Gmail- Organizing and Searching Mails

Gmail is an excellent way to communicate instantly with anyone in the world. Gmail is utilized by colleges, businesses, and is popular tool for personal email accounts. Most people know how the basics of Gmail work and are able to use the tool quite successfully. However, there are many settings and different ways to organize your email that can improve the experience greatly. Utilizing the tools that Gmail has developed for the user can make even the most cluttered inbox easy to navigate and look great. Gmail is something used every day, unlike a program with a more specific purpose, so why not know the ins and outs so you can be a Gmail pro!

Lynda.com created videos many useful videos, and through the Gmail Essential Training Chapter 3- Organizing and Searching Mails videos, I learned a lot about how to make an inbox as accessible as possible, visually pleasing, and technologically organized.

The first video, Working with multiple messages at a time, goes into details about the functions of the checkboxes that can be found next to all emails.

Email Screenshot Checkboxes Circled

Email Screenshot Checkboxes Circled

Checkboxes can be selected individually, or by category by using the checkbox on the toolbar. The options include none, all, read, unread, starred, and unstarred. This allows quick selection of numerous emails, and they will all be highlighted in addition to being checked. However, this only selects the emails on the page, not from your entire inbox.

Creating labels for messages and conversations, the second video, covers labels, a great tool to utilize. A label is a visible tag that you assign to an email and is a simple way to visually and physically organize your inbox. When an email has been selected, simply click on the tag looking button on the tool bar, with the name “Labels”, type a name, and select “create”.

Example Label Placement: Basketball

Example Label Placement: Basketball

The name can be anything, for example, you can mark all emails regarding your basketball team “Basketball”. Once a label is created, it is saved, and you can quickly select new emails and give them the same label. On the left side of the screen, all labels will show up under the different sections of the inbox.

Colored Labels

Colored Labels

You can also change the color of any label by hovering the mouse over the label name and clicking the drop down arrow and selecting “Label Color”. This is another excellent way to visually organize your inbox. You can quickly delete labels using the drop down arrow and selecting “Remove Label”, or rename the label by selecting “Edit” and typing in a new name. The change will be made to all emails with the labels.

Video three, Moving messages out of the inbox,  teaches the physical moving emails from your inboxes to different labels. Labels, which we discussed above, are not only visual distinctions, but are like the folders of gmail. You can move any email to a label by selecting the check box and using the “move to”, and select your desired label. Once moved, the label on the email disappears because it is in the specific section for that label. You can do this to as many emails as you would like at a time. You can also select multiple emails, create a label, and move them at the same time.

Checked Box with Dots

Checked Box with Dots

To click and drag an email into a label, hover your mouse over the checkbox, and two rows of dots will appear next to it, and the mouse icon will change to a hand. Clicking then allows you to drag and drop your email into any label. Your email will not longer appear in your inbox, but in the label you selected.

The next video, Archiving and deleting messages, dives into the varying ways to archive or delete gmail. Gmail gives the user many gigabytes to use for storage, and the archiving option allows you to take advantage of that storage. Archiving an email moves it from your inbox and places it solely in the “All Mail” section. However, you keep the mail and can find it through the search bar or through exploring “All Mail”.

If you delete an email, it gets moved to the trash and will be permanently removed after 30 days. If you decide you want to move an email, you can go to your trash and move it back to your inbox.

The next video, Creating stars to visually organize messages, describes yet another way to physically and visually organize your inbox. Stars appear next to the checkbox, and a simple click stars your email. You will see the star go from clear to yellow. Starred is a label section on the left hand side along with your other labels. However, you can take starred further and create your own key with different type of stars.

Stars in Settings

Stars in Settings

To change, go to settings, and scroll to the star sections. You can select a variety of different colors as well as different shapes, such as an exclamation point of question mark. Gmail will not assign a key for you, so you get to determine your own key. A question mark can mean the email needs a response, where an exclamation point means it requires a timely response. This is a very useful tool within all labels and allows users to create their own key to their inbox.

