How to Sort Your Gmail Inbox by Sender, Subject, and Label

Andy Betts Updated 15-12-2019

Gmail is a great tool, but it falls short in terms of offering intuitive ways of sorting your inbox. Fortunately, there are easy workarounds that give you more control over finding messages. Let’s look at how to organize and sort Gmail.


1. Sort Gmail by Sender

There’s no easy way to sort Gmail by sender, but there are several tricks that help you see all the emails you get from one person.

The quickest is most useful if you’ve had an email from that individual recently, although you can use it whenever you’re in your inbox.

Go to your inbox, locate any email from the sender you want to select, then right click on the email. From the menu that opens select Find emails from.

sort gmail by sender

Almost instantly you’ll see a list of all the emails you’ve ever received from that sender, even ancient ones that you’ve long since archived. You’ll also see the full contact info for that sender, making it is easy to send them a message or start a video call.


sort by sender gmail

Don’t see the desired sender immediately visible in your inbox? No problem. Type the person’s name or email address into the Gmail search box first. Then just right click on any of the messages it finds and select Find emails from once again.

2. Sort Emails From Any Sender

You can sort your Gmail inbox by any sender without knowing the person’s name. Go back to Google’s search bar and notice the small downward-facing triangle on the right-hand side. This is the Show search options button.

show search options gmail


Click on the arrow and you’ll see a box offering various ways to locate messages.

You can specify parameters to find emails that include or do not have certain words. This option finds them in whole emails, not just the subjects, and is useful when you can only remember what the conversation was about. You can also filter the results to only include messages with attachments.

advanced search in gmail

Play around with the capabilities of the search box and become familiar with them. Use the Date within option to limit your searches to a particular time frame, for example. When you’ve found the sender you’re looking for, use the Find emails from option to generate a full message list.


If you’d prefer not to use the search options, there’s another method to try.

search for recipient gmail

Like Google, Gmail recognizes advanced search operators. Type to:bob in the main search bar to find all the emails you sent to people named Bob.

3. Sort Your Gmail Inbox by Subject

Sometimes you need to sort your Gmail by subject instead. Perhaps you need to find all the emails people have sent you about an upcoming family reunion.


Go back to Google’s search bar and bring up the additional search options. One of the boxes allows searching by subject. As you’ll recall from the previous tips, it’s also possible to search messages for certain words. Type some relevant words—get-together, gathering, event, and so on—in the Includes the words box, separated by commas.

sort gmail message content

Finally, turn your attention to the Search option at the bottom of the box. By default, it’s set to search through all your emails. If this is too broad, change it to search only messages filtered to a specific inbox or assigned a particular label.

search spam or trash gmail

What if someone tells you they sent a message, but you don’t see it in the inbox? You can search Spam and Trash like this, too. If the email got misinterpreted as junk mail or you deleted it, it’s not lost if it is still in the trash.

Just remember that Gmail automatically deletes all messages in the Trash after 30 days.

4. Look for Messages With Specific Labels

In the last section, we briefly brought up labels. If you’re not familiar with labels in Gmail 16 Essential Gmail Terms and Features You Should Know About To help you get familiar with Gmail, here are the most important Gmail terms and features you should know about. Read More , think of them as folders. Assigning a label to an email is the equivalent to moving it into a folder, and you can use labels to sort your inbox.

Apply Labels to Emails

First, select any message in the inbox. When it opens, you’ll see a row of icons above it. Choose the one with the tag-like image. That’s Gmail’s Labels button. Click it to bring up a list of all previously made labels. Choose Create new to make a new one.

Add labels in Gmail

You can also label several messages simultaneously by selecting their respective checkboxes (this is great for when you want to delete messages in bulk).

Do that just before clicking the label button on the top of Gmail’s interface. You can also label a message after clicking into it instead of from the main inbox.

Sort Emails by Labels

Now that we’ve gone over applying labels, let’s apply that knowledge to email sorting, courtesy of labels.

sort by label gmail

It’s very easy to do; just click the label tag either in the email itself (shown above) or in the sidebar of your inbox (shown below).

Sort by Label in Gmail

5. Automatically Apply Labels to Sent Messages

As you’ve seen here, applying a label is a fast and straightforward process. However, it’s one more thing to remember while keeping tabs on your inbox. If you’re a perpetually busy person, you might prefer not to take that step.

You can use labels when you create filters to sort and organize your inbox. Better still, a free app, with available premium plans, called Gmelius automatically puts labels on sent messages.

After downloading the app, open its dashboard and find the Productivity tab. Then, look for the Send and add Labels option. Apply that option and reload your inbox. Then, check out the label icon next to the app’s send button. It looks like a small ribbon and indicates you’ve enabled auto-labeling.

