Drag and Drop Labels

This entry is part 10 of 23 in the series White Belt

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Gmail has made some significant changes to the way you label and store conversations. They have now made labels work more like folders in more conventional mail applications by adding drag-and-drop actions. Once again, Google has impressed me with their web programming savvy.

Before getting started on the drag and drop feature, you should be aware that your labels have moved and are displayed a bit differently. Labels are no longer in their own little side window, but are now parked right underneath the standard system folders Inbox, Trash, Spam, and so on. You may also notice that all your labels are not displayed as they once were. Only the most used labels are displayed by default. If you don’t like this, click on the little down arrow just below the first few and click “Settings at the top of the new window. You can also get to this location by going in to Gmail Settings and click “Labels”.

In this redesigned Labels settings screen, you can show or hide any number of the standard folders or your labels quickly and easily. Go ahead and give it a try. You could save yourself a lot of screen real estate. If you don’t like it, just turn them back on.

I should point out that if you used the “Right Side Folders” labs feature, that it no longer functions. It is the first of the Gmail Labs features to be retired. A pity, I kind of liked having labels and chat on the right of the screen.

OK, now that you’ve got your labels and folders displayed the way you like, it’s time to try that drag and drop feature. You can drag any conversation on to a label or any label on to a conversation. To grab the conversation, click on the dotted area just to the left of the checkbox. Your mouse may change to the shape of a hand with all fingers extended, as opposed to the standard link cursor with just the index finger pointed out. Once you have the message, continue to hold the mouse button and drag the message to the desire label. This moves the message to that label and archives it, effectively treating it like an operation of moving a message into a folder.

If you would rather just apply a label and leave the message in the inbox, place your cursor over the desired label and click, then drag the label to the specific message shown on the conversation index. It’s really that simple. Remember, if the label you are looking for is not in the list, try the down arrow to show them all.

I have to admit, I’m very impressed with this new way of doings from a developer’s perspective and I’m sure most of you use your mouse a lot to click on that checkbox, conversation, or label. However, I’ve found that I can still process messages many times faster with keyboard shortcuts, so aside from cleaning up my screen by hiding most of the labels and folders, I won’t be using drag and drop too much.

If you’re not familiar with the keyboard shortcuts, have a listen to one of the first Gmail Podcasts I did in January 2006 to learn things like “l”, then start typing the first few letters of a label, or using “g” and “i” to go to the inbox quickly.

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