Learn the Correct Way to Configure Gmail Smart Labels

Tweak the settings to organize your inbox

High angle view of label on table

Eddy Zecchinon / EyeEm / Getty Images

Gmail's Smart Labels need no configuration: They prompt Gmail to sort your incoming email into categories including Promotions, Personal, Notifications, Bulk, Social, Travel, and Forums. Gmail automatically labels newsletters and other mass emails with the Bulk smart label, while messages from mailing lists are routed to the Forum label, for example.

Gmail's Smart Labels can benefit from a little tweaking, however. If you prefer to see certain emails in your Category list but not in your message list, setting changes are as easy as modifying any rule in Gmail—or easier.

These instructions apply to the web version of Gmail.

Configure Gmail Smart Labels

To change how Gmail explains a specific category and the emails it contains, follow these steps:

  1. Click the Gear at the top of the Gmail navigation bar.

    Turn off Gmail conversation view
  2. Select Settings from the drop-down menu.

    Turn off Gmail Conversation View
  3. Click the Labels heading.

    The Labels heading in Gmail on a web browser
  4. Go to the Categories section.

    The Categories heading in the Labels section of Gmail on the web
  5. Next to each of the categories listed, select to either show or hide it from the label list and also to show or hide it in the message list.

    The current active setting will be black, and the other one will be blue.

    You also select to show or hide all the Categories from the label list and the message list.

    Show and hide labels in Gmail settings on the web
  6. The items you want to show appear under the Categories heading on the left side of the Inbox.

    Categories heading in Gmail on a browser
  7. Use these settings to keep your sidebar neat and only show the labels you want, including the ones you've made yourself.