Continuing the theme of helping Gmail users make the transition to Outlook.com, today’s tip explains how you can create and manage email categories, which are similar to Gmail’s labels feature.

If you use Gmail, you know that Google’s webmail solution offers a feature called labels that helps overcome the service’s lack of folder-based organization. Gmail uses labels like Sent Mail, Drafts, and more to replicate the feel of those folders on more traditional email services. (It also uses some labels, like Important, in a more traditional fashion, to “tag” messages.)

The labels Gmail provides are called system labels, but you can also create labels of your own and then optionally assign a sort action to each. So you might create a label called Newsletters, for example, and then (virtually) sort messages that get that label under another label (which looks/works like a folder).

In Outlook.com, this functionality is handled by a related feature called categories, with one difference: By default, categories are simply labels (in the strictest sense, not like Gmail labels) that tag messages as being of a certain type. (And if you want to automatically route incoming messages to particular folders, you can use Outlook’s rules feature.)

Outlook.com automatically tags certain messages with categories—Documents, Photos, Newsletters, and Shipping Updates—and it has a set of built-in categories you can see by pulling down the Categories toolbar menu in the web interface.

cat-menu

To apply to category to a selected message (or messages), just check the appropriate box in this menu. If you would like to apply this category to all emails like the currently selected message, you can use the “Apply to all from…” link to make it automatic going forward.

auto

You can create new categories inline using the Categories menu (New category item). But if you choose Manage categories, you’ll see that category management works much like Gmail’s label management. There are built-in categories (which are called Outlook categories) and then your own categories (which are called personal categories).

cat-mgmt

So why use categories? Because you can use these tags to filter the view and see only those messages that meet certain criteria. You do this via the Quick views area in the folders pane on the left. To see only those messages that include shipping updates, for example, check the Shipping updates link. When you do, the view changes to show only those emails.

shipping

Note: If you’re not seeing a category in the Quick views list, return to the category management page and make sure that category’s Quick view option is checked. Voila.