GMail - labels question. Inbox and Update labels.

This may be simple to some. But, I find Gmail’s labels not very intuitive.

Why is it that every email in the Inbox has a check mark beside the Update label? Unchecking it and press apply usually doesn’t make it go away. If I go into the labels menu again it’s sitting there check marked again. :confused: What on earth is the Update Label for???

The Inbox label is the weirdest and most unintuitive. Basically if I want to move an email into a folder, it used to just move from inbox to that folder. Simple. With Labels I go into the Label menu and check mark the Label Name I want and press apply. But, I still see the message in my Inbox. WTH kind of email system is that? :confused: The Inbox label isn’t listed in the Labels Menu as an option to uncheck.

But, if I go into my subfolder (or whatever the hell Gmail calls the stupid thing). I can open the message and I see the Inbox label and there’s a X to delete it. Is it safe to delete the Inbox label at that point? I worry because they went to such trouble to not include Inbox in the Labels menu. It’s like GMail doesn’t want that inbox label touched.

If I do remove the Inbox label. Will my Search still find all the emails in my Subfolder (whatever the hell they call it)? Is Search just looking in Inbox?

btw, I’m painfully aware Gmail doesn’t support folders. Labels are just search tags. It’s a bizarre concept but a subfolder like StaffMemos is really just a saved search request. Clicking StaffMemos is actually doing a search throughout all your email messages for that label. Efficient? LOL not hardly.

For my own sanity’s sake I still refer and think of them as subfolders. That’s how you have to think to organize the messages into any understandable structure.

As far as I can tell, the “Update/Social/Promotion/Forum” labels are applied automatically by Google according to whatever algorithm they have, but they don’t interfere with my other organizing by labels so I just ignore them.

The “Inbox” label just means the email is visible in your Inbox. Clicking the X is the same as clicking the “Archive” button; you haven’t deleted anything except the “Inbox” label. Search will look through all of the emails you have, unless you’re specifically searching by label, e.g. “label:[label name] [words to search]”.

If you want to see everything you’ve got stored, below all of your labels you should see “All Mail” (you may have to click on “More”). That will show you everything.

The Update/Social/Promotion/Forum thing are part the Priority Inbox feature, which you can turn off if you don’t find it helpful.

As for Inbox, yeah, it’s just another label – one meant to let you help you organize whichever emails are still current/relevant. Once you’re done with something you should Archive it (or X out the inbox label, same thing) and then it gets moved to the All Mail label.

The labels mostly function like folders except that each message can have more than one label. And when you say “search is inefficient”, I mean, they all take less than a second to show up anyway so it hardly matters. In terms of behind-the-scenes computer stuff, they’re just entries in a giant database distributed across thousands of supercomputer clusters. You can call them whatever you like, but in the end you ask for X and Google’s servers find it for you in half a second. It’s not like they are actually putting your emails into MS-DOS folder structures; it’s ALL an amazingly indexed, supremely optimized, and massively parallelized operation in some database of theirs.

I dunno if an analogy would help make it clearer, but imagine a bunch of envelopes coming in to your mailbox.

Your intern (or dog) brings them in and dumps them on your desk (this is your Inbox).

Your secretary uses four different colored post-it notes to let you know which envelopes are from marketers, which are from your personal friends, which are from other companies, etc. These are the Priority Inbox labels (Social/Update/Promotion/Forum).

Then you go through them yourself and add your own post-it notes: This letter’s from Mom, that one is from your favorite charity, that one is an angry rant from the IRS. These are your own personal labels.

If you’re the lazy kind of guy, maybe you just read the letters and leave them sitting on your desk. That’s akin to leaving all your messages in your Inbox.

If you’re a bit more organized, once you’re done with a letter you move it into a big filing cabinet where all your mail sits. All the post-its are still there, but it’s no longer on your desk (Inbox) – Archive just stores the old mail without having it clutter up your inbox.

If you’re super-organized or just paranoid, maybe you don’t want to store old mail. Instead, you just dump them in the recycling bin. That’s what the Delete action does. Whereas Archive keeps the mail but moves it out of the inbox (so it’s still searchable in the future), Delete gets rid of it altogether.

Now, why don’t you just use filing folders instead of post-its, you ask? Well, what if you’re obsessively organized and you mark up letters as follows: “Personal correspondence” “Friends”. But then later on Mom gets involved in the same email thread, so you mark it as “Family” as well. And your sister adds cat photos, so you label it “Funny” too. Five years later, you’re looking for that email… where was it? If you used folders, you’d have to go through Family, Friends, and Funny until you found the one right folder. If you used labels, any of them would bring it up. (That’s the theory, anyway. In practice I just use them like folders, and most people I know do so as well.)