To see how Gmelius works, send a message through Gmelius. Clicking the send button for an email makes a labeling box appear. Scroll through the list to choose one or use the convenient search box. Then, click the Label and Send option at the bottom.

If you end up giving Gmelius a try, it has several ways to personalize your inbox. They don’t relate to sorting messages but include other helpful possibilities. Since you know how to sort your inbox, why not do even more with this feature-rich app?

Download: Gmelius | Chrome | Android | iOS (Limited free with annual plans starting at $9/month)

What’s Your Preferred Way to Sort Your Gmail Inbox?

It isn’t as easy as you’d expect to sort emails in Gmail. The service’s automated sorting tools want to do it for you, and that isn’t always enough if you want to be more hands on.

Making the tips you’ve just discovered a part of your everyday routine isn’t difficult. For more ways to stay organized, check out how to schedule messages in Gmail How to Schedule an Email in Gmail to Delay Sending It Sometimes you don't want to send an email immediately. Let's learn how to schedule an email in Gmail and send it later. Read More and how to auto-forward your mail between Gmail and Outlook How to Automatically Forward Emails From Outlook to Gmail Want to forward Outlook email to Gmail and vice-versa? Both Outlook and Gmail can automate the process for you. Read More .

Related topics: Declutter, Email Tips, Gmail, Productivity Tricks.

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  1. Yaneck
    January 15, 2020 at 9:59 pm

    I'm sorry, you do not understand meaning word "sort"

  2. Ross McMillan
    September 3, 2019 at 12:59 am

    Lots of comments complaining that the article doesn't address the issue. Which it doesn't. I think the authors knew what they were doing. The article should have been five words long:

    "Sorry, you can't do that"

    My solution - not ideal but I was wrangling 100k+ emails and really needed to search by subject and sender - I installed the free mail client Mozilla Thunderbird. You can run it in parallel with the GMail web interface, and once it has scavenged the mail headers (one-time) it's fast.

  3. dragonmouth
    May 30, 2019 at 7:04 pm

    "Go to your inbox, locate any email from the sender you want to select, then right click on the email. From the menu that opens select Find emails from.
    Almost instantly you’ll see a list of all the emails you’ve ever received from that sender, even ancient ones that you’ve long since archived."
    Not so. I have about 90 emails from a particular sender. When I execute the search for the name of that sender from the Inbox, GMail finds only five of them. Even if I execute the search from the folde ( Label) in which this sender's email are stored, I still get the same 5 emails. FAIL!

    Your topic headings keep saying in bold print "". But when you explain how to sort, you keep saying "Go to a SEARCH screen and enter SEARCH parameters.....". You are describing how to use SEARCH as an inadequate workaround for SORT.

    As has been pointed out by others, SORT and SEARCH are two entirely different operations providing two entirely different sets of results. You do not seem to, or choose not to, understand that and neither does Google. Instead of providing functionality, Google provides more different ways of prettyfying GMail displays. GMail is useless in a business environment. The lack of a true SORT functionality is only one of its shortcomings.

  4. T
    May 30, 2019 at 3:34 am

    That's filtering, not sorting. Useless.

  5. Sarah
    April 16, 2019 at 9:45 am

    That's not sorting by label. That's filtering by label. VERY different things.

  6. TerryB
    February 11, 2019 at 4:51 pm

    So where's the part where you tell us how to sort our emails by sender? Clickbait!

  7. Steve
    January 2, 2019 at 9:10 pm

    I noticed that this article has been updated since it was first written and after all of the comments below mine. #1 still does not work. It is clear that the author does not read feedback.

  8. annoyed
    September 14, 2018 at 3:07 pm

    Unbelievable! #1 No longer works. What does Gmail have invested in NOT allowing users to sort by sender??

    • Jim Campbell
      March 20, 2020 at 6:48 pm

      I've wondered this from Day 1 why they just don't sort by SENDER.
      Perhaps it uses processing resources on Google's servers?
      Perhaps because they include ALL your past emails in their search and that becomes untenable to sort thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of emails?
      Perhaps since Google is a SEARCH ENGINE, they want to force that concept down our throats?

  9. Mary Meyer
    September 11, 2018 at 5:16 pm

    This is all fine, but we're busy. Why don't they have a function like very other email service that allows me to click on the name and sort or click on the subject and sort or click on the attachment and sort. I had that I'm stuck with this email written by people who are trying to tell us that we don't need sort because their search function is so superior! If I could I wouldn't touch any google products.

