Gmail provides powerful methods for sorting and organizing your email. The tabs feature, for example, works to keep your inbox streamlined and easy to read. The tabs automatically move social media chatter, promotions and other distracting messages to separate areas. Three tabs -- Primary, Social and Promotions -- are enabled by default; others are a few mouse clicks away.
In addition, Gmail lets you create your own message categories with labels and filters. A label is simply a name you give to your category. Filters are rules you create that match certain words in your incoming mail. By connecting labels and filters, you can create custom “pigeonholes” that automatically identify important messages.
Use Tabs to Sort
In Gmail, your inbox always has at least one tab, Primary, which you cannot turn off. When the other tabs are disabled, all your mail appears in the Primary tab. Messages go under the optional tabs when you enable them, and the number of messages in Primary shrinks, making it easier to browse your mail.
Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums
Gmail has four optional tabs, Social, Promotions, Updates and Forums. You can turn these tabs on and off at any time. Messages from social media sites such as Facebook, Google+ and YouTube are sorted into the Social tab. Promotional offers are sorted into the Promotions tab. News updates and order status messages from retailers go into the Updates tab. Comments from online forums are routed to the Forums tab.
Click the + symbol on your Gmail account page to bring up the tab settings.
Click the check box for those tabs you want to enable. Uncheck any tabs you wish to disable.
When you click the Include starred in Primary check box, starred messages will show up in the Primary tab as well as the optional tabs. For example, a starred message in the Social tab will also appear in the Primary tab.
Click the Save button.
Use Labels and Filters to Sort
Click More to see a list of email folders and management functions.
Click Create new label.
Enter the name of the label to create in the text box, then click the Create button.
You can group this label under an existing label by clicking the Nest label under: check box, then selecting the label it fits under. For example, you can create the label, "Games," and underneath it, have the labels "Soccer" and "Baseball."
Click the gear icon to see a list of options. Click Settings.
Click Filters, then click Create a new filter.
Enter words in the text boxes that match key words in your messages. For example, you may be getting emails with the word “game” in the subject, and you want to flag these messages. Type "game" in the Subject text box. Click Create filter with this search.
Enter an email address into the From field to label messages from a particular person or organization. Enter additional text in Has the words or Doesn't have to further refine the filter. For example, if you want to label messages with "game" in the subject but not "night game," enter "night" in the Doesn't have text box.
Click the Apply the label check box, then click the Choose label list to select the label you just created. Click the Create filter button.
Click the Also apply filter to... check box if your filter matches messages already in your inbox.
Check your messages and note that some are now labeled. Click the label to see just those messages that match the new filter.