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Well, it took a while, but I finally buy into gmail labels.

They are better than folders.

The metaphor is, each message is like a sheet of paper.

In the Microsoft paradigm, then, you file messages into folders to retrieve them later.

In the Google paradigm, you stick labels (much like coloured sticky notes) on folders to retrieve them later.

So, if something is in your “inbox”, and is from your “friends”, you want that message to both be in your “inbox” folder AND your “friends” folder at the same time.

In the Microsoft paradigm, this is impossible. A sheet of paper can only be in one folder. In the Microsoft paradigm, a message belongs to a folder.

In the Google paradigm, however, they use labels, so a sheet of paper (a message) can have many labels stuck to it.

  • do-now
  • friends
  • inbox
  • urgent

So this is a message from a friend that you have to do-now. You leave it in your inbox and also label it with a big red urgent label to add that bit of extra urgency to doing your friend.

Ah, what was I talking about? Yes, sex.

No, wait. It was labels.

Ah, so you can use the gmail search box to find messages by label. Say you need to find all the messages that you’ve previously labelled as do-now.

In the gmail search box:


So that will give you a listing of all the messages that have the do-now label applied.

Now what if you have a system where something that was labelled as do-now gets ANOTHER sticker applied to it called “done” when the task is done. (Work with me here. We could just remove the do-now label, but this is an example :))

So once you’ve done your friend, you have to stick a label on her that says “done”. Now you can search for all the messages that you need to do now and are also done:


And finally, here’s the kicker, how to search for a gmail message that does not have a certain label:


In that example, i’m searching for all messages labelled do-now that DO NOT have label:done.

That last example is the most useful by far, and its why I actually wrote this article on doing your friends.

Reference: Using advanced search

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