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Dec 8 / kkrizka

Color Tagging in GMail

Google has added another feature to their email offering, GMail, that I find very useful: color tagging. GMail was one of the first email client to implement the idea of organizing your emails by tags instead of placing them in folders. This is very useful, because it allows you to specify several tags per email as if you placed it in several folders, and so it is easier to find later. For example, I tag emails from my courses as SFU and PHYS (for physics courses). This way I can either find email that came from Simon Fraser University or is related to physics. That existed for some time, but what was added only recently is the ability to assign different colors to the tags in the inbox.

This is very useful, because it allows me to spot important messages faster. For example, I receive a lot of emails from different blogs that I am subscribed to. Those are mostly unimportant, yet they clutter my inbox and make the emails from SFU and my friends harder to spot. My old solution was to automatically star the important emails, but that was not as good. I lost the ability to use the star to mark emails that I deemed important AFTER reading them. But now thanks to the color tags, I can choose a dark colors for the important tags and light colors for the unimportant. This way I know what I need to read just from a quick overview.

The colors can be configured from the “Labels” sidebar in the GMail interface. There is a dropdown box beside each tag that allows you to pick from a small variety of colors. I say small, because you are only allowed to pick from 5 colors and 3 backgrounds. This makes 15 combinations, which might not be enough if you have a lot of tags. Also the configuration of backgrounds can be quite useful, because you can choose from a transparent white background for the least important messages, a light shade of a color for the medium important messages, and extremly dark backgrounds for the very very important messages.

Just look at the screenshot below. How long did it take you to find the conversations I need to read?



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  1. wing / Oct 18 2009

    thanks, it’s a useful post!

  2. sEver / Nov 30 2009

    Not that it matters much, but opera browser has email client built in, and setting all its problems aside, it was organizing mail by tags long before gmail came to be. end of line.

  3. Economics Tutor / Feb 4 2010

    Hi Karol,

    I stumbled upon your blog trying to understand how tagging works in gmail! Great to see you blogging as a student.

    I work with We are currently recruiting part time student ambassadors and wanted to get in touch with you to discuss if you would be interested in. Can we talk sometime?


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