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How Do You Show Only Unread Emails in Gmail? [Answers]

Inbox overflowing? Sometimes it helps to show only the unread email messages, so you can more quickly scan through the list and clean out your inbox. The select Unread feature in Gmail just checks the boxes next to the unread messages, but here’s how to show only unread.

Note: of course, this isn’t really news to most serious geeks, but we’re out to help everybody.

Displaying Only Unread Emails in Gmail

Like we were mentioning above, if you use the drop-down and choose “Unread” from the list, all it’s going to do is select the checkboxes next to the unread messages in the list—not that useful for cleaning out your inbox.

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Instead, all you need to do is type is: into the search box, and the search suggestions box will pop up and let you select the is:unread from the list—which, of course, you could also type into the box yourself.

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And now, you’ll see all the unread messages in your email account.

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Since that’s not quite as useful as what we really want, what you’ll want to do is add the label: operator to the search as well—using label:inbox on the end of the search will allow you to filter down to just emails in your inbox.

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So there you go, the search that will show you all the unread emails in your inbox:

is:unread label:inbox

Enjoy cleaning out your inbox.

Lowell Heddings, better known online as the How-To Geek, spends all his free time bringing you fresh geekery on a daily basis. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 08/31/10

Comments (9)

  1. David

    Even better, add Quick Links from Labs. Create a quick link to: is:unread label:inbox

    That way, you just click a link to get your unread mail in your inbox instead of typing the above search string.

  2. Tony

    You can also add the multiple inboxes labs feature. Just give it a is: unread label.

  3. Andrew

    I’m with David. Adding this search as a quick link has worked great for me.

  4. Roi

    I have 5 different inboxes with the multiple inboxes feature, one for important emails, one for howtogeek emails, and the rest for other stuff

  5. www.subcorpus.net

    very helpful article …
    am going to try clean up my inbox right now …
    thank you for this …

  6. markopolo

    Worked on the iphone ! greatstuff

  7. The Happiest Davis

    Thank you for this! It was easy to read and understand and it did just what I wanted! The only thing that would be better is if Gmail offered the option to have your unread emails show on the homescreen, without having to add Quick Links or whatever – just show only the unread messages when you log in. Thanks again!

    P. S. –> I already suggested that feature to Gmail, as I’m sure many other people have. :)

  8. b0nd

    Hey thanks, quite handy to clean the stuff.

  9. Laura

    Oh you are my new favorite “How-to Geek!” Thank you so much for this posting. You literally improved my day 110%! Best.

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