I would like to know exactly how GMail decides which e-mail conversation to show 1st, 2nd, 3rd, etc. in a list of conversations. (I am talking about the inbox, but I expect it would use the same rules for other views.)

Ideally the answer to my question would be here: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/5900?hl=en ...but that page is light on details.

(Please note that I am not talking about the ordering of e-mails within a conversation. That issue is everywhere on the intertubes (mostly people complaining about having to scroll to the bottom, when viewing a conversation, to see the most recent e-mail), which is part of the reason it has been so hard to find an answer to my question.)

I have read that GMail orders conversations "chronologically", but it is nowhere near that simple, as it depends on who sends the e-mail, who receives the e-mail, and whether To, CC, or BCC is used! It might even depend on whether Reply or Forward are used. ...confusing!!

I am asking because sometimes a conversation in which there is new e-mail activity fails to bubble to the top of my inbox.

Before posting this question, I did some testing, but I still can't make sense of it. Here is what I know so far...

This will send a conversation to the top of the list:

  • e-mail from someone else "To" you
  • e-mail from you "To" you
  • e-mail from someone else "CC" you
  • e-mail from you "BCC" you

This will not send a conversation to the top of the list:

  • e-mail from you "To" someone else (and not "To" or "CC" you)
  • e-mail from you "CC" you

What is going on? (and why is it so inconsistent, anyway??)

1 Answer 1


If you receive an email then gmail tries to apply a filter to the incoming message. It will also attach it to a conversation if it can. Unless your filter "archives" the message (which is just the removal of the inbox label) the message/conversation will be shown in the inbox in descending order by time.

An email you send will not generally automatically show up in your inbox so as not to pollute your inbox view. The sent messages can be fund under the sent label and with the "All Mail". It will appear as part of the conversation if somebody responses to your email.

The sort order for messages/conversations is always descending by date. If you have archived a message, then it will popup again in your inbox when a new message is attached to the conversation.

  • You say "An email you send will not generally automatically show up in your inbox", but did you look at my examples? In two cases e-mails from yourself do go to your inbox, and in two cases they do not.
    – A.M.
    Jul 16, 2013 at 13:43
  • Your question uses the words bubble-up and sort, but the question you are trying to ask should be why doesn't a message I send get a inbox label attached to it. I can't comment on BCC'ing myself, nor have i wanted to include myself on the to or cc lines because I have not wanted to see my message in my inbox. If I was done with the task, I slapped a label on the conversation and archived it. If I was waiting for their reply I kept the conversation in the inbox. Jul 16, 2013 at 13:57
  • Labels are applied per-conversation and not per-e-mail, and I say bubbling up and sorting because I am talking about just that: conversations that already have the Inbox label, and that do or do not get moved to the top of the list when a new e-mail in that conversation is added. There is some set of rules overriding "chronological". +1 for digging into this with me, though. :)
    – A.M.
    Jul 16, 2013 at 14:03
  • By the way, when you say you "kept the conversation in the inbox"...If all you did was send an e-mail to someone else and not to yourself, would it even be in your inbox? Wouldn't you have to go to sent mail to see it? (I guess you are talking about when you respond in a conversation, not send a new e-mail?)
    – A.M.
    Jul 16, 2013 at 14:06

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.