I'm using the default Gmail inbox, where emails are magically filed under the proper tab: Primary, Social, Update and Forum.

In Mail on OS X Yosemite (10.10) however, all end up in the Inbox.

I can see my custom labels (I use several) under "Google" in the left panel. Under Mailboxes, I have of course the standard Inbox, Drafts, Outbox... But the Gmail tabs appear nowhere, not even as folders.

I could maybe create rules on Gmail that would match the tabs, e.g. if this is a "Social" email, then add a label "Social", but this seems clumsy.

Is there an easy/elegant way to enable it?


You can follow the instructions from this page (too long to reproduce them here). It boils down to creating server filters for each category (=tab), in order to archive the email from your inbox and apply a label on it. Then, it will show nicely in OSX Mail. Some caveats though:

  • The search function in Mail does not work on all folders at once
  • You lose the small tab counter, telling you for instance you have 3 new emails in Social. The counter resets itself as soon as you hit the tab in Gmail. Not in OSX Mail

7 Answers 7


Short answer: no.

Gmail works on a system of "labels", which is represented in IMAP (a protocol used by email clients to talk to email servers) with traditional folders.

The "tabs" you are referring to show up as "category:social", etc. in the search bar in Gmail when you click on them. There is no representation in Gmail's IMAP server for these categories, therefore Mail (and any other email client) is unaware of them.

  • 1
    Thanks. I think I once read (can't find it no more) that someone mocked the GMail tabs by creating GMail rules. He would add a label 'Social' to anything in the Social tab, making it visible as a folder in OSX Mail. It might work this is too much hassle IMO.
    – youri
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 12:09
  • 1
    Yes you can use Filters to automatically label messages. Spending a couple minutes to set up the filters one time seems like it would be worth it to me if you really desire your emails being labeled that way in Mail, but that's just me. :)
    – tubedogg
    Commented Nov 21, 2014 at 19:17
  • 1
    Well I'm not sure you'll get the complete feature. In GMail, you can move a mail from one tab to another and Google will remember to put future similar emails in that tab. Not going to work from Mail. Granted, I don't do that often, so indeed it may be a suitable solution.
    – youri
    Commented Nov 22, 2014 at 10:06

Unfortunately, Gmail doesn’t expose its “Categories” to IMAP. I'm using Mail.app as my email client, and I had the same desire to have my mail categorized with Gmail’s bayesian-or-whatever classifiers, so I found a fix.

This workaround uses filters to automatically apply labels to categories. Once labeled the old fashioned way, they can then be exposed to IMAP.

  1. Go to Gmail/Settings/Filters
  2. Using a search operator enter category:[chosen category] in the “Has the words” field and click “Create filter with this search.“
  3. Check “Apply the label:” and select or create new label
  4. (optional) Check “Also apply filter to matching conversations.“
  5. Create filter
  6. Go to Gmail/Settings/Labels and show the label in IMAP
  7. (optional) Hide the label from label and message lists

This will link up your Gmail categories to your Mail.app.

  • is it still the same case in 2024? does it work?
    – Mohith7548
    Commented May 26 at 8:09

If the goal is to stop getting Promotions or Social polluting your Inbox... Yes.

I wouldn't call it elegant, but it's easy and it works.


  1. Create a new label: Under other labels, you may have to click More for + Create New Label . Call it "Promotions"

  2. Settings, Filters & Blocked Addresses, Create a New Filter

Has the words: category:promotions

Create filter

Do this: Skip Inbox, Apply label "Promotions"

IN APPLE MAIL: Nothing... it will automatically get put into a new subfolder called "Promotions." The "new message" sound may still sound, but the promo message won't be polluting your Inbox and you can choose not have it show that you got the message in Preferences, General: New message notifications: Inbox only


You can use the MailTags plugin for Apple mail. This post gives a good recipe for syncing not only labels but also categories (the tabs) in Google mail with Apple Mail.

  • 2
    Welcome to Ask Different! Just a pointer to help you craft good answers...it's preferable if you summarize the details from your link in your answer. Links often go stale making the answer useless. If you highlight the salient points, your answer will be relevant regardless of what happens to the external link.
    – Allan
    Commented Jan 3, 2017 at 0:51
  • This link is now 404.
    – shacker
    Commented Jun 2, 2023 at 7:00

It may be that some of you, as in my case, want to be sure that items under the Primary tab always shows up in the Important folder available to IMAP. When creating the filter per the directions above, no need to create a new label since there is an option to mark, e.g., category: Primary, to always be important. Then... as in my case, this keeps "Primary" (the label) in sync with "Important" available as an IMAP folder. Cheers!

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    – agarza
    Commented Aug 30, 2021 at 3:37

If you want a good desktop app for Gmail, try Kiwi for gmail free: https://www.kiwiforgmail.com/.


Go to the gear icon in the top-right → Configure inbox → Select tabs to enable → Save.

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