Using folders in Gmail

Folders are really helpful when it comes to keeping your email organized. In this post I’ll show you how to set up folders for your email and how you can use a feature within Gmail to automatically put the emails into folders for you.


Gmail uses “labels” instead of folders. Labels and folders are pretty much the same. The slight difference between the two is that an email can have one or many labels as opposed to just one when using a folder. The option for using more than one label is nice because it gives you more flexibility in categorizing your email.

Creating a label

Gmail’s side menu

On the left side of your screen you should see a menu similar to the image below.

Gmail's side navigation

Click on the “More” link and you will see the options shown below.

Gmail's side navigation

Click on the “Create new label” link and you’ll be ready for the next step.

Naming your label

After you’ve clicked the “Create new label” link from the previous step you’ll see a popup box asking you to name the new label. Type in the name of your label and click the “Create” button.

Gmail label

Adding a label to an email

Now that you’ve successfully created a label I will show you how to add that label to an email. The first thing you need to do is find an email that you would like to give a label to. Select the email by clicking on the check box next to the email in your inbox. Once you’ve selected the email click on the label button that is shown below and you’ll see a list of several labels to add to the email. Select the label that you just created and then click on the apply button. You should now see label you created applied to the email.

Adding a label to an email

Automatically add labels to new emails

So far I’ve showed you how to create and manually add a label to an email. It’s a little tedious to manually add labels to all of your new (or existing) emails so I’ll show you how to automate the process by using Gmail’s filter ability. Filters tell Gmail to do something when another something happens. That was probably a little confusing so let me explain with an example. Lets say get an email from a store and in the subject line it has the word “receipt”. You can create a filter that tells Gmail anytime it sees an email with the word “receipt” in the subject line that the email should be given the label “Store Receipt”.

Create a filter

Let’s create a filter that tells Gmail to apply our new label to all emails that match our criteria. First thing that you need to do is to go to Gmail’s settings. Look for the cog wheel icon and click on it.


Look for the “Filters” link within the setting’s navigation menu. Click on the link once you’ve found it and then look for the “Create a new filter” link and click on that too. You should now see a popup box like the one below.

Create a new filter

Filter options

These options are how you specify what emails will receive the new label you created. Any email that matches any of the criteria options listed below can have the label applied to it.

  1. From

    This field is looking for an email address of the person who sent the email.

  2. To

    This field is for an email address of the person who will receive the email.

  3. Subject

    Any email that contains the text you enter in its subject line.

  4. Has the words

    Any email that contains the text you enter.

  5. Doesn’t have

    Any email that doesn’t have the text you enter.

Click on the “create filter with this search” to move on to the next step.

Create the filter

You’ll now see a box like the one below. The most important option to use from the image is the one that says “Apply the label”. The other two selected options are personal preference and are not needed. Check the “Apply the label” box and click on the label that we created earlier in this post. Click on the “create filter” button to create the filter and enjoy Gmail automatically labeling your new email for you!

Created filter