. For example, I don’t want to see my Inbox, as I receive many mailing list emails that bypass the inbox. I want instead to see all unread emails, excluding those with one label I use for messages that I don’t want to see all the time.
I have a custom search that finds messages I routinely want to see:
I’ve saved this search as a
Quick Link. I click that link and see only messages matching my custom search criteria. Here’s how.
Click on the Gmail
Settings link, then click on the
Labs link. The Google Labs settings should be available. Enable
Quick Links under Google Labs and scroll to the bottom of the page where you can click the
Save Changes button. A new Quick Links section appears in the left-hand sidebar of your Gmail page.
Now do a custom search and allow Gmail to display the results. Then click the
The default name it suggests will probably be long and incomprehensible, so replace the suggested name with one that means something to you. Then click the OK button. A new Quick Link is listed.
To use that same custom search in the future click its name in the Quick Links section.
What’s your favourite Gmail search technique?