Smart Labels Can Help You Automatically Sort Messages in Gmail

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If you love to keep your Gmail Inbox clean and free of newsletters, notifications, mailing lists, promotions, and other bulk emails, but you don't have time to set up or modify a rule for each new sender and quirk, you can instruct Gmail to put all the rules in place for you automatically using Smart Labels.

Gmail's Smart Labels feature needs no configuration. It can classify your mail automatically, apply labels, and remove certain types of mail from the Inbox. The Smart Labels feature requires only a little setup and maintenance.

Enable the Smart Labels Feature

To set up Gmail to automatically label and file certain types of messages in categories:

  1. Click the gear in the top Gmail navigation bar.

  2. Select Settings from the menu that appears.

  3. Go to the Labs tab.

  4. Make sure Enable is selected for Smart Labels. If it isn't, click the radio button next to Enable to turn on the feature

  5. Click Save Changes.

When the Smart Labels feature was introduced, it used three categories. Bulk, Forums, and Notifications. Gmail automatically labeled newsletters, promotions, and other mass emails as Bulk and removed them from the Inbox. Messages from mailing lists and forums were labeled Forums and remained in the Inbox. Notifications sent to you directly such as payment receipts and shipping statements remained in the Inbox and were labeled Notifications.

How Smart Labels Work in Gmail Now

When the Primary tab was introduced, all personal messages went to the Primary tab and no longer needed a Smart Label. The original Bulk category was subdivided into Promotions and Updates when Gmail introduced the tabbed inbox. 

With Smart Labels enabled, you see new categories in Gmail's default categories: Finance, Travel, and Purchases.

Look under Categories in Gmail's left sidebar to see all the categories. If an email makes it to your Inbox and belongs in one of the categories, click the drop-down menu next to Categorize this message as: and select the correct category to train Gmail to treat similar emails in the same manner.

You can also report misclassified mail to Gmail engineers using the Reply drop-down menu on any email that is not filtered or labeled correctly.