Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life

emailalias   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your LifeBy this point, most people know about the nifty tricks you can use in your Gmail address called aliases, that allow you to give people different email addresses that all arrive at the same inbox. Aibek first covered this cool Gmail feature back in 2007, describing how you can place both periods and plus signs inside of your Gmail address and those emails will still be delivered like normal.

In 2012, Craig described how you can use these separators to create distinct email addresses for yourself that you can hand out to different people, yet all of those emails arrive at the same Gmail inbox. More recently, Joel described how you can use such aliases to better organize your Gmail inbox using labels for the different incoming email addresses in the “To” field.

On a basic level, that’s a great way to make use of these aliases. You just give those different emails a label, and your Gmail account will automatically sort out those incoming emails into the appropriate label/folder. However, there’s so much more you can do with aliases, if you think about it.

Just consider the possibilities here. You essentially have a tool at your disposal – your Gmail Inbox – which will behave in different ways depending upon how you configure it to filter those incoming aliased emails. The trick here is to creatively utilize the different filter choices in Gmail to make your account respond to incoming aliases in different ways.

Sound complicated? It’s not – it’s actually really useful.

3 Cool Ways to Use Gmail Aliasing

Here’s the thing about organization in life – it takes time, energy, and usually a computer or a smartphone. The problem I always have is that wherever I create a “to-do” list, I need access to that list all the time. I might be parked in a parking lot waiting for my kids to finish their karate lessons, and I remember something I have to do for MakeUseOf.

If I have my Android on me, then I’m in luck because I can get to my Gmail task list with it. However, if I remember such a thing from my desk at work and I don’t have the Android on me, I’m out of luck. I can’t access it from work. Well, here’s the thing. With aliasing, you can send yourself quick reminders to add things to your to-do list so long as you have access to email.

Setting Up To-Do Task Reminder Aliases

To set this up, go to your Gmail account and create a filter for the to-do task item that you want to send reminders to. In this case I set one up for my email account with the alias “+tsw” for all Top Secret Writers tasks.

gmail Plus1b   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life

This filter will capture all incoming emails sent to my account with the “+tsw” alias after it. Now, I simply set up those emails to get placed under a “To_Do” label that I’ve created for all of those items.

gmail Plus4   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life

So now, all I have to do when I remember a task I don’t want to forget, is send myself an email at “mygmail+tsw@gmail.com“, and when I get home, I’ll find that email organized under the To-Do label. If I want to add that task to my Google Task list, I just use the “Add to Task” feature in Gmail, and it’s done.

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I can create an alias of “+muo” for all MUO task reminders, and other aliases for any other to-do task category I may have.

Using Aliasing To Cloak a Private Email Address

Another thing you can use an alias for is to keep your more personal email addresses, like your work email address, private. Let’s say I want to let someone email me at work during the day, but I really don’t want to give them my actual work email address. Maybe I just met them, and I don’t know them very well – I meet a lot of somewhat delusional people during my research at TSW…

So what you do in this case is add your work email as a forwarding email address in your Gmail account. You do this under settings, and clicking on the Forwarding and POP/IMAP tab.

gmail Plus5b   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life

Add a forwarding address, make it your private email address, but you can actually leave forwarding disabled. Now you have that address listed as a forwarding address in your Gmail account, but it isn’t getting forwarded every single email you receive. What you need to do next is create a filter that only forwards emails coming in to an alias.

In this case I’m using an alias “+work”, and create a filter for that as shown below.

gmail Plus3b   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life
The next step of creating the filter is defining what your Gmail account does when it sees an email coming in to that alias. You enable forwarding for that alias, and then use the forwarding email dropdown list to select the forwarding email you created above.

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Now, only emails that people send to your gmail account plus the “+work” alias will get forwarded to your actual work address. You can use this approach to forward email to any private email you have, and people can email you there if you just give them the Gmail alias that you’ve set up for it.

Should they ever start sending inappropriate messages or things that you really don’t want going to that account, you can just disable the filter.

Using Gmail Aliases & Canned Responses To Remember Things

I know that we’ve got a lot of people here at MUO that absolutely love services like Remember the Milk, and all sorts of other automated, online reminder services, but you know what – you have a really cool reminder service right in your Gmail account.

