Labels in Gmail can be extremely useful for organizing messages, but Google didn’t add any export or migration options for them. You can do it yourself with Thunderbird.
Gmail has plenty of features for combining multiple accounts, even if some use Google Apps. However, if you’re a severe Gmailer, you’ve probably set up plenty of labels, and there is no built-in option to export or share these labels to another account. To get around this, we can use an IMAP email client, and Thunderbird is a free choice that works great. Thunderbird recognizes labels as folders, and Gmail recognizes Thunderbird folders as labels, so the two are interchangeable. Below I’ll show you the simple steps to use this for copying labels (and the emails attached to them) to a new account.
- Mozilla Thunderbird installed [download link]
- A computer running Windows, Mac, or Linux
- 30 minutes to an hour, copying labels can take a long time
Sign in to both accounts over IMAP using Mozilla’s Thunderbird. This can be done from Settings >> Options >> Account Settings…
To connect to Gmail or Google Apps mail via IMAP, you’ll need to enable IMAP within the mail account settings.
Now that you have both accounts added to Thunderbird, wait for the email lists to populate. You should see all of the tags appear as folders underneath the version that has them.
Now select the folders (labels) from the original email address, drag them into the other address, and they will automatically be copied.
Now you have to wait for a while. Grab a snack, eat a Snickers, or patiently watch each copy message scroll across the bottom-left of the Thunderbird screen. It can seriously take a while to copy all of your labels and the emails attached to them between accounts in Thunderbird, especially if you have a large number of emails connected to each label.
Done! Your labels should be copied; log in to Gmail or Google Apps mail and check it out to be sure!