Clear search
Close search
Google apps
Main menu

We've gotten reports about some users being signed out of their accounts unexpectedly. We're investigating, but not to worry: there is no indication that this is connected to any phishing or account security threats. Please try to sign-in again at and if you cannot remember your password, please use this link to recover your password. If you use 2-Step Verification, there may have been a delay in receiving your SMS code. Please try again or use backup codes.

Add or remove inbox categories & tabs in Gmail

Messages in your inbox are sorted into categories, like Primary, Social, Promotions, Updates, and Forums. Categories help you sort your emails so you don't see all of them at one time. When you open your inbox, you'll see your Primary tab first.

Step 1: Choose your inbox style

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the top right, click Settings Settings and then Settings.
  3. Click the Inbox tab.
  4. In the "Inbox type" section, select Default, Important first, Unread first, Starred first, or Priority Inbox.
  5. Choose other settings, like whether to show importance markers or how to filter mail.

Step 2: Add or remove categories

If you don't see tabs in your inbox, follow these directions to turn on inbox categories:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. In the top right, click Settings Settings and then Configure inbox.
  3. Check the boxes of the categories you want to use. If you hide a tab, those messages will show in your Primary tab.
  4. Optional: Choose whether you want starred messages to show in your Primary tab.
  5. Click Save.

Move messages

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Drag and drop your message from one category to another.

Use category labels to search and filter messages

All messages are automatically labeled for the first 5 categories even if you don't show the categories in your inbox.

See all messages in a category

Any messages you archive won't show up in a category tab. To see all your messages for a category, including archived messages:

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Under Compose, click More. You may need to scroll down to see it.
  3. To the left of Categories, click the Down arrow Down Arrow.
  4. Click a category name.
Show category labels in your message list

If you turned off tabs in your inbox, you can still have the category labels show.

  1. Open Gmail.
  2. Under Compose, click More. You might need to scroll down to see it.
  3. To the left of Categories, click the Down Arrow Down Arrow.
  4. To the right of a category name, click the Down arrow Down Arrow.
  5. Under "In message list," click Show.
Search messages in a certain category

To search messages in a certain category, add the category name before your search term.

For example, category:social Jason. This would show you all the messages in your social category that include "Jason."

Change notifications for each category

You can choose different notifications for each category. Learn more about notifications.

Can't turn on inbox categories

If you have more than 250,000 messages in your inbox, you won't be able to turn on inbox categories.

To get below this limit, you can archive or delete messages. 

Check the number of messages in your inbox

In Gmail, replies to a message are grouped into conversations. In your inbox, you'll see the number of conversations you have, but not messages.

Follow these steps to see how many messages are in your inbox:

  1. On your computer, open Gmail. You can't find your total number of messages from the Gmail app.
  2. In the top right, click Settings Settings and then Settings.
  3. Scroll down to the "Conversation view" section.
  4. Select Conversation view off.
  5. At the bottom of the page, click Save Changes.
  6. Go back to your inbox to see the number of messages you have. If you have multiple sections or categories, make sure to add together the number from each section.
  7. When you're done, go back to settings and turn on "Conversation view."

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

Was this article helpful?
How can we improve it?
Watch video tutorials

To get the latest tips, tricks, and how-to's, subscribe to our YouTube Channel.