Why are My Gmail Labels not available?

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Jarretera Screenshot: (Shutterstock)

Although many services have user interfaces designed to be easy to use — enough to be found even by a technophob — the time will always be when something seems strange and you cannot remember the setting you need to fix it for the life of you.

“I know that there is some way to change that, but where is that setting buried…” As someone who regularly messes with his third-party UI of Warcraft world, I don’t think to myself for one week. And normally I figure it out after about ten minutes of Google random searches. Wash, repeat. Wash, wash.

A variation on this subject is the letter of this week to the Tech 911 column from Lifehacker. Joe writes to Lifehacker reader:

I don’t have things like trash anymore on my Gmail page, in which all the mail is on, on the left hand side. I can no longer get it.

The curious case of the Gmail buttons missing
The good news, Joe, is that it takes as much time to answer your problem as it would have taken you to write a short email. My hypothesis is that the left sidebar with all these links was accidentally closed—your typical “folders,” such as inbox, send and drawings, your labels (if you use them), your trash, etc.

I assume your Gmail looks like that, ju with much less icons and junk:

Click the ‘hamburger icon’ or the three-horizontal lines icon of the upper-left corner of the screen to restore your sidebar. Outlook:

If I’m wrong, then you can’t really see anything on the left side of Gmail—no icons, no links, nothing—then I’mn’t sure what the culprit might be. My initial idea was to fix problems such as fixing any other issues in your browser: First, disable any add-ons or extensions, including adblockers, that you use and reload Gmail to see whether the left sidebar is being restored.

Otherwise, you will want to hop into settings in your browser and make the proven method of clearing cache, cookies and the history of your browser. You did not indicate which web browser you use, but for all the major ones it is an easy process:

  • Apple’s Safari
  • Edge
  • Firefox
  • Chrome

And if your problem does not fix, you might try to load your Gmail and see if your left sidebar reappears on an entirely different browser than on your usual one.

I’d be appalled if the left sidebar still is missing, but if so, something beyond your mere browser(s) causes the problem. My next stop would be the setting of your Gmail, just to confirm the selection of your various labels to “show” instead of “hide.”

You can also try to change the density of Gmail from your main display (hover your mouse over your Google profile photo in the upper-right corner, and then click on the gear icon). Maybe that could restore your sidebar, or even switch your Inbox type:

If you still have problems, try to run Gmail completely on another computer (even if you have to borrow from your friend). If there is a sidebar, something will happen with your OS, possibly even with your router settings, which will not load portions of the site. This certainly feels a pretty great stretch, but troubleshooting can help solve problems. And I am not sure what to tell you if the sidebar is not yet present, but I at least have completed my list of ideas.

You might want the more scorched earth technique to reset your router to factory (or modem/router depending on your home setup) to be able to get access to your GMAil without problems on any other PC which does not have connections to your home network. It might be time to back up all of your data, reinstall your PC, and see whether that can help. And if you’re still out of luck.

I’m only passing you by here because I don’t know exactly which of the less-invasive solutions will solve your issue, unfortunately. I think that before the “Set up from scratch” point, you will find it, but as a potential last-ditch option I wanted to drop it in. Let me know what your problem solves.