The sixth video, Creating filters to automatically process messages, explains filters and the three different ways to create them. A filter is a rule to automatically process a message, such as add a star or a label, as soon as it shows up in your inbox. Creating a filter is easy. The first way is click the checkbox of the message, select more, and select filter messages like these. It will find other emails already in your inbox and ask if you would like these to be filtered as well. The second way is to search something in the search box and instead of hitting enter, use the down arrow at the end of the search bar and create a filter. The final way is to create multiple filters at once, by going to settings, and starting one from scratch. From this place, you can also delete and manage all your filters.

Label Settings

Label Settings

Managing labels, the next video, goes into even further depth into the label system. The settings of labels is found under the gear button, and it gives you the option to hide or show all labels, create a new label, edit the name, remove a label completely, show or hide label tags in the message list. It also gives you the option to show in the label list on the left side of the inbox, and also allow you to show if emails are unread within labels, which is helpful if your emails are filtered to labels automatically.

The eighth video, Searching your messages, explores various ways to search for emails in your inbox, labels, trash, and “All Mail” box. When you use the search bar, the words use will be highlighted in the emails that come up. If an email comes up with a tag, that will tell you where the email is located. No tag means the email has been archived and is only found in the “All Mail” box. You can refine your search to only a specific box or label, and if you type OR between keywords you are searching for, it will search for emails with either words, not both. Know that it only shows the twenty most recent emails, but you can scroll with the arrows under the tool bar to see all emails.

Searching with Operations

Searching with Operations

The final video, Advanced Searching with Operators, gives details about having a very refined and hopefully successful search within your Gmail account. Simple add from, to, subject, lab, has, is, or before with a colon afterwards, and enter what you are searching for. For example, entering From:Erdmann allows me to see all the emails from one of my professors.

You can also combine operations with a comma. For example, From:Erdmann, has:attachment. This allows you to fine a specific email you are searching for, regardless of what labels it has or if it had been deleted or archived.

Through watching this tutorial and writing this blog post, I learned so many new things about Gmail that can simply and enhance my experience with the program. I can now organize my inbox in ways I did not even know were possible!

To learn more about some Gmail features, check out Sydney Ryals’ post, Using Gmail Chat and Keyboard Shortcuts, at http://wp.me/p3TB5p-Q

Did you know about many of these features of Gmail? Share below on your take of these tools, whether they are new to you or you are a Gmail master!

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About Laura H.

Keepin it real since 1994
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15 Responses to Gmail- Organizing and Searching Mails

  1. Sara R. says:

    Laura, this was a very informative post! While I did know that the features you described existed, such as the labels and stars, I did not look into them to the extent that you obviously have. I try to stay pretty up-to-date on my messages as to not fill my inbox (as my Verizon inbox seems to fill very quickly), so I did not even notice that our accounts can hold so much data. Additionally, from now on, I believe that I will start to label my E-mails so that I can stay more organized. Great job!

  2. Mary F. says:

    Laura this was a great post! I actually did know about labeling emails and sorting them into different groups. I do it for my classes to keep myself organized. It helps me stay on top of my emails and is definitely a good idea that I would recommend to everyone! I had no idea about how to search my emails though. This would have saved me a lot of time had I known this before. It helps to be able to find what you need as fast as possible. Thanks for all this helpful information!

  3. Angie E. says:

    Hey Laura good job! It seems as though I’m behind the learning curve here, I never knew about the stars and labels. I know that they would be very useful for me, especially in organizing emails from my professors and organizations the way Mary suggested. Thanks for telling us about the search function too. I’ve scrolled through my inbox searching for important messages many times, but now that I know how to search for them, I won’t have to!

  4. B. Taylor says:

    Just when we think we ARE email experts, we learn there are so many more ways to organize our inboxes and find buried messages. I do find myself using search a lot in Gmail, but I had overlooked how quickly I could get to advanced search by just using the little triangle to the right of the search bar (left of the magnifying glass) to drop down a list of options to search by.

