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I have more than 100 labels in my Gmail account. They are currently displayed as a long list on the left side of the screen, and it's becoming quite difficult to use. Is there a way I can group certain labels? For example, I'm subscribed to a number programming mailing lists and want to group those labels as "Mailing lists" and collapse them, like folders in a file-system.

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6 Answers 6

up vote 25 down vote accepted

I use the Nested Label ability in Gmail Labs. It works very well for maintaining a hierarchical system of labels.

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It seems that you need to rename your label to something like "Home/Kids". This means your label will then be called "Home/Kids", not just "Kids". Also, the benefit of having labels over folders is that you can use the same label in multiple groups. The creator of this add-on seemed to have misunderstood the reasoning behind the usage of labels over folders. This add-on is not really what I'm looking for since it taints my labels. –  Luke Jul 7 '10 at 23:34
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Yes, but that's how it's going to work if you want to "collapse" multiple labels. –  Al E. Jul 8 '10 at 13:07
    
Just because they behave like folders doesn't change your ability to have multiple labels per message. It's treated the exact same way as before, but now you'll be able to collapse your list. –  Agent_9191 Jul 15 '10 at 17:09
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For what it's worth, this Lab graduated to be part of the standard Gmail some time ago. –  Al E. Jun 11 '13 at 12:27
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Sorry, probably not the answer you were looking for, but here are the rules that work well for me:

  • Simplify your life.
  • Do not have 100+ labels. Use a few, well chosen, simple, labels. I have around 10.
  • Use "search". Since the "search" in gmail is astoundingly fast, usually you do not need to use labels. Use the search in gmail to find the email messages that you need.
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Who's to dictate me that I can't have 100+ labels? GMail lets me create them... I can easily organize my "complicated" life given the right tools. It turns out that Gmail doesn't seem to be one of the tools that can help we with that. Is it only meant for people with simplified lives? –  Luke Jul 7 '10 at 23:45
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No one is dictating to you at all. It seems rude to create a long list of labels then complain that you have a long list of labels. Obviously it's not working for you or you wouldn't have asked the question. There's no need to be snarky to people who are trying to help you. –  Al E. Jul 8 '10 at 13:12
    
@Al, I think you're taking this all a bit to seriously. No offence meant here. –  Luke Jul 9 '10 at 4:44
    
+1 - When I first started using Gmail I was obsessed with labels and filters that auto-assigned labels. I had a label for every company that I interacted with (My Credit card company, Cell Phone company, etc). After a while I realized how powerful Gmail search is and condensed many labels into 1 label (all of the ones I listed above collapsed into a Label called "Bills"). I now have about 20 labels which is probably a bit much - time to re-evaluate them again I think! –  BrianH Aug 11 '11 at 15:17
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One thing I do to "group" some labels together without using nested labels is to prepend them with the same punctuation character.

+ _ ! | \ etc.

Then I can get my most important labels bubbled to the top and mostly ignore alphabetization.

!Dad
!Mom
!Work
\Listserve1
\Zymurgy
_Facebook
_Twitter
Bob
Steve
WoW
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This is actually not a bad idea. Not ideal, but probably the best suggestion so far. –  Luke Jul 9 '10 at 4:41
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After many years of managing multiple projects from the office and the field and trying the many many folder/label method, I follow this system:

  • Pri 1
  • Pri 2
  • Pri 3
  • Reference
  • Archive (Everything else...)

Then you put anything that requires action or is awaiting action in the Priority folders/labels. Then you never forget things and can set goals like: Complete/answer all Pri 1 before the day ends, etc. When new mail comes in, send it to the priority it warrants and stay on task. Magic.

Reference is for any e-mail you find yourself pulling up often for info repeatedly. Guiding direction from the boss, list of dates for something or a collection of hyperlinks to important stuff.

Also, if a message comes in with a junk subject, change it when you reply to something relevant (i.e. "Pictures!!" to "Christmas 2010 Pictures") and search will treat you well.

When managing your info cuts too deeply into actually doing something.... what's the point?

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You can apply more than one label to any message, come up with label groupings and sub-groupings that make sense to you to make sorting easier. That's the best you can do since there's no concept of nesting for gmail labels

Correction: nested labels are supported as a 'labs' feature

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I know you can add more than one label to a message but the problem is that the labels are displayed as a loooooooong linear list. The labs feature is not really a good solution as I explained in the comment I wrote to Marc Roberts answer. –  Luke Jul 7 '10 at 23:38
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Among the solutions which GMail offers are:

  • Drag rarely-used labels into the "more" folder.
  • Enable the "Hide read labels" feature in Labs, so only labels containing unread messages are shown.
  • Enable the "Nested Labels" ability in Labs (as mentioned in other posts).

Regarding mailing lists: if you haven't already done so, it might be worth checking if any of them are available as RSS feeds instead of e-mails. If so, you can shift some of the burden to Google Reader.

And if none of the above are sufficient, then I have to agree with joyjit's answer: if the problem is that you have too many labels, then you need to reduce the number of labels! :-)

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Ah, I forgot about hiding labels. That doesn't work well with nesting, however. They're really exclusive of each other. –  Al E. Jul 8 '10 at 18:01
    
@Al, I use nesting and hiding. The key is that for nesting to happen all the parents in the "tree" have to be visible. Thus I have a label called "Notifications" and one called "Notifications/Transit" and I set the "Notifications" label to be always visible. Alternatively you might double-label the message so that it has "Notifications" and "Notifications/Transit". That way the parent label always shows up. It isn't ideal, but it can work. –  Mr. Shiny and New 安宇 Jul 9 '10 at 13:39
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