How to Create Labels As and When You Need Them in Gmail

You can create labels in Gmail as you need them.

Labels Come Easily in Gmail

Labels you apply to messages are the flexible Gmail equivalent to folders you put messages into. You can assign existing labels to emails easily, of course. But have you ever gotten an email and thought "Zest, that's a billion rupees idea! The first I got. Let's... label... it"?

For this and similar cases, Gmail has a handy shortcut down its toolbar and Label menu. You can create a new label on the spot.

Create Labels As and When You Need Them in Gmail

To create new labels in Gmail just as you need them:

  1. Open the conversation or message you want to label.
    • ​​You can also check one or more messages in the email list, any label or in search results, for example.
  2. Click the Labels button in the toolbar that has appeared.
    • With Gmail keyboard shortcuts enabled, you can also press l.
  3. Select Create new under Label as:.
  4. Type the name you want to use for the ad-hoc created label under Please enter a new label name:.
  5. To hierarchically put the newly created label under another existing label—like a hierarchy of folders:
    1. ​Make sure Nest label under is checked.
    2. Click Please select a parent….
    3. Now choose the folder under which you would like to position the new label from the menu that has appeared.
  6. Click Create.

To create a label on the fly in Gmail, you can also:

  1. Open or check a message or conversation for which you want to use the new label.
  2. Click the Labels button in the toolbar or, with Gmail keyboard shortcuts enabled, press l.
  3. Type the name for the new label under Label as:.
  4. Now select "[label name]“ (create new) from the menu.
  5. To create a hierarchy:
    1. ​Make sure Nest label under is checked.
    2. Select the desired parent label.
  6. Click Create.

Gmail will create the label and apply it to the open or selected conversation or conversations.

Delete a Label in Gmail

To remove a label you created on a fly in Gmail:

  1. Open or select any message or conversation in Gmail.
  2. Click the Labels button in the toolbar.
    • ​​You can also press l, provided Gmail keyboard shortcuts are enabled.
  3. ​Select Manage labels from the menu that has appeared.
  4. Click remove in the row of the label you want to delete under Labels.
  5. Click Delete under Remove Label.

Gmail will delete the label and remove it from any messages that still carry it.

It is good practice to delete unused and unneeded labels. Too many a label can make Gmail slow, and Gmail via IMAP is more manageable with fewer labels, too (though you can also hide individual labels from IMAP).

(Updated August 2016, tested with Gmail in a desktop browser)