Organizing Gmail with Google+ circles

On Google+, you can organize your friends and acquaintances into circles to make it easier to interact with each social group. Gmail lets you use these same circles to help organize your mail. For example, easily see all the emails sent from family members or scan the set of messages from your work friends.

Learn about getting started with circles.

Don't have any circles? It's easy to sort your friends and acquaintances into circles once you create a Google+ profile.

Benefits of circles in Gmail

Like labels, circles can help you organize your messages and easily find messages from people who are important to you. Scan all the emails from your book club members or quickly get to messages from your very best friends. And unlike with labels, messages from people in your circles are automatically grouped together, so you don't have to manually create a label and filters in order to see a set of messages from one of your social groups.

How to use circles in Gmail

  1. See your list of circles: In your Gmail labels list, click the down arrow next to Circles and you'll automatically see the circles that you created on Google+. (You might have to click More to see the Circles menu appear in your labels list.)

  2. Find messages for each circle: Click a circle to see all of the Gmail messages that you've received from people in that circle.
    • Above the messages, you'll see the circle's name and profile photos of some of the people that you added to that circle. (You won't see any photos, though, if you're using Gmail's compact view.)
    • Next to the circle's name is a drop-down menu with options for that circle. Click Edit circle to add or remove people from that circle.
    • Click the link to the right of the circle's name to see an alphabetical list of everyone in that circle. You can select a person in your circle to bring up person view for that particular contact.

  3. Search for messages: To find messages from people in a particular circle, search for circle: followed by the name of the circle. For example, find messages from your "Friends" circle by searching for circle:friends. See details
    • If your circle's name includes a space, parentheses, curly brackets, or vertical bar, add quotes around the circle's name like this: circle:"best friends"
    • If your circle's name uses quotes, include back slashes immediately before the quotes like this: circle:"my \"fab four\""
    • Find messages from all of your circles by searching for has:circle

Managing circles in Gmail

How to edit your circles

You can add anyone to your Google+ circles, even if the person doesn't use Google+ or hasn't added you to a circle.
  1. Under Circles in your labels list, hover over the name of the circle and click the drop-down arrow that appears to the right.
  2. Click Edit circle.
  3. A circle manager will open in a new tab, where you can rename your circle, add or remove people from your circle, and more. Any edits that you make to a circle will be applied to existing messages in Gmail, so if you move your grandmother from one circle to another, her messages to you will now be grouped into the new circle.

How to change how circles appear in Gmail

To the right of the circle's name in your labels list, click the down arrow to see some options to customize how circles appear in your Gmail account. Under "In message list," you can click Show to have a colored indicator appear next to messages from people in that circle.

If you don’t want to see circles in your Gmail, here's how to hide them:

  1. In your labels list, hover over Circles and click the drop-down arrow that appears to the right.
  2. Click Hide under "In label list" and "In message list."

Vivian is a Gmail expert and the author of this help page. Leave her feedback about this help page.

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