Using aliasing and canned responses, you can create all kinds of lists and data that you can have access to from any place where you can send an email.

Here’s an example. Let’s say I’m horrible at remembering the birthdays of my friends and family (I am, by the way).  All I have to do is open up Gmail and create a canned response for all of those birthdays.

gmail Plus1   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life

Keeping this list updated is easy, because you’re always checking your Gmail account every day, so whenever you want to add or remove someone’s birthday, just compose an email, open up canned responses, and edit this one with whatever changes you want.

You can do this for things like weekly grocery lists as well. Just create a canned response for “This Week’s Grocery List” when you’re at home, and then from anywhere at all, you can simply send yourself an email asking for that list.

By setting up Gmail aliasing, you can tell your Gmail account to forward the appropriate list to you, depending which alias you email.

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Pretty cool right? Well, here’s how you set that up.

Create a filter for an email alias that is something you’d remember as related to that list you’ve created. For example, for the list of birthdays, I use an alias of “MyGmailAccount+birthdays@gmail.com“. Create a filter that checks for any incoming emails addressed to that alias.

gmail Plus7   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life

On the next step for creating the filter, set it up to send the canned response that you’ve created. As you can see here, I’ve configured anything sent to “MyGmailAccount+birthdays@gmail.com” to automatically respond to that email with the canned response that contains the list of birthdays.

gmail Plus8   Use Email Alias and Forwarding in Gmail To Better Manage Your Life

Here’s what that looks like in action. From anywhere at all, I can simply send that email alias an email. It doesn’t matter what you put in the subject or the body, the system will auto-reply with the correct canned response.

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Using this technique, you can utilize canned responses to keep track of all sorts of lists, grocery lists, how-to notes, server names that you can never remember. Really, the possibilities here are limited only by your creativity and imagination.

Using these three techniques, you can supercharge your use of aliases in Gmail so that they become even more useful in your life.

Can you think of any other unique and creative ways to use Gmail aliasing to automate something or to manage your life? Share your own ideas and thoughts in the comments section below!

Image Credit: Mail Alias via Shutterstock

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11 Comments -

0 votes

Wolfgang Marcos

Awesome tips, keep it comming!

0 votes

rwDriskill”

But those of us that are tech savey, and or read this article, know how to defeat the aliases, simply delete the +whatever. Better yet, create another account such as “junkmailaccout@whatever.com”, give that email address to the uncertain people, forward to real account.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

True – but I don’t think the goal of this technique is to trick anyone, it’s a way to organize incoming email from people that typically use the email address you give them. I’m not really sure why anyone other than email spammers would be interested in “defeating” email aliases – but you do make a good point that it isn’t a very good tactic against people seeking to harvest email addresses for spam.

0 votes

Márcio Guerra

Now this is a new world to me… I knew labels, but I guess everyone does… Now this? Well, I really need to take a longer look at this.

Thank you!

Márcio Guerra

0 votes

Nevzat Akkaya

gmail is really a gem!
thanks for the tips.

0 votes

LD

The Canned Response thing is pretty clever, just remember that it is horribly insecure. Don’t use it to store anything you wouldn’t want everyone knowing.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

That’s a great point LD – it is insecure and that’s definitely something to be taken into account when making use of it.

0 votes

John Pardoe

Unfortunately the Gmail alias trick is flawed. As soon as you reply you give away your real address. For example, you receive an email addressed to mymail+alias@gmail.com. You open it and choose “Reply”. Your correspondent receives your email, from: mymail@gmail.com, or worse: myworkmail@wherever.com

I use it for registering on unimportant web-sites.

But thanks for the other info, much appreciated.

0 votes

Ryan Dube

Good point – which makes the alias approach ideal for receiving incoming mail like newsletters, etc. Not as much for people that you need to correspond with on a regular basis – although there may be a way to set up Gmail to respond using the same address…I’ll have to poke around and see if I can figure that one out. Thanks for the heads up.

0 votes

Phúc Ng?c

I’ve been using this tip for a long time, but the canned-response recipe is really interesting.

0 votes

harley bellwood

Great idea, I’m going to have to read this a couple more times though, before it sinks in!