How to Mark Messages Using Stars in Gmail

Star your Gmail messages so that you can search for them later

Mother and child typing on computer
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There are lots of ways you can organize your Gmail messages, and one is by "starring" them. What this does is puts a little yellow star next to the message and lets you search for it later using the "yellow-star" search operator.

However, Gmail doesn't just support the yellow star. There's also a blue, orange, red, purple, and green star, as well as six other icons that you can use in place of a star.

How to "Star" and "Unstar" Gmail Messages

There are two ways to put a star next to one of your emails:

  • Select the small star outline to the far left of the message when you're viewing the list of emails. 
  • If the email is open, go to the More menu and choose Add star. Or, select the star outline on the far right side of the top of the message (next to the date and time).
Gmail message starred

You can also star messages before you send them by adding a label to the outgoing email through the More options menu on the bottom of the New Message window, via the Label > Add star option.

Remove a Star From an Email

To remove a star, just click or tap it once more. Each selection will toggle between having a star and not having one.

However, if you have more than one star configured (see below), you can keep clicking/tapping to cycle through the other stars you have set up. Just stop on the star you want to use.

Or, if you decide not to use a star at all, just keep cycling through them until you reach the option without a star.

How to Use Custom Stars in Gmail

The other, non-yellow stars, supported by Gmail are accessible through the settings:

  1. Select the gear icon on the right side of the Gmail homepage.

  2. Choose Settings.

    Gmail inbox settings menu
  3. In the General tab, scroll down to the Stars section.

    Gmail settings stars
  4. Click-and-drag a star from the Not in use section up to the In use section. You can even rearrange the stars in the order in which you want to use them when you enable the star using the methods described above.

    Gmail drag stars to enable

    The stars on the far left will be first in the cycle, and the ones following to the right, will be subsequent options as you click through them.

    Gmail also has two presets you can choose from to quickly get access to more than one star; you can choose 4 stars or all stars

  5. Press Save Changes at the bottom of the Settings page to save any changes you've made and use the new star configuration.

    Gmail save settings