When it comes to email organization, the immediate reaction is often all about folders, tags, filters, priority marks, and things of that sort. Not that any of those are bad – in fact, most of those features are plain awesome. But there’s another feature in Gmail that can help you to automatically organize your incoming mail – the alias.
In any field that requires organization, methods can be split into two types – reactionary and proactionary. A reactionary method would be something the user does after they’ve received the mail, whether it’s moving between folders, deleting, renaming, tagging, or whatever. A proactionary method organizes mail for you as it comes in, like a filter that automatically deletes spam.
The Gmail alias feature is a proactionary measure that works in tandem with filters to truly keep your inbox as organized as possible. Keep reading to find out how you can set it up and how it will benefit you.
What Is A Gmail Alias?
First, what is an alias? It’s a modified version of your true email address that Gmail uses as a parameter in filters. If that sounded confusing, don’t worry. Here’s an example.
Suppose your email address is email@example.com. When you sign up for a website, forum, newsletter, or anything else, you’d probably type that as your email and be done with it. But here’s where the alias comes in.
In Gmail, you can add a plus sign (‘+’) after your email identifier and any string of characters – and Gmail will still recognize it as your own. For instance, if someone sent an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, it’d still arrive in your inbox. email@example.com would work as your email, too.
Everything after the plus sign is the alias. But what good is any of this? How will you benefit from using aliases at all? Let me explain.
How To Use A Gmail Alias
A few years ago, I was an extremely active member in a certain online community. At the time, people would send me private messages and emails on a daily basis and the forum software would send me email notifications. These notifications were helpful so I couldn’t just disable them, but at the same time they were clogging up my inbox.
Here’s how I used a Gmail alias to free myself of that clutter.
I changed my email address on that forum to firstname.lastname@example.org. Doing this made it so these notifications were sent to my alias address. In Gmail, I then set up a filter to automatically move any emails sent to this alias to a particular folder. It worked like a charm.
You can use aliases in pretty much any circumstance. Have your coworkers send emails to +work while your friends and family send to +personal. If you’re signing up for a service that might potentially send spam, you can use +spam.
A bonus to all of this is that if a particular alias is compromised by spambots, you can just filter it all away and start using a new alias instead of needing to create a whole new email account. Very handy.
Setting Up A Gmail Alias
First, go to your Gmail account settings (by clicking the gear dropdown menu and selecting Settings). When you’re presented with all of the different options, go to the Filters tab.
At the bottom, click on Create a New Filter. You’ll be presented with a popup box that asks you for the relevant filter designs. Since people will be sending their emails to your new Gmail alias, you’ll want to set the filter parameters to your alias (e.g., email@example.com) in the To: field. Click Create Filter With This Search to confirm.
The next page is a list of potential actions that Gmail will perform when it detects an incoming email that’s assigned to your new alias. To tag it under a specific folder, enable the checkbox for Apply the Label: and select the label that you want for it. Click Create Filter to finish.
All done! Now that your filter is set, any emails that are sent to your alias will automatically be assigned to the label that you specified. Do this with multiple aliases and you’ll be organized in no time – just remember to use your aliases when filling out email forms! Also, if you’re looking for even more advanced features in Gmail, don’t forget to check out our useful Gmail guide for power users.