5 Gmail Filters to Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox

Craig Snyder 03-12-2011

inbox gmail filterIt was just months ago that Gmail introduced SmartLabels, a lazy way of automating the most basic filtering and labeling of Gmail messages (as detailed in this article Gmail Labs Introduces Automated Filtering with Smart Labels [News] Read More ). For some of us though, putting our trust into a Gmail Labs feature and depending on it to completely control our personal email account is a little iffy.


We’ve explained before how to set up filters in your email How to Set Up Email Filters in Gmail, Yahoo Mail, and Outlook Here's how to filter emails in Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook so you can better organize your inbox and stay productive. Read More , and they are also mentioned in our Gmail guide The Power User Guide to Gmail This free Gmail Guide is for those of you who already use Gmail as an email client and want to take maximum advantage of its many productivity features. Read More for power users. That’s a good start towards efficiently handling your inbox. What filters should each and every person have in their arsenal so that their inbox is as orderly as mine?

I’m here to help you get started in setting up your first five filters, or help you add on to your current collection. These five should handle daily-to-weekly activities of the everyday internet guy or gal and get that inbox looking as clean as a whistle. Paired with our extensive list of Gmail tools and tips Ultimate GMail Collection: over 80 Tools and Tips Read More , you’ll be a guru of the inbox.

inbox gmail filter

Let’s start by logging in to your Gmail account and clicking on Create filter.

gmail filters


You’ll then see the following appear:

gmail filters

If you’re using Gmail’s new design, you’ll go about things by clicking the downwards arrow in the search field to show the following:

gmail filters


Now we’re ready to go ahead and crank out some filters.


Forums are an ever-growing part of the internet. With chat rooms practically dead outside of our social networking circles, this is where we go to communicate on the web. A huge bulk of these forums are running either vBulletin or phpBB. The following filters are built around their default email templates:

  • Subject: “Action Requires to Active Membership for”
  • Subject: “Reply to thread”
  • Subject: “You are subscribed to the forum”
  • Subject: “New Private Message at”
  • Has the words: “Your password has been securely stored in our database and cannot be retrieved.”
  • Subject: “Topic reply notification”

As our first example, let me offer a little tutoring. You can set these filters up completely individually or lumped together. For example, we can compound all of the Subject criteria as:

  • Subject: “Action Requires to Active Membership for” OR “Reply to thread” OR “You are subscribed to the forum” OR “New Private Message at” OR “Topic reply notification”

You still have to remember to create a separate filter for the Has the words criteria, also. Be advised that there is a character limit in the criteria fields. I am not 100% sure of that exact hard limit, bit there may be a scenario where you have to break a lump filter into two filters. It all depends on how you’d like to do it.
Now is a good time to let you know how all the Google’s search operands Master the Google Operands: Search Really Fast Read More work in the filter creation process.


Once you’ve decided this, you want to click Next Step.  Check the box beside Apply the label and set up a new label name if you must:

prioritize gmail inbox

prioritize gmail inbox

I’d also recommend checking the box beside “Also apply filter to conversations below.” That will go ahead and automatically organize emails you’ve received in the past so that everything is neat and orderly. Once finished, your Filters tab in Settings should look something like:


prioritize gmail inbox

5 Gmail Filters to Help Prioritize & Organize Your Inbox gmail settings new

Now that you’ve been effectively broken in to the process, let’s continue on!


Not all newsletters are bad. Some of them are quite good and worth keeping. Reddit and other social sites have boomed recently with the suggestion of creating a filter to automatically send emails with certain words directly to your trash. There are too many reasons why this is a bad idea. One extremely simple filter should make labeling every one of your newsletter subscriptions painless:

  • Has the words: unsubscribe


Keeping track of your online shopping is incredibly important. The following filters have proven effective for me in labeling all of my buys:

  • Has the words: receipt
  • Subject: invoice
  • Subject: order

Account Information

Labeling your logins for each website that you sign up for could be the difference between searching for five minutes and five seconds. A single filter will help you achieve greatness:

  • Has the words: username AND password


It’s important to see those credit card and bank statements and warnings. Here’s something to get you started:


Of course it’s a little difficult for me to squeeze every single bank and creditor into this list, so this is one that can be improved upon. You can go ahead and add yours in there if you must. It’s also highly recommended that you check the box beside Never send it to Spam, too. If not, definitely Star it. The only instance I can see in which excluding these messages from spam may become troublesome is in the case of phishing. Gmail is very good at alerting users about phishing attempts, however.

inbox gmail filter

These five filters should put you on the right track to really seeing a visual change in the way your email fleshes out. The possibilities are quite endless but you must remember to make very accurate and precise filters. You don’t want a filter so broad that important emails can slip between the cracks and become wrongly categorized. If you need any help or have any other suggestions, feel free to contribute in the comments!

Related topics: Email Tips, Gmail.

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  1. Tushar Agarwal
    December 20, 2011 at 4:05 am

    Thanks, exactly what i need to manage my gmail.

  2. HeatherO
    December 6, 2011 at 6:29 am

    you can't beat gmail's spam filter. I just wish I could get my inbox empty :)

  3. amit
    December 4, 2011 at 7:59 am

    Really thanks for this tutorial.

    • Craig Snyder
      December 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks for reading!

  4. Brian Meagher
    December 4, 2011 at 7:15 am

    Thanks for the great filter ideas. I've implemented most of them.

    It looks like the first filter in your Forums section needs a spell check:
    Subject: “Action Requires to Active Membership for” ??

    I modified mine to simply "Action required to activate"

    • Craig Snyder
      December 8, 2011 at 12:38 pm

      Thank you for your compliment and I do apologize, that is correct.