Many e-mail accounts work by allowing you to place e-mail messages in folders. Gmail would prefer you use labels. What is the difference? A single piece of e-mail can only exist in a single folder; you'd have to copy an e-mail message for it to be both in the "Work" and "Tax-Related" folders. On the other hand, a single e-mail can have multiple labels.

Use labels to organize your messages by topic. You can click one of the labels on the left side of the screen (as shown in Figure 6-2) to view only messages with that particular label, including messages that have been archived.

Gmail automatically creates the following labels: Inbox, Buzz, Starred, Chats, Sent Mail, Drafts, All Mail, Spam, and Trash. You can create other labels as needed. I often set up temporary labels for upcoming conferences or events and then remove or hide the labels after the conference.

Notice the Starred label. You can click the star to the left of a message in order to mark it with the star label, which just highlights the message with a yellow star. Since you can apply more than one label to an item, adding both a star and a different label could emphasize urgent messages or highlight items that need a response or require action.

Creating and Deleting Labels

You can create labels many ways. If you click the Labels button at the top of your inbox and then click "Manage labels" from the drop-down menu, you enter the label settings area. You can enter new labels by typing into the box labeled "Create a new label." You can also get to this menu by clicking the Settings link at the upper right of the screen and then clicking Labels. Another method is to click the More link at the bottom of your label list on the left side of the screen. It might have a number in front of it if you have a lot of labels already (e.g., "10 more").

You're limited to 40 characters for label names, but it would be wise to keep them even shorter. Long labels mean less space for your message previews.

You can edit a label by clicking the label name in the label settings and then typing the new name in. You can show or hide labels by clicking the link to the right of the labels, and you can delete them as well. Deleting a label does not delete the messages.

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