I am sorting out my Gmail account, and started labeling emails, but I can't seem to figure out what the different icons mean in the labeling dropdown menu. There are 3 icons:

  • empty
  • minus
  • checked

You can see them in the screenshot below:

Screenshot of Gmail's label dropdown

  • 1
    Great question! I did some minor changes: gmail => Gmail, and added ALT text to your screenshot. Hope that's OK! Oct 30, 2018 at 11:58

1 Answer 1


When you have multiple messages/conversations selected and you click the labels button there are three options for the list of labels presented:

  • empty: none of the messages/conversations selected are using that label
  • minus: some of the messages/conversations selected are using that label
  • checked: all of the messages/conversations selected are using that label

If you only have one message/conversation selected then only empty and checked will be used.

  • 1
    That's a great explanation. Where did you find more information on this?
    – Titulum
    Oct 30, 2018 at 11:06
  • And how can I add a message to a label so that it will be gone from my inbox?
    – Titulum
    Oct 30, 2018 at 11:13
  • 2
    @Titulum Add a label to a message, then click archive. The archive button removes the inbox label. Or use the move button to do it in one step. Remember a message/conversation can have multiple labels. Oct 30, 2018 at 12:03
  • 2
    @Titulum Tri-state checkboxes are fairly common for decades already, so most likely I assume Gmail will have no documentation specifically documenting this. Oct 30, 2018 at 12:57
  • @Titulum yup this feature was in Windows for a very long time (maybe since XP?), not sure who invented it Oct 30, 2018 at 14:02

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