I'm trying to clean up my Gmail inbox which has become swamped. My first step is to unclutter it by breaking it up into folders of related mail. That will let me deal with incoming mail appropriately and attack the older mail in chunks as I can get to it.

My problem is detailed below, but is, in essence, "How do I move a search-filtered set of emails into another folder?" Not to the archive. Not merely labelling them (which drag-and-drop also does). Moving them from the Inbox to another specific folder in my own folder hierarchy—and not all emails in my inbox, just the specified ones (as opposed to this post: How to move all (not just showing) mails in gmail to another folder?).

Here are the details (aka, what I already know how to do):

It is easy to check a number of emails on a given page. If one wants to select specific emails (say, from a given sender in this example) out of the Inbox, one can use a search filter.

One can also check the emails selected by the filter in a method similar to just checking them in the Inbox.

The problem is that the Move button now changes from a picture of a folder with the drop-down to choose which folder, into a button with the text "Move to Inbox". The messages are already in my Inbox. I'm trying to move them out into another folder. That's what most people would want to do, most of the time. Yet, that's the one functionality that has been taken away.

So how do I move those emails into a folder?

Being able to do it for more than a page's worth of emails would also be handy. FWIW, the Qs and As posted so far on this site (and others, like here: http://www.justanswer.com/computer/4e06z-gmail-how-move-large-number-emails-folder.html) don't answer this question, at least not that I have found.

If there is another article, or version, or I'm missing something obvious, that's fine. I'm not proud. Tell me it's simple. So much the better.

I just want an answer, as not having one is the reason my Inbox has become unmanageable to begin with.

My setup: Chrome on Win 7.

  • You're using the web interface, right? There are no folders; only labels. "Inbox" is a label, just a special one.
    – ale
    Commented Aug 16, 2013 at 19:57

6 Answers 6


The key is to labels and archive.

Every new message starts with the inbox label and the all mail label.

New labels can be added via filter when the email arrives, or manually by selecting a message and either adding a label via the label drop down, or doing a combination of adding a label and archiving by using the "Move to" drop down.

A powerful part of gmail is the fact that each message can have multiple labels. This is better than a folder.

If you archive a message/conversation it strips the inbox label from the message leaving the other labels intact. When you start archiving you are

To move them from the front page of gmail you must archive them. The labels on the side of the screen are a just an easy way to see all messages that have that label. It will find messages that have the inbox label, those that only have that label, and ones that have multiple labels.

The move to inbox command you see actually adds the inbox label to the messages, which essentially un-archives the message.

  • 2
    although this answer works in solving the issue at hand, i must say that the presence of a single-step 'move to folders' option in the 'inbox' page/interface does present an inconsistency. There is either a concept of moving to folders or there isn't. Surely it is isn't both. Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 12:14

What I did is this

  1. Do your search on gmail.
  2. Select the emails.
  3. Click on inbox (You should be able to see the selected emails (highlighted emails).)
  4. Now you see the move to folder option. Move your emails to the folder now.

This is just a workaround.

  • Thanks for this method. It is the easiest and most convenient.
    – Rolen Koh
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 9:51
  • 3
    as of 15/11/2018, this option is not possible anymore as the selected searched emails are deselected once the inbox folder is selected Commented Nov 15, 2018 at 11:26

I've been trying to figure this out forever too! This is what finally worked for me.

I filter messages from a specific person, let's say my Dad. Once I have the list of all emails from him, I select all (and then click in the yellow notification box that I want to literally select ALL, and not just what's showing on the page) and I archive them. Then I add the label "Dad."

This automatically moves them out of your inbox into the folder (which is created automatically when any label is created), because you've specified that you don't want them in the inbox, but you've also specified a specific label, so, this causes Gmail moves them all to that folder.

Hope this helps!

  • This method is best I guess.
    – Rolen Koh
    Commented Nov 7, 2017 at 10:00
  • The key point is the second "select all". With that, plus labels and archiving, keeping the inbox neat and tidy is a breeze. Thanks for this.
    – Bogatyr
    Commented Jan 10, 2018 at 9:47

Once you've done your search, you need to check some or all of the conversations that came back. Once you have some checked you should have a "Labels" drop-down menu.

In the Labels menu you should see all of your labels: the ones you've created as well as special system labels.

Next to each label is a checkbox in one of three states:

  • blank - none of the conversations you've selected have that label
  • dash - some, but not all, of the conversations you've selected have that label
  • check - all of the conversations you've selected have that label

Uncheck all of the labels you don't want any of the selected conversations to have. Check all of the labels you do want the selected conversations to have. Leave the dashed labels where you want those to stay on the conversations that already have them and not be on the conversations where they're not. Then click "Apply".

To get more than a page's worth of results at a time, after you use the "Select All" checkbox, there will be text the effect of "20 conversations selected" and a link that says "Select all conversations that match this search" or similar. Click the link to select the conversations that are on other pages.

The question you link to has the solution, the only difference is you need to search first.

  • click on the label name to display emails that have the label
  • click on "Select all"
  • click on 'All x conversations on this page are selected. Select all xxx conversations in "label"' at the top of the first message
  • use the Labels button to apply new label

Source: https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!topic/gmail/jBBcSUU07Hc


If you use a section query this will solve both of your issues, as you can have the move to option directly, also you will be able to see more messages on a page (up to the size set for inbox).

To do this for a simple search change in the URL the word #search to #section_query.

(This is based on @CrystalFire's answer at How to set up Gmail to show more than 20 results per page when searching?, please take the time to upvote his answer).

For an advanced search, just after doing the original advanced search, click the regular search icon in the search box, which will just do the search again, but this time as a simple search (which will contain the original #search phrase), and then change the URL as for a simple search.

(This is based on http://joereddington.com/2300/2014/02/08/better-gmail-search/ which is also the one that created a bookmark for it.)

To automate it more you can use a bookmark created by @Joe at How to set up Gmail to show more than 20 results per page when searching? and also on his blog at http://joereddington.com/2300/2014/02/08/better-gmail-search/

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