Managing Labels

You can use labels to tag, organize, and categorize messages and threads in Gmail. A label has a many-to-many relationship with messages and threads: a single message or thread may have multiple labels applied to it and a single label may be applied to multiple messages or threads.

For information on how to create, get, list, update, or delete labels, see the Labels reference.

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Types of labels

Labels come in two varieties: reserved SYSTEM labels and custom USER labels. System labels typically correspond to pre-defined elements in the Gmail web interface such as the inbox. Systems label names are reserved; no USER label can be created with the same name as any SYSTEM label. The following table lists several of the most common Gmail system labels:

Name Can be manually applied Notes
INBOX yes
SPAM yes
TRASH yes
UNREAD yes
STARRED yes
IMPORTANT yes
SENT no Applied automatically to messages that are sent with drafts.send or messages.send, inserted with messages.insert and the user's email in the From header, or sent by the user through the web interface.
DRAFT no Automatically applied to all draft messages created with the API or Gmail interface.
CATEGORY_PERSONAL yes Corresponds to messages that are displayed in the Personal tab of the Gmail interface.
CATEGORY_SOCIAL yes Corresponds to messages that are displayed in the Social tab of the Gmail interface.
CATEGORY_PROMOTIONS yes Corresponds to messages that are displayed in the Promotions tab of the Gmail interface.
CATEGORY_UPDATES yes Corresponds to messages that are displayed in the Updates tab of the Gmail interface.
CATEGORY_FORUMS yes Corresponds to messages that are displayed in the Forums tab of the Gmail interface.

Applying labels to messages and threads

Messages and threads can have multiple labels associated with them; however, draft messages cannot have labels applied to them. Modifying the labels applied to a thread applies or removes the specified labels from all messages in the thread. You can modify which labels are associated with a message or thread by calling messages.modify or threads.modify, respectively.

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