How to Create Nested Labels in Gmail

Use this flexible function to its fullest potential

Gmail's version of folders for storing messages is called labels. While you may miss the traditional folder structure found in other email applications, you'll likely learn to love labels when you see how easy and flexible they are.

Reasons to Love Labels

The primary benefit of Gmail's labels is that you can use more than one for each message. For example, if your friend from work invites you to a party, you can apply the labels "work" and "fun." Another benefit is that you can nest labels within higher-level categories. So, if you receive a message about the Smith project for work, you can apply the label "Smith," which is nested under "work." This organizational system makes it easy to locate messages later on.

Gmail with labels/folders on a laptop
 Lifewire / Colleen Tighe

Create Nested Labels

Follow these steps to set up a nested label in Gmail.

  1. Within Gmail, in the upper-right corner of your screen, select Settings (gear icon). From the drop-down menu, choose Settings.

    Gmail's Settings menu item in gear icon menu
  2. If the Labels tab isn't already displayed, select Labels.

    Labels tab in Gmail Settings
  3. In the Labels section, select Create new label. In the Please enter a new label name field, type the name you want to use for the label. In the Nest label under drop-down menu, select a high-level label.

    Create new label button in Gmail's Settings, Label tab
  4. To move an existing sub-label to be under a different high-level label, first navigate to the Labels section. Find the label you want to change, and, in the Actions column, select Edit. In the Nest label under drop-down menu, choose the new high-level label you want to apply.

    Create new label button in Gmail Settings
  5. Select Create or Save.

Turn a Sub-Label into a High-Level Label

Use the following steps to make sub-label into a high-level label.

  1. Follow steps 1 and 2 above. In the Labels section, find the sub-label you want to convert. In the Actions column, select Edit.

    Edit label button in Gmail Settings
  2. Deselect Nest label under, then select Save.