I have a ton of labels. How do I tell Gmail to show all messages which are in my INBOX and have no label?

  • The basic question is why? If you have one or more labels on a message, and you no longer need to see it when you log in, then archive the message. Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 1:13
  • @mhoran_psprep: I don't like archiving messages. Among the reasons being that (1) I hate messages with no label, and (2) they get annoying when you use mail clients, (3) I want messages that were sent to me to stay in my inbox, plain and simple.
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 1:23
  • Gmail has three main features that make it different from other free email systems: labels, archiving, and conversations. The way you are using gmail you disable 2 of its strengths. Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 1:45
  • @mhoran_psprep: Like I said, I'm using a ton of labels, and they're working just fine. I'm just asking for a way to filter the messages based on the labels.
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 3:20
  • The full list of Gmail search operators can be found here. Would be nice to have a has:label operator.
    – Itamar
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 6:52

5 Answers 5


As of November 2012 this is now possible with a simple search


Finds all messages without any of your own labels (excludes automatic labels like inbox, spam, and trash). Since Gmail applies labels to individual messages, you might see results that appear to have labels; in this case, another message in the same conversation thread has had a label applied to it.

Source: Search for emails by size and more in Gmail - Official Gmail Blog

Source: Using advanced search - Gmail help

  • 1
    Alas no If you use conversations. has:nouserlabels returns true if ANY message in the conversation is unlabeld. Similarly label:foo returns the conversation if ANY message has label foo. Consider the following: I get a request for a photo that an auto filter labeled 'foo' I reply with the pic they wanted. Later if I search label:foo has:attachment it won't show up. The label and the attachment are on separate messages. And searches are done on messages, not on conversatons. Commented Feb 16, 2016 at 4:16

The short answer is: you can't. Or at least not with the way things currently work with Gmail. As you've probably noticed, your only options are filtering by a tag or using the archive to hide things. A glance at the advanced search tools show what you are after isn't really accommodated.

Your question is in a similar vein to those asking how to find unlabeled messages, and a similar answer applies. You can try and build a search that explicitly excludes every other label, e.g.:

label:inbox -label:{labela labelb labelc}

You can build the search once then save the URL, but given you mention that you have a ton of labels I know it is far from ideal. If you have a look at the answers to questions on finding unlabeled messages you'll see you're not alone.

  • I see... not the answer I was hoping for, but it's still good! Thanks for a well-written answer! +1
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 5:38
  • Yeah sorry, couldn't find a better answer. If you have a look at some of the solutions for finding unlabeled messages (there are browser extensions and greasemonkey scripts and the like), you might be able to adapt something to suit your needs.
    – John C
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 5:43

The problem as I see it is that Google have renamed things, which means people have to figure out what they can do. It is possible to organize things so Google filters stuff so it goes straight into a folder. For example I want newsletters to go into a folder (sorry label) called "Newsletters":

In Gmail click on the gear wheel at the top right -> Settings -> Filters

Click "Create a new filter" and set up how you want to filter things

Tick the box "Skip the Inbox (Archive it)"

Tick the box "Apply the label:" and create the label "Newsletters"

Tick the box "Also apply filter to -- matching conversations."

Then click on "Apply" or "Update"

All emails which match your filter then disappear from the inbox, but you can access them under the label "Newsletters".

  • The problem is that this gives no solution for filtering NEW mail when you want to know and be notified (by seeing bold text and number of what's new) of the new email.
    – user23222
    Commented Mar 6, 2014 at 22:09

from http://raisedbyturtles.org/view-unlabeled-gmail/

Labelling Your Backlog

As per Karen’s suggestion below (see comments), if you’re trying to identify your unlabelled email just once and go label your back log, then you can view All, apply a label like “NoLabel” to it (or you can move them all to the Inbox as Karen suggests; but my Inbox is always overfull to start with and it stresses me out to much to put processed mail back in the Inbox… makes me feel like I’m making negative progress!).

Now go into every other label folder, select all and remove the “NoLabel” label. Now if you go to the NoLabel folder, you have all your unlabelled email. If you’re going to do this on any kind of regular basis, though, you’ll want a bookmark as described above, otherwise this will be pretty time-consuming.


A message with the label "inbox" will be in the inbox. Archiving a message removes the inbox label, the message is then no longer seen as a part of the inbox. The message is still listed under the other labels associated with the conversation.

You can jump to any label using the label buttons on the side, or via search. Of course search can be complex and can show you conversations with multiple labels, or label a but not label b.

What can be confusing is that you seldom see the inbox label, because when you are looking at the inbox, the actual label is hidden. But all messages/conversations start with the inbox label unless they are archived.

  • Is it just me, or does this not answer my question?
    – user541686
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 4:32
  • 1
    nope, doesn't look like it
    – John C
    Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 5:23
  • based on the op's comments to the question it appears to me that he is keeping all his messages in his inbox, and complaining that he his keeping all his messages in his inbox. He is looking to be able to identify which messages of hundreds or thousands in his inbox he forgot to label. Commented Jun 18, 2012 at 10:11
  • No. OP has a ton of messages. Many are labeled, many are not. Commented Feb 2, 2017 at 1:21

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