I’ve always avoided Archive. I was worried it would move the message off line or gosh knows where. But, if the message is still available under my labels or even All Mail then it would be ok.

The critical thing is old email has to be instantly available. If I need to find emails for a project I worked on 4 years ago then** I need it NOW!** I don’t want some auto delete purging off my archive or anything like that. My job depends on having access to old emails from my boss and staff members. Emails are documentation for what I was ordered to do on a project. If a question comes up then I need that email to show what I was instructed to do and what I did. Sometimes Vendors send me file layouts for data that I extract for them. I may need to refer back years later to confirm what file layout they wanted.

Yes. That’s the whole point about Gmail – and one of their earliest marketing slogans – “You never have to delete an email again.” That’s why they give you gigabytes of space, so you can keep it all forever (or until Google goes bankrupt/the apocalypse hits/one and the same, really).

Archive away.

But if it’s for business, you might look into Gmail backup solutions too – especially if you’re not paying Google for a business email service. Having your livelihood depend on the whims of a fickle technology company could be risky. I don’t think they’ve ever experienced customer data loss, but they’ve certainly had brief periods of downtime.

The University I work for has GMail. They ran their own Email server for over 20 years before switching to GMail. The email I’m using is managed by the University. Hopefully somebody is backing it up.

I really should copy all my email down to my PC. Save it in a Outlook pst file as a backup. But still keep the messages in GMail.

It’s extremely unlikely anybody at your university is backing it up. They probably don’t have the in-house resources to match Gmail’s disk space and usage patterns.

If you’re relying on your university email, I’d be more worried about the university’s IT department fucking up some configuration setting or forgetting to pay some bill than Google itself screwing up your messages.

An easy way to back up all your (future) messages is to just set up a dumb old-fashioned email account with your ISP, and then have Gmail automatically forward all messages to that address. Leave Outlook running in the background and it should grab them all.

Or you can look into cloud backup solutions for Gmail that automatically grab messages from Google and store them on some other server.

I mean, it really just depends on how much time and effort you want to put into protecting against a very, very small risk (so far) of Gmail losing your emails.

Thanks Reply. I’ll look into getting my messages automatically forwarded. That sounds like the easiest solution.

The Archive button removes the “inbox” label. That’s all. If it had other labels, those are not removed. And even if not, it’s still under “All Mail”.

If your university uses Gmail, all the mail is stored on Google’s servers. And Gmail does not delete mail automatically. The Spam and Trash folders get deleted after a while (1 month, I think) but all other mail stay around forever. I used to work for a university that used Gmail for their e-mail, and I never lost an email message. A month after I quit, they “deleted” my account, but upon my request they reinstated it for a year and all my e-mail was STILL there.

When i access my GMail accounts in a PC browser, just left of the “Labels” button there’s a “Move To” button/menu, shaped like a folder. I press it, I choose a label and the message disappears from the Inbox immediately. And it remains available in All Messages, of course.

Furthermore, if you configure to show posts separately, instead of gathered in a conversation, it is impossible to label more than one message that would have otherwise been crushed into a conversation. Any other important message that has the same Re: subject line would then have to be searched for manually, the same way you would have to search through dozens of accumulated messages in a conversation.

This may be of some help - I don’t know. But it does have one good hack that I found very helpful.

One additional thing you can do with labels that is sometimes useful: A message can have more than one label.

If you think of labels as folders, it’s like being able to have a message be in several folders at the same time.

(ETA: Example: You might have one label for all messages you sent to/from your boss. You might have another label for all messages relating to the Fromage Project. If your boss sends you a message about the Fromage Project, you might want to file it under both of those labels.)

Also, a message can be in a folder (that is, have a label or several) while still remaining in your inbox. You might find that useful. That’s why it’s two separate operations to apply a label to a conversation and archive a conversation.

You can also set up filters that will automatically apply a label to any incoming message that matches the filter criterion. Thus, an incoming message will appear in you inbox with a label already attached to it – but it still appears in you inbox so you’ll see it. (When you set up your filter, I think you also have the option of having it NOT appear in you inbox, but only in the “folder” that it’s been labeled with.)

Note, though, that you cannot archive messages in your Sent folder. That annoys me.