Gmail Labels in Message List

I’d like to customize which labels appear in the message lists Gmail displays in the Inbox and elsewhere.

As you can see in the screenshot below are several columns displayed in an email list (from left to right):

  1. checkbox,
  2. star,
  3. importance,
  4. from (with mail count),
  5. description,
  6. attachment icon, and
  7. date (or time).

The description column contains a list of labels, if any, associated with the message as well as the email subject. The label(s) appear first within the description; following the labels is as much of the subject that will fit within the remaining space of the description column width.

I would like to prevent certain labels from being included in the description in order to more of the subject.

Is this possible?

Here’s the problem I’m trying to solve.

Many people with whom I correspond have multiple email addresses. As a result, it’s hard to search for messages to or from a particular person* (rather than to or from any of the person’s email addresses). I’ve created filters to add a label for the person, e.g., JohnDoe, to each message either to or from any of the person’s email addresses, e.g,,,,,,,, etc. Having thus labeled my messages, it’s easy to search for the label JohnDoe and get a list of all messages either to or from him regardless of the mail address involved.

Unfortunately, many messages are to or from multiple people so such messages may have multiple labels, one for each person, e.g., JohnDoe, JaneSmith, and SuzyQ. Within a Gmail message list, each label associated with a messages is prepended to the message’s subject and the resulting string is truncated to the width allowed for the message description column. As a result, the description for many of my messages column contains lots of labels and little of the subject.

Since the subject is often obscured in message lists, it is very hard to select the message I want from among dozens in the list.

I want to do is suppress these name labels from appearing in the description column of a message list, thereby allowing as much as possible of each message’s subject to appear in the message list.

Alternatively, is there a better way to search for messages to or from a person?

Yes, I have a Google Contact for each of these people and each Contact has all of their email addresses. It would be very cool to search for messages associated with one or more Contacts (based on a SQL join between email addresses in a Contact and those in the to or from headers of the messages store) but I’m not aware of any way to refer to a Contact in a message search.

*No, simply searching for the text string of a person’s name won’t find all and only messages to or from this person because (1) the name might appear outside of a to or from header), or (2) the name might not appear anywhere in the message (including any headers) because the person uses a different name, e.g., cool alias or nickname, in some venues.

Can you recommend a Gmail-oriented forum where I should post this query?

Yes. Click the gear icon, then See All Settings. Click Labels. Toward the bottom there are settings for Labels. Scroll down and you’ll see a column that says “Show in message list”. Click “Hide” for any labels that you don’t want appearing in the list of messages.

If you click on the control on the right of the search box, it lets you do advanced queries, and you sure can enter email addresses in the from or to fields. And you can separate multiple email addresses with the word OR (not commas - that does an AND search). You’ll find when you do that that the search will be in the form (say) from:( OR, so you could just type that directly rather than use the advanced search form.

See Search operators you can use with Gmail - Gmail Help for more on searches that you can do.

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Yes, works perfectly. Thank you. I didn’t notice that there are separate toggles for the Label List (which appears in the message list sidebar) and the Messages List.

Just a comment on this switch: Toggling hide for a parent label does NOT hide all the child labels. Each child must be toggled individually.

Yes, I use this Gmail search form often.

Just to save someone else the heartache, note that advanced queries should be placed in the “Has the words” section.

For example, suppose that you want to find all the emails either to OR from; typing this email address in both the From and To section of the form will NOT work. The query generated by this form is the intersection (AND) of each section, not the union (OR). Typing the same email address in both the From and To sections will search for emails with in both the from and to headers.

To get a union of queries, the query must be put into the “Has the words” section, like this: AND

Hope that helps someone.