  5. Maria H. says:

    Laura, little did I know how much you can do with your Gmail inbox! I have many labels already created for school, work, my sorority, and things from home, but I had no idea that each label can be color-coded! That will really help with visually sorting my inbox. Also, the star system is something I have never understood and have just ignored. But now, I think I will make my own key and be alerted when an email needs to have a prompt response. And even more, I use the Search bar quite often, but didn’t know that you can specify the search with commas. I have really learned so much! Did you learn anything while writing this post? Do you use all of these functions with your own Gmail account? Thanks, Laura, this is great!

    • Laura H. says:

      I used only a few of these tools before writing my blog post, but I use the labels so much more than I use to! It has definitely helped declutter my inbox.

  6. Tabitha C. says:

    I was happy to learn about the different labels I could use to sort my mail. I’m someone who likes to have many folders and subfolders. I get many emails a day and so it can get overwhelming with how many emails there are in such a big space. Using these folders and labels can help me separate emails for my classes, for teaching fellows, for my sorority, and for other personal subjects. Thank you so much for these helpful tips!

  7. Steph G. says:

    Laura, this post expanded on information that I thought I knew very well. I actually just organized all my mail, but now that I know about the filtering aspect, I will have to go back and fix it! This was very informational and helpful. Since I use Gmail almost everyday, it is really important that I know how to use it fairly well. This helped me so much in fully understanding how to use Gmail!

  8. Winna P. says:

    Hi Laura! This post was very well written and included an abundance of information. I knew that you could organize your email in different ways, but I have not taken advantage of this option. After reading your post, it has inspired me to do so. I will be using all the information included above to help me organize my inbox in a way that works best for me! Hopefully this will keep me on top of my emails better. I know when we all become teachers having an email that is organized will be a key part in being a successful educator. Thanks for such a great post!

  9. Chelsea R. says:

    I never knew that you could change the labels and the colors of each email based on the category! You had a lot of content that was new to me and I liked how you circled or outlined each part of the picture that you were talking about. I thought it might have been a bit long and wordy but I feel like it’s better to make it longer as apposed to short with not enough information. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Katie H. says:

    Excellent post Laura!! I had a slight understanding of labeling emails and separating them into different categories and folders. I usually do this for emails that I need to access quickly, such as flight information when I’m traveling. Other than that, I do not organize my emails nearly as much as I should. I have a hard time deleting emails because I always feel like I will need them eventually, which usually isn’t the case. At last check, I had around 800 emails that were not organized in any fashion. Now that I know all of these cool tools about organizing my emails I will most definitely go through my mountains of emails and sort them into categories. Thanks so much for all the great information!

  11. Alexia M. says:

    Laura, I had previously known about searching for emails, but that was about all I knew about from what you talked about. Starring emails or labeling them would probably be really helpful for me, because I oftentimes read an email that needs responding to, but I don’t always have time to reply to it right when I read it. Starring it as something that needs to be replied to would probably be beneficial for me. I can definitely see myself using these features of gmail in the future.

  12. Victoria B. says:

    Laura, I was very interested to learn about the labeling tool. I use gmail all the time for both my Elon email and my personal email. After all this time, I had never known that I could create labels to organize my messages! Since I am involved in so much and have several different jobs this function will be very helpful. Thanks for sharing!

  13. Anna B. says:

    Hey Laura! I really enjoyed this post and learned so much!! I had no idea Gmail could do all that! I love being organized, so I know that I am going to definitely use these tips to make my inbox much more manageable. As a teacher, if we use Gmail, I know i can specifically use the labels feature to sort emails from other teachers, emails from parents, emails from students, and emails for certain projects or activities. I currently have two Gmail accounts, and thanks to this post I can organize them perfectly now! Thanks!

  14. Chelsea S. says:

    Hey, Laura! Thank you so much for such an awesome post! I love all the features Gmail has, they are so helpful. I have folders for certain clubs, teachers, and e-mails from my parents. I love to color coordinate them too!

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