New Gmail Labels and Folders

The buttons changed places, but the core functionality has remained the same

The latest update to a new version of Gmail has reminded many of us of the frustration related to managing folders and labels in the app, but we're here to help clear up some of the confusion. Google has made the executive decision to put the folder switching icon in the top action bar, but nest the label switching button behind the overflow menu key. This decision had to be made because of the elimination of the bottom action bar, but it still hasn't made it any easier to explain the difference between switching folders and switching labels on an email (or set of emails). Let's break it down really quick.

From the single email view (for sake of simplicity), tapping the top action bar button that looks like an open manila folder will pop up a familiar interface for switching that given email to a new folder. Those who have created new specialized folders (aka labels) will see a list of options where they can then send that email. Tapping any of these folders will completely remove the email from your inbox (or any other folder it was previously in) and place it in that new folder, effectively archiving it.

New Gmail Folders New Gmail Labels

This differs from simply adding labels to an email, which is now handled with a tap on the menu button and another tap on "Change labels". A similar interface will pop up, giving you a list of available labels with checkboxes next to each. Adding labels by checking the appropriate boxes does not remove the email from your inbox, but rather just labels it in addition to the inbox label. It's a subtle but important distinction that will keep you from losing emails to random folders you've created.

This can be a tough one to wrap your head around, even without the new Gmail update changing the button placement. Stick around with us after the break for a quick video walkthrough of how to manage your labels and folders in the new Gmail interface.


Reader comments

How to manage labels and folders in the new Gmail


My wife is most ticked by the delete button being put behind the menu button. Is there any way to get the delete button back on the main screen?

If she likes deleting a lot more than silly archiving, then she can set that to make it that swipe deletes the message.

Menu > General Settings > Archive & delete actions > Set to however you like

I hope this helps, let me know if this is what you were looking for.

Andrew please make a video or give the link for how to change the swiping to make it delete. Not for me, but for the many wives out there.

Wouldn't it be better to have the top menu bar on the bottom? I feel like I have to stretch a lot on my Nexus 4. I'm feeling lazy this weekend.

Me too, I can't understand why they decided to remove the bottom bar. It's so easier to tap when using the phone with just one thumb.
And also, I can't understand why there isn't archive and delete in the action bar. Why do I have to choose? I use both of them regulary.
For me this update is really bad.

You my friend may have gingerbreaditis. It's a common disease that occurs on Androids when your phone doesn't have a version of 4.0 or higher. The most common solution for this disease is upgrading phone or software. If your phone is more than 2 years old and the highest upgrade available is 2.3.X then your other alternative is installing CyanogenMod's latest version for your phone.
Good luck!

No, I'm JB 4.1.1 on an S3. Runing Gmail 4.5, my icons at the top are archive, delete, and mark read/unread. I do not have the open folder as shown in the video. Any other ideas?

I lol'd

To KC, I noticed that I don't have the folder either when in the inbox. It does show up if I either go into a message or long press to start the multi-selection process. Is this the same for you?

I have the folder icon but not the overflow menu dots. Any ideas? Running 4.1.2 on Galaxy S2 Skyrocket.
On further investigation, the overflow menu uses the permanent Menu button.

Thank you, Andrew!
I was really in confusion when I first updated my Gmail.
I removed all my labels and also removed all my filters, just to experience the new tabs, and how my emails got sorted into them.

Archive and delete now coexist! I never knew what archive meant, but now I learn!
Archive is to remove email messages from inbox, but they still exist under "All Mail", and they're searchable!
Delete, moves the email message to "Trash", it remains there for 30 days.

You can still access the "Change label" in one click (i.e. without having to go to the overflow menu.
=> just click the current label(s) in the e-mail itself (on the right of the subject line.)

I hate this new version so much. It looks nice and all, but NONE of my new emails when I refresh show up. It will say I have like 10 emails in the sidebar, but none of them are shown in my inbox. Easy solution, just use Gmail in Chrome. I hope they fix this soon. Anyone having this issue?

I hate that having label notifications for everything makes you get duplicate emails is there anyway to stop this? I only have the original labels none of my own but still get duplicate for example if an update is also important I get the update notification along with the priority notification

We have a video coming in a couple days on this. In short, you need to go in and turn off notifications for those extra labels manually.

Something I've yet to figure out is creating these new labels from my device.

From Gmail in the browser, it's a simple click to expand the labels and BAM, there's a "Create new label" link. I can't find this anywhere in my phones settings. Am I blind and am missing it or is that function not there yet?

All it is great in the realm (sorry, just finished watching season finale for Game of Thrones [again]). Love and Hate this new interface, love the fact I no longer get a notification for all these updates/promotions emails that are sent to me and only those who go to my primary inbox (all hail G!!!) But annoys the crap out of me when I have to touch first different tabs and long-touch a dozen emails just so I can delete them!! (curse you G!!!) Oh well, sorry for the stupid comment, I'm all wired up from coffee, monster energy drinks, and some weird Chinese tablets my roommate gave me!!!

Send the ravens!!! (simply put, pressing "Save")

I'm an active member at the the BBQ Brethren Forums, and when replies to a thread are received, Gmail decides the email belongs in the updates folder instead of the forums folder, even though the e-mail comes from BBQ Brethren FORUMS.... go figure. Google certainley missed the bulls-eye on this one.


The whole Label thing is getting confusing. What's the difference between a Label and a Folder? How could you possibly moce an e-mail to a new Label? What's the difference between moving an e-mail to a Folder or to a Label.

There is a bit of a UI design quandry here. Google is bending on its strong belief in Labels because many people cannot understand it. So it looks like Google is also using the term Folder for it's new sorting feature.

For some reason none of my labels are color coded. I have the new UI and all but not a hint of the new color coded email features. Why is that? Is anyone else having this problem?

Posted via Android Central App

Unlike the images above I no longer have the inbox label which doesn't allow me to uncheck the inbox label and file into multiple labels and remove from the inbox? Can anyone help - how can I get the inbox label back?

This is no longer intuitive - as far as the last 20 minutes frustration go it seems impossible to create new labels for emails on my phone.
I have had to resort to going on via my laptop, just to create a new label.
The so called instructions on the help page just don't apply.
That sucks.

I actually had to go to the desktop version of gmail to create a label, not the gmail app and not the mobile internet gmail. There is an option when you launch gmail in chrome to switch to the desktop version. Hope that helps.

So glad I found this page, but this "husband" is getting frustrated with the new google mail on my Razr Maxx.

Thanks for the explaining the difference between "move" and "adding labels".

My question is, why do I not see "inbox" at all?

If I already added a label, say "School", which is now in "Inbox" & "School", how do I remove the label from "Inbox" if I don't see it when I pull up the "Change Labels" option. All I see if all the labels I have created.

Thanks for the help,