TIME How-To

Gmail Tips: Get Organized with Labels and Filters

Hi, there. I’m going to use an email message from my friend Ben to show you how to organize your Gmail inbox a little better.

First order of business: never delete messages. We’re going to archive them instead. This is the equivalent of taking every piece of physical mail that’s ever been sent to your house and putting it in your basement instead of throwing the mail you don’t need or don’t care about away. If you do this in real life, you’re crazy. If you don’t do this online, you’re crazy.

There are three buttons above every message: one that looks like a box (Archive), then an exclamation point inside a stop sign (Report spam), then a trash can (Delete). Unless you’re running really low on Google storage space (you probably aren’t), always use Archive when you’re done reading a message that you’d like to file away and retrieve later (or never).

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now, I need a place to file this message away. I’m going to create a label for it. Click the label-looking thing up at the top of the message and choose “Create new” to — you guessed it — create a new label.

Gmail Tricks
Google

I’m going to call this label “Emails from Ben” since it will contain emails from Ben.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now that the label has been created, you’ll notice a little link that says “Emails from Ben” next to the subject of the email message. Clicking that label will take me to a list of all the emails I’ve labeled as “Emails from Ben.” There will only be one email on that list right now, though. Oh, and I can add multiple labels to each message if I like. If Ben were a member of my family (he’s not) and he emailed me about some bill that needed paying, I could label that message “Emails from Ben” and “Household” if I wanted to. That’s for the advanced class, though.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now, I could just manually label every email from Ben under “Emails from Ben” but I’m a busy, important, handsome man who doesn’t have time for that nonsense. Let’s automate this process. Under the More button, I’ll choose “Filter messages like these” to create a filter.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Here is where you’ll need to be wearing elastic-leg undergarments if you tend to get too excited by technology. I’ll create a filter that does something (I’ll denote the “something” next) every time I get an email from Ben. This filter will work off of his email address, but I could set different parameters or additional parameters. That’s also for the advanced class. For this go-around, we’ll stick to Ben’s email address. Click “Create filter with this search” to move on.

Gmail Tricks
Google

As you can see, I have a lot of options here. Every time I get an email from Ben, I can archive it immediately, mark it as read, star it, and a bunch of other fun stuff. I’m going to choose to “Apply the label” and choose the “Emails from Ben” label we made a few steps earlier. And since I want all past emails from Ben to get categorized under the “Emails from Ben” label (but I don’t want to label them all by hand), I’m going to choose the “Also apply filter to matching conversations” checkbox at the bottom before clicking the “Create filter” button.

Gmail Tricks
Google

Now every email that Ben has sent me from that particular email address should show up under the “Emails from Ben” label that’s accessible from the left-hand column. And every email I get from him in the future will automatically get the “Emails from Ben” label applied to it automatically. When I’m done reading a message from him, I’ll archive it and know where to quickly find it later.

Gmail Tricks
Google

“Well, that was stupid,” you’re saying. Maybe so, but this sorcery can be applied to a whole bunch of other stuff.

Let’s say, for instance, that I want to sign up for a website that requires an email address but I don’t want to give this website my real address. I can add a “+” to my Gmail username between my name and the “@” to create a Gmail alias. I can then filter messages sent to “doug+spam@gmail.com” to either skip my inbox altogether and/or to get automatic labels applied to them.

Here’s a quick video of the process in action:

In essence, learning how to work with labels and filters allows you to create several automated traffic cops that can sling your email around as you see fit. Once you’ve tweaked everything a bit, you’ll notice a cleaner inbox despite spending less time dealing with email.

TIME How-To

iOS 8 Guide: 10 Cool Tips and Tricks

Whether you just picked up an iPhone 6 or you're looking to squeeze a little life out of an older iPhone, here's a handful of tricks to try once you're using iOS 8.

Say “Hey Siri” for No-Touch Assistance

If your phone is plugged in, you can get Siri to do your bidding just by saying, “Hey Siri.”

You’ll need to enable the feature first by going to Settings > General > Siri and then toggling the Allow “Hey Siri” switch.

Again, your phone has to be plugged in for this to work, but it could be useful when paired with a car charger or while you’re at your desk.

Find Battery-Sucking Apps

Battery being run down too fast? It’s most likely an app or two that are sapping an inordinate amount of juice. You can check which ones are causing the most trouble by going to Settings > General > Usage > Battery Usage.

You’ll see a list of the apps that have used the most battery over the past 24 hours, with the option to check which ones have been the top drainers over a longer period of time as well.

Adjust Brightness in Photos

When you’re taking a photo and you tap the screen to adjust the camera’s focus, you can now also adjust the brightness. Just tap the screen as you’re taking a photo, then swipe up to make the image brighter or down to make the image darker.

Use the Camera Timer

The camera also has a timer function. Tap the little clock icon in the top menu when you’re taking a photo and it’ll let you choose between a three- or ten-second delay before firing off some snaps.

Get Notified of Email Thread Replies

If you want to keep an eye on an important email thread, you can enable notifications to pop up every time someone adds a new email message to the thread. Click on the little flag icon in the lower left corner of an email message, choose Notify Me… and then Notify Me again. Step through the same process to remove yourself from future notifications once you’ve had enough.

Minimize an Email You’re Writing

If you’re in the middle of typing an email message to someone and you realize you need to reference some information from a previous email elsewhere in your inbox, you can swipe down on the message you’re writing to minimize it to the bottom of the screen. Once you’re ready to write some more, tap the message to expand it again.

Track Your Phone’s Final Location Before the Battery Dies

You’ve misplaced your phone — or worse, it’s been stolen — and the battery is surely dead. You can find out its last known location by heading into Settings > iCloud > Find My iPhone and then toggling Send Last Location on.

Minimize the QuickType Feature

If you find the keyboard’s new QuickType word-guessing feature more annoying than useful, you can minimize it by swiping down from the top of the QuickType bar. If you find that you miss the feature, swipe back up and it’ll re-assume its perch atop your keyboard.

Quickly Send an Audio Recording, Photo or Video in a Text Message

When chatting back and forth in the Messages app, hold down the microphone icon in the lower-right corner to begin recording an audio message. When it’s ready, tap the arrow above it to send it or tap the X to delete it. To send a photo or video instead, hold down the camera icon in the lower-left corner and tap the top icon to snap a photo or the right-hand icon to record a video. Note that these features require that your recipient has an iPhone as well, although you’ll be able to send photos and videos (but not audio) to non-iPhone owners by tapping the camera icon in the lower-left corner and then following a couple additional steps.

Reply to a Text Message Without Leaving Your Current App

When you receive a text message up at the top of your screen, pull down on it to access a quick-reply box. Type your reply, hit Send and go back to what you were doing — all without leaving your current app.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser