How to customize the Gmail Stars feature for greater flexibility

Google power users, take heed: There's a way to make combing through that multitude of starred emails a bit more efficient. Jack Wallen shows you how.

Use and customize the Gmail stars feature to help you organize your emails better

If you're a Gmail power user, you probably know about the Star feature. It's very basic and common among email clients. You star an email that's of particular importance, so the email in question is easier to find at a later date. You can even view only those emails you've starred by typing is:starred in the Gmail search box. 

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But Gmail offers a bit more flexibility here. Instead of only having stars, you can add other special attributes to your emails (such as different colored stars, red/yellow/blue exclamation points, double arrows, green checks or purple question marks), so you can better label them according to your needs. 

Although it's not a terribly wide variety, by adding this diversity it's even easier to find what you're looking for. Think about it this way: You might have starred hundreds of emails in your inbox and need to find one out of that collection. When you type is:starred you'll not only see all of those gold stars but maybe a few green checks or purple question marks. Maybe a green check represents emails that have been responded to and purple question marks are those that have yet to receive attention.

 This little feature can be very useful. How do you enable it? Simple. 

  1. Open Gmail in a web browser and click the cog icon in the top right. 
  2. From the popup, click See All Settings. 
  3. In the resulting window, scroll down until you see the Stars section. You should see both In Use and Not in Use sections. 
  4. To add new stars to the In use section, simply click and drag the star you want from the Not in Use to the In Use row. 
  5. Keep adding them until you're satisfied. 
  6. When you're done, scroll down and click Save Changes. 

To use the new feature, click the Star button associated with an email and keep clicking it until it lands on the image you want for the email. Now, whenever you either type is:starred or click the Starred tab (under Inbox in the left sidebar), you'll see the different stars you've added. This is a very subtle way to help make Gmail a bit more efficient, especially if you tend to star a lot of missives.

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By Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen....