Gmail is chock-full of hidden features and add-on options, but one of the service’s most effective organizing tools is conveniently located right in the middle of its default configuration.
As you may have suspected by now (particularly if you read the title of this piece, you astute little cat), I’m talking about filters, which have been around for a long time and allow you to automate your email with a set of rules that you create yourself. At first look, filters may seem to be difficult to use. They can appear to be overwhelming. They might even seem to be superfluous.
However, don’t be deceived by the feature’s oddly crusty surface, which is really rather appealing. Gmail filters have the power to drastically transform your inbox, as well as the method in which incoming messages are dealt with and processed. They may assist you in keeping your email organized without requiring any continuous thinking or work on your part. Furthermore, all it takes is a little forward preparation to get them to start working for you.
Follow the Gmail suggestions in this article that are focused on filters, and your inbox will be working like a well-oiled (but not too greasy) machine in no time at all.
Part 1: Identifying and configuring your Gmail filters
Starting with several Gmail filter alternatives to get a sense of the kind of configurations you may want to explore, we’ll walk you through the process of making them step by step to give you a better understanding of the process.
You could do the following using Gmail filters:
Ensure that messages from specified high-priority senders are always sent to your inbox’s Primary tab, where you are more likely to see them and respond to them.
Specific types of lower-priority communications — such as bills, reports, or updates from various services you use — may be set up to automatically be sorted into a separate folder and never appear in your inbox at all by configuring your email software.
As soon as you get an email from someone who is bothering you, archive it so that it is no longer visible (but still accessible in case you need to discover it later).
Other members of your team or family may receive messages sent to them from a certain address or with a specified phrase in their subject lines.
Respond to messages sent to or received from a certain address immediately using a prewritten template.
Remind yourself to send particular sorts of messages by labeling them with a bright yellow “REMINDER” label that makes them stand out from the rest of your email messages.
Messages sent to a specific variation of your Gmail address (for example, email@example.com) or written with a specific word or phrase in the subject (for example, “urgent,” “important,” or “hey jerkwad, pay attention to this”) can be labeled as “VIP,” and you will only receive notifications for messages that have that designation.
Every time your employer sends you an email, have a snickerdoodle delivered to your office.
Okay, so that last one isn’t actually doable (at least not right now) — I just wanted to make sure you were still paying attention. However, everything else on that list is completely achievable and, in fact, fairly simple to set up using Gmail filters.
Do you have any suggestions of your own? This is a good bargain. It’s time to put them into action.
Part 2: Putting together your Gmail filters
The quickest and most straightforward method of creating a new Gmail filter is to click on the control panel icon — the icon depicting three horizontal lines stacked on top of each other — located inside the large search box at the top of the Gmail website.
The form will open, and you can type in anything you want to use as the basis for your filtering — for example, a word or phrase that may exist in an email’s subject or body, an email address from which a message might be sent, or any other variable or combination of variables you want to use.
Optional controls for regulating email automation may be found on the form used to create a new filter.
Fill in the relevant boxes with as many variables as you like — you can even use quote marks around multiword words and operators such as “AND” and “OR” between terms if you really want to get creative — and then click “Create filter” at the bottom of the box to create your filtering solution.
Your filter’s execution time may be controlled by any combination of variables and even by the usage of operators within a single field. (Click on the picture to see it in more detail.)
Just a word of caution: Because your filter will be applied to any and all incoming messages by default, the “All Mail” selection that appears next to the “Search” option in the filter creation pop-up is the default setting. You’re likely to get an error message if you change that option to “Inbox.” The message will notify you that the settings you selected are not recommended and may not function correctly. Leaving the “Search” option set to “All Mail” — which is most likely what you want, anyhow — will save you from encountering any issues and allowing things to function as they should.
You have reached the exciting stage of the process, when you will choose precisely what will happen when a message matching your criteria comes. You may choose any combination of actions from the list and then adjust them to your specifications as necessary. By choosing the “Also apply filter to matching conversations” option at the bottom of the box, you may instruct Gmail to apply your filter to messages that have already arrived in your account (as opposed to merely applying it for new messages that come from that point on).
When your requirements are satisfied, Gmail’s filters may take a range of actions, which can be executed by the system. (Click on the picture to see it in more detail.)
Once you’ve completed that step, simply click the blue “Create filter” button to complete the process: Your new Gmail filter is now fully operational and ready to use.. In the event that a message arrives that satisfies the criteria you set out will automatically trigger the actions you specify quicker than you can say “I embrace Workspace in my workplace cyberspace,” your actions will be carried out automatically.
Manage your Gmail filters in the third installment.
In conclusion, make a mental note of the following in case you ever need to alter your filters in the future: If you want to edit, delete, or even just go back to a filter you’ve created, all you have to do is click the gear-shaped icon in the upper-right corner of the Gmail website, select “Settings,” and then select the “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab at the top of the settings screen from the drop-down menu. You’ll see every filter you’ve ever developed in one place, and you’ll be able to alter or delete any of them with a few simple clicks.
Now, if only we could figure out how to trick the filters into delivering those dreaded meringue cookies to us instead. Google, take note: Is there a possibility you can make that happen for me?