    • Jim Campbell
      March 20, 2020 at 6:49 pm


  10. J Cox
    July 26, 2018 at 2:08 am

    This, and every other article that tries to address this often-requested feature, assumes that EVERYONE asking for a way to SORT their inbox is too stupid to use a search bar.
    ME: Can I sort the messages in my inbox alphabetically by sender?
    HELP: Aww, you're obviously trying (so hard!) to locate one single email; what else could you possibly want to do? But sorting emails.... you don't need to do that, silly! You'll make a mess.
    Since you know the exact name of the sender (out of the hundreds in your inbox, gosh! so many!), you can just type the sender's "name" in the search bar. Then, you move the little magic arrow until it's on top of the "spyglass" (on the screen)... then press on the button (you will hear a "click") ... and presto! THERE it is, that thing you were asking about! Wasn't this helpful?
    ME: I hope your next sh¡t is square.

    • MakeUseOfWentDownTheToilet
      September 28, 2018 at 6:12 pm

      Came here to say *this*

  11. Glenn Lake
    May 11, 2018 at 7:30 pm

    This is typical of MakeUseOf posts lately. Notice all the "clickbate" that is on every article. Also notice that this was written over 7 months ago. You would think someone as high up in status as Kayla Matthews, a senior writer at MakeUseOf would have someone actually read an article and see if it were even useful.

  12. Joe Blow
    April 29, 2018 at 4:43 am

    Apparently you have no clue what SORT means, and that it has NOTHING to do with SEARCH. Please learn a minimum kindergarten level of knowledge about basic computer concepts before trying to write a write an article.

    • DMS
      October 1, 2018 at 2:43 am


      • Angus McGillicuddy
        December 11, 2018 at 1:09 pm

        Exactly what I was going to say. Searching is not Sorting. Good grief.

    • AnnoyedwithMUO
      September 7, 2019 at 12:35 am

      Yes EXACTLY - search is not the same as sort!!

  13. tim cawley
    April 16, 2018 at 2:23 pm

    SORT. Not Search. SORT. We want to SORT the inbox. In the order of our chosing. And G-Mail seems incapable of that. Yuck.

    • David
      April 20, 2018 at 7:01 am

      Totally agree!

    • ray allen
      April 25, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      I agree. Google does not seem to understand that you can't search for something if you're unsure of what to search for. That is why it's easier to find an email that you need by sorting.

      Google 'tech support' has also told me to do wildcard searches, but again, that implies that you know almost exactly what you are searching for.

      Knowing what I do now, I would have chosen a Microsoft webmail account for my job hunting email address because Microsoft allows you to sort your inbox.

  14. Jim Landfield
    March 13, 2018 at 12:24 pm

    I use labels. But I need to be able to search for a criteria and then sort the results.

    For example# 1: The emails I need to work with today are labeled for today and for the week - label:2-due---by-day-and-week-3tuesday label:2-due---by-day-and-week-week-03-11-18-week - So I can tell what I need to handle today.

    What I am missing is being able to sort. I want to sort the above search results by one or more labels.

    In example #1, there are other labels. Like a client email label or a personal email label. I want to group all the search results by the personal label.

    How do I do that?

  15. Milagros Curutan
    January 19, 2018 at 5:15 pm

    It depends on what I am working on. I like to sort my mail by date, by sender, and by subject. In Microsoft Outlook, it is easy - I just click on the header at the top. My MS Outlook is not working for some reason and I am trying to use GMail instead. It is not as easy as using MS Outlook. I am going through the instructions above to see if I can get it going. It is very frustrating.

  16. Vyas
    January 19, 2018 at 7:56 am

    Want to sort all my gmail by the sender. How to do it? This is for the purpose of cleaning up all spam and unwanted.

    • DMS
      October 1, 2018 at 2:45 am

      Yes, that is exactly what I do - sorting (NOT SEARCHING) is the easiest way to clean up my mailbox.

  17. adam smith
    December 8, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Those are kind of useless tips since you have to know what you're looking for. If you just want to sort your emails by name and you don't know the name you're looking for, like say to sort spam messages by sender, these tips are useless. Especially since spammers send the same ad from thousands of different email addresses. Even if you set up labels it's going to take forever. I have no idea why they left this option out of gmail.

  18. dragonmouth
    October 3, 2017 at 8:54 pm

    Thanks for the tips. Back in the days when I had AT&T WordlNet, I've gotten used to sorting my emails by sender and/or subject. At work I used MS Exchange. Unfortunately GMail is not as advanced as either one of those. Google prefers to "upgrade" GMail with glitz and eye-candy rather than real-world features.

    • Erle S Bowman
      February 1, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      Ain't that the truth.....