Gmail Categories vs Labels

These two options (Gmail Categories vs Labels) work almost in the same way, but there are some major differences between them. We will discuss them in detail below.

First of all, Categories are tabs that you may display in your inbox to automatically sort out your incoming messages. On the other hand, Labels are “tags” you place on messages. You need to place the label(s) on a message through direct action or filter.

Gmail Categories vs Labels – The Key Difference

About Gmail

Gmail is an electronic messaging service that offers free online storage space of several gigabytes (7.5 GB at the start of 2011). This service is offered by Google and allows you to manage your emails from your Internet browser (webmail) or any application (PC, Mac, Mobile).

Unlike other email services that rely on folders to classify messages, Gmail is based on two concepts: categories and labels.

Gmail Categories

Gmail’s category system allows you to segment your inbox into different sections divided into tabs or add specific labels. The webmail offers five categories, four of which are optional.

Types Gmail Categories

Unfortunately, it is not possible to create new ones. These categories are:


This is the only mandatory category. It contains all the messages received if no other category is activated. If necessary, it will contain messages that do not correspond to any of the other categories.

Social Networks:

Here are messages from social networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.), sharing sites, dating sites, etc.


Rather powerful, Gmail’s filtering engine easily detects commercial emails and advertisements. They come to park themselves here automatically.


This is one of the most popular categories since it groups automatically generated messages such as order confirmation emails, invoices, etc.


This last category includes all messages from forums, online groups, or mailing lists.

How to Use Gmail Categories?

It is possible to use these categories both as separate inboxes (they are then displayed as tabs of different colors on the main page of Gmail). The two display modes can also be used simultaneously.

Finally, suppose the distribution of messages by category is done automatically by gmail. In that case, it is possible to move a message from one category to another manually or to create an attribution filter.

If most start-ups and geeks, in general, have acclaimed Gmail, it’s because Google’s messaging allows large storage, but above all offers dozens of very practical customization and sorting options.

With Categories, Google wanted to offer a ranking system accessible even for the most neophyte of users.

Gmail Labels

The categories set by Google are a good start but aren’t enough to neatly tidy up the emails that pile up in your inbox. You must therefore use your labeling system to, for example, identify and easily find letters from an administration, your bank, a colleague, etc. It is arguably the most powerful and useful filing tool in Google Gmail Accounts.

What is Gmail Labels?

Gmail stores all of your messages in one place of your account. Then it will apply labels. A label is a label affixed to your messages. Thus, you can easily find your message by searching for it in the corresponding “folder.”

Advantages of Gmail Labels

The advantage of labeling is that your messages can have multiple labels. In this way, you can always find your message according to a label.

Let’s take an example: you want to store all your jokes received by email, as well as all the messages from your family. Instinctively, you will use two “folders”: one to store your jokes, the other to store your family’s emails. But what if your brother sends you a joke? Are you going to store it in the Family folder or the Jokes folder?

You could also store the message twice in both folders, but you will have the same email twice. With the labels, you can stick the Family and Jokes label on the same message! Thus, you will find the message by displaying the Family view or the Jokes view.

What are Gmail Labels Used for?

Labels are labels that have been applied to our messages and bear a name, such as Urgent, Marketing, or Client depending on how we want to organize ourselves. However, unlike folders, and what is very interesting with labels, you can apply multiple labels to a single message.

If we had to choose to classify a message in a single folder, which was often a difficult choice, with the labels, we would find the same message in several different folders.

And so, a message can have the label Urgent because you need to process it quickly, a Marketing label because it concerns the Marketing department, and a Customer X label because it concerns one of your customers.

Finally, wording can have a color that sets it apart, which will visually transform your Gmail interface and make messages jump out when you consult your inbox. We will see this in more detail during the demonstration.

Gmail Categories vs Labels: Comparison

Categories are Gmail’s automated process to categorize your new incoming email messages. Even though you’re able to help personalize the algorithm by checking messages on which Gmail has speculated wrong, it is still Gmail automatically including a category to a message for you.

Luckily, you have to select which of those four additional categories will be used with your Gmail inbox and, if you would like, you could have none of them.

On the other side, The label is an email filing system. Therefore, they are used to organize your inbox better to find your emails more easily and quickly, which is very important. They are also used to classify messages by folder, and those who used this way of doing things, in Outlook, for example, will not be disoriented.

This is what you see in your Gmail interface, in the left column, as shown in this illustration. You can even nest labels inside each other for even more flexibility.

The jargon used by Google sometimes confusing. Indeed, we find mention in the parameters of Gmail “system labels” and “labels” quite short. And the difference between the two is essential.

The name “labels” corresponds to the personal labeling you can create and configure to classify your messages. The system labels, for their part, correspond to the classification principle specific to Gmail.

These are tracked pending, spam, trash, etc., messages. These system labels are not editable or adjustable, but you can choose whether or not to display them in the desktop version of Gmail.


As their names suggest, these tabs will automatically sort your messages. When new mails arrive in these tabs, a small colored insert symbolizes the new messages in each category.

Categories can be taken care of, such as labels, so you can have them look like labels on message records when you take a look at a listing of messages and while searching (e.g., category: social vs. label: work).

Note that this setting is only available in the web version of Gmail. It is not possible to change the display of system labels in the mobile application.