Gmail: Managing Email

Lesson 5: Managing Email



As you use email more and more, your inbox can become cluttered with old messages. It's important to keep your inbox organized so you can find messages when you need them. The simplest way to deal with email clutter is to delete unwanted messages. But you can also archive messages to move them out of your inbox, or you can apply labels to your messages based on the category they're in.

In this lesson, we'll talk about deleting unwanted messages, archiving, applying labels, adding filters, and using Gmail's search feature.

Watch the video below to learn how to delete and archive messages, as well as how to manage your labels.

Deleting unwanted messages

No matter how many emails you receive, you'll probably never run out of space. Gmail gives you enough space to hold countless emails and their attachments. However, it's a good idea to delete messages you don't want to make it easier to find the ones you do want.

To delete a message:

While viewing the message, click the Delete button.

Deleting a message

If the message is a part of a conversation, the entire conversation will be deleted. If you just want to delete one message in a conversation, click the drop-down arrow in the top-right corner of the message and select Delete this message.

Deleting a message in a conversation

Dealing with spam

Usually, spam—or junk email—is automatically sent to your Spam folder, so it never gets to your inbox. However, some spam still gets past Gmail's spam filter. Instead of simply deleting these messages, it's best to Report them as spam so Gmail knows to filter them out in the future. The process is the same as deleting a message, except that you'll click the Report spam button instead.

Reporting a message as spam

Messages in your Spam folder are automatically deleted after 30 days, so you'll never have to worry about deleting them manually.

Archiving messages

Sometimes you may want to remove emails from your inbox, but you don't want to delete them. Gmail allows you to archive messages so they will no longer appear in your inbox. Because you can still access archived messages, it's a safer alternative to deleting.

To archive a message:

While viewing the message, click the Archive button.

Archiving a message

To view your archived messages:

In the left menu pane, click the more drop-down arrow and select All Mail.

Clicking the more drop-down menu

It will then display all of your messages, including archived messages and the messages in your inbox.

Viewing all mail, including archived messages

Managing multiple messages

If you're deleting, archiving, or reporting spam, you can take action on several messages at a time by selecting them in your inbox. Simply place a check mark next to each message you want to manage, then click the desired button. You can also click the top check mark to select all of the messages that are currently visible.

Archiving multiple messages at once

Working with labels

Labels allow you to organize your messages and make them easier to find. Applying a label to a message is like putting it into a folder, with one important difference: You can apply more than one label to a message. For example, if you received a message about a company trip, you could label it as Travel and Work. You can choose to label only the most important messages, or you can label every single one—it's up to you. You can create new labels whenever you need to, and you can also choose a color that will make the label stand out.

To apply a label to a message:

  1. While viewing the message, click the Labels button. A drop-down menu will appear with a list of labels.
  2. Place a check mark next to all of the labels you want, then click Apply.
    Applying a label
  3. Now, when you view your inbox, you'll be able to see the label next to the message subject.
    The label appears next to the subject

To create a new label:

  1. While viewing the message, click the Labels button, then select Create new.
    Creating a new label
  2. Type a new label name, then click Create. The new label will be applied to the message.
    Naming the label

Viewing labeled messages

Once you've added labels to some of your messages, you can easily view all of the messages that contain a particular label. This is where all of the time spent labeling messages pays off. For example, you may want to view messages with the label Travel so you can see everything that pertains to an upcoming trip.

To view labeled messages:

  1. In the left menu pane, click the name of the label you want to view.
    Selecting a label
  2. Gmail will now display only the messages containing the label you selected. The name of the label you chose will appear in the search bar.
    Showing only the messages containing the Friends label
  3. To view all of your messages again, click Inbox in the left menu pane.

Some labels may be hidden. If you don't see the label you want, click the More drop-down arrow to view the hidden labels. From here, you can also click Manage labels to control which ones are hidden.

Viewing hidden labels

To choose a label color:

  1. In the left menu pane, find the label you want to change.
  2. Click the more button to the right of the label name.
    Clicking the "More" button next to the label
  3. From the menu, select the desired color.
    Selecting a color
  4. The label will update to reflect the new color.
    Several different labels

Creating filters

Filters can save you a lot of time by automatically performing actions like labeling or deleting messages as soon as they arrive in your inbox. You can create filters that look for a specific sender, recipient, subject, or specific words that are contained in the body of the email.

Watch the video below to learn how to create filters and search for an email message.

To create a filter:

  1. Open an email message. Ideally, this message should be similar to the emails you want to filter.
    Selecting a message
  2. Click the More actions button, then select Filter messages like these.
    Filtering similar messages
  3. In the box that appears, type one or more search criteria. One or more fields may already be filled in based on the email you opened, but you can edit the criteria if necessary. In this example, we're only looking for messages that are from Twitter. Click Create filter with this search to select actions you want to apply to the filter.
    Filtering messages by sender
  4. Place a check mark next to the desired action. If you want to apply a label, you'll need to choose the label from the drop-down menu.
  5. If you want to apply the filter to existing messages that meet the criteria, place a check mark next to Also apply filter to matching conversations.
  6. Click Create Filter. In this example, the Twitter label will be applied to any new messages you receive from Twitter, as well as all of the existing ones.
    Choosing an action and creating a filter

To edit or delete filters:

  1. In the top-right corner of the page, click the gear icon, then select Settings.
    Going to Settings
  2. Click Filters and Blocked Addresses at the top of the screen to view a list of filters that are currently active. You can then edit or delete the desired filters.
    Managing filters

Search mail

The search mail feature allows you to perform a Google search in your email. This means you can find any message, no matter how new or old. It searches every part of the message, so you can find a message even if you don't remember who sent it or if you never labeled it.

To search for a message:

  1. At the top of the page, type some search terms in the Gmail search box.
    Searching for messages
  2. Your inbox will display your search results. You can click an email to read it, or you can try a different search.
    Clicking on a search result

If you're still not finding what you're looking for, you can click Show search options to perform an advanced search.

Show search options


For this challenge, you will need an email in your inbox. If you completed the previous lesson's challenges, you can use those emails. If not, send yourself an email by putting your email address as the recipient.

  1. Open an email you sent to yourself, create a label, and name it Practice.
  2. Change the label color to purple.
  3. Create a filter to only show emails you have sent yourself.
  4. When you're finished, your inbox should look something like this:
    Managing challenge
  5. Optional: Archive one of your emails.