Inbox tabs and category labels

Your messages are classified into categories such as Promotions, Social and Updates. You can choose to use categories as inbox tabs, and as labels. These categories make it easy to focus on messages that are important to you and read messages of the same type all at once.

If you don’t see tabs in your inbox, click here.

If you’re using a custom inbox style like Priority Inbox, you won’t see tabs until you turn them on. Here’s how:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the gear icon Gear icon in the upper right, then select Configure inbox.
  3. Check the boxes of the tabs you want to see.
  4. Click Save.

If you don’t want to use this type of inbox, follow these directions to change your inbox style.

Choose your tabs

Gmail inbox tabs
 

Your messages are automatically categorized into the following optional tabs:

  Gmail Inbox Primary icon   Primary Messages from friends and family, as well as any other messages that don’t appear in other tabs.
  Gmail Inbox Promotions icon   Promotions Your deals, offers, and other promotional emails.
  Gmail Inbox Social icon   Social Messages from social networks, media-sharing sites, online dating services, gaming platforms, and other social websites.
  Gmail Inbox Updates icon   Updates Notifications such as confirmations, receipts, bills, and statements.
  Gmail Inbox Forums icon   Forums Messages from online groups, discussion boards, and mailing lists.

Show or hide tabs

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the + icon to the right of your tabs.
    Inbox tab settings
  3. Use the checkboxes to show or hide each tab.
  4. Click Save.

If you hide a tab, messages in that category will appear in your Primary tab instead.

More options

Disable tabs
If you prefer to see all your messages in one list, simply hide all tabs (see directions above). Primary will stay checked, but you won’t see the tab above your inbox.
Show tabs again after you disabled them

If you want to use tabs again, follow these directions:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the gear icon Gear icon in the upper right, then select Configure inbox.
  3. Check the boxes of the tabs you want to see.
  4. Click Save.

New messages in category tabs

When you receive new mail, you’ll see an indicator in each tab that tells you how many new messages you’ve received since you last checked that tab. You’ll also see a few of the recent senders listed below the category name. You can see what's new at a glance and decide which emails you want to read.

Example

If you looked at your Promotions tab yesterday and then received eight promotional emails, you’ll see “8 new” next to the word “Promotions” when you check your Gmail today.

Unread count

The number next to Inbox on the left side of your Gmail tells you how many unread messages are in your Primary tab.

Move messages between tabs

Move messages between tabs

If you see a message in your inbox that you want in a different tab, all you have to do is drag and drop it into the other tab. Another way to do this is to right-click a message while viewing your inbox.

After you move a message to a different tab, a message above your inbox will ask if you want to undo that action or choose to always put messages from that sender in the tab you chose.

Starred messages

Messages you mark with a star will also appear in your Primary tab so they are easier to keep track of.

Tip

Stars are a great way to keep track of messages you want to follow up on later. Unstar the message when you’re done. Learn more about starred messages.

If you don’t want to include starred messages in Primary, click here.
  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Click the + icon to the right of your tabs.
    Inbox tab settings
  3. Uncheck the box next to “Include starred in Primary”.
  4. Click Save.

Category labels

Whether you use tabs or not, all messages are automatically sorted into one of the five different categories. These categories can be used as automatic labels.

Here are a few things you can do with category labels:

View all messages in a category, including archived messages

When a message is archived, it moves out of your inbox and stays in “All Mail” and any other labels applied to it. This means that messages you archive will no longer be visible in your tabs.

To view all messages in a category, follow these steps:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Hover over your label list on the left side of your Gmail (where “Sent Mail” and “Drafts” are listed).
  3. Click More at the bottom of your label list (you may need to scroll down).
  4. Find Categories and expand the list using the arrow to the left.
  5. Click a category name.
Show categories as labels in your message list

By default, category labels are not visible on each message, but you can choose to show them in your message list. Category labels still won’t be visible when viewing your inbox tabs, but you might find this feature useful when searching or if you turned off tabs.

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Hover over your label list on the left side of your Gmail (where “Sent Mail” and “Drafts” are listed).
  3. Click More at the bottom of your label list (you may need to scroll down).
  4. Find Categories and expand the list using the arrow to the left.
  5. Hover over a category name, such as Social, and click the down-arrow icon Gmail Label menu icon that appears to the right of the name.
  6. Find the option “In message list” and choose Show.

From this menu you can also change the label color or hide the category in your label list.

Search using categories

To search for messages within a category use the search operator category: followed by a category name.

Example: category:updates
Meaning: All messages in the Updates category.

Example: category:social Mindy
Meaning: Messages in the Social category that include “Mindy.”

You can combine the category search operator with other search operators. Learn more about advanced search.

Mobile

The same categories are available in Gmail's official mobile apps on Android 4.0+ devices as well as the iPhone and iPad. When you open the Gmail app, you’ll see your Primary category, with easy access to the other tabs.

Learn more about inbox categories for Android 4.0+ devices or iPhone and iPad.