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Using Gmail Aliases for Better Organization

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I was recently introduced to Gmail (s goog) aliases and am loving them. With aliases, you can receive email messages at “[email protected]”. So if your email address is “[email protected]” you can receive mail at “[email protected]” and it will still be delivered to your inbox. Why would you want to do this? Well, you can use the alias to set up filters to automatically direct those messages to trash, apply a label or star, skip the inbox, or forward to another email account entirely.

Here are the aliases I use, together with the labels I have set up:

  • “cl” applies the label “craiglist”
  • “rec” applies the label “recipe”
  • “p” applies the label “pics”
  • “bb” applies the label “blackberry”

To create filters to auto-apply your labels:

  1. Click Settings->Filters
  2. Scroll down to the very bottom and select “Create a new filter”
  3. Enter your filter criteria (so in the case of my craigslist filter,  I would put “myemail [email protected]” in the “To” box)
  4. Click “Next Step”
  5. Click the checkbox next to “Apply the Label” and select the label you would like to apply from the pulldown (if the label does not exist already, select “new label”)
    This is also the step where you can forward, trash, etc. all emails from that address.action
  6. I always check the box next to “Also apply filter to x conversations below” and then select “Create Filter”

Bonus Tip:
This is for people who don’t have phones with email. You can use this method to create a rule that auto-forwards emails to your cell phone via text message (useful for emailing yourself directions, grocery lists, etc):

  1. Click Settings->Filters.
  2. Scroll down to the very bottom and select “Create a new filter”.
  3. Enter your filter criteria: “[email protected]” in the “To” box.
  4. Click “Next Step”.
  5. Click the checkbox next to “Forward it to” and enter in your phone’s SMS-to-email address. Below is a list of the most popular carriers and how to figure out your phone’s SMS-to-email address:
    • T-Mobile (s dt):
    • Virgin Mobile (s vmed):
    • ATT (s t):
    • Sprint (s s):
    • Verizon (s vz):
    • Nextel:
  6. Select “Create Filter”.

How do you use aliases?

19 Responses to “Using Gmail Aliases for Better Organization”

  1. After doing this process…When I “Compose Mail” to respond to a person why is the Gmail Aliases Address not in the drop down box of possible emails…just my personal email address appears, not the Gmail Aliases i created…I want to be able to respond using my new Gmail Aliases…


  2. The problem (until now) with using plus addressing to track spammers is this:

    How do you set up a filter to catch ALL plus addressed email? Something like “to:johndoe+*” won’t work. Neither will “to:johndoe+”. A quick Google search will show you that Gmail simply doesn’t support it. So in order to find and filter plus-addressed emails, you have to search for each individual address. “to:johndoe+a | to:johndoe+b | to:johndoe+c ….” Not exactly useful for tracking spammers.


    Try this. Every time you use a plus address, add a period to your address, like so: “[email protected]” or “[email protected]”. If you do this consistently, you can run a search like this: “to:[email protected]” … and it will bring up all your plus-addressed email! Now try “to:[email protected] in:spam” and you can really start tracking down those spammers. Remember – this won’t find your previous plus-addressed email – the ones without the period. If you already use a period in your address, put it in a different place for plus-addressed email. Like “[email protected]” Gmail doesn’t care.

  3. I also hate web sites that won’t allow the plus sign in an email address. Most sites will use some javascript to check your email address so that it will pass. So to get around that, simply disable your javascript. Of course you may have to turn it back on if the form uses javascript to submit. I was able to turn off javascript, enter in my email address with a plus sign, then turn back on javascript to submit the form.

  4. 2 things.

    Most places that want to sell your email/spam you will have filters that cut off the plus sign and then spam your main account.

    Therefore, instead of using the address, use the alternate one that sends to the same place. That way you can trash any that come into without a plus filter included as being spam.

    … that is until they write a spam generator that converts to

    Oh well, back to bed.

    I usually use a proxy mailing address like for this kind of stuff and have an RSS feed that will let me see there is something there.

  5. Tinkering with labels a little more (I have not modified my labels in over a year) I noticed I have some unread e-mails with labels, and wanted to see just the unread with that label.
    There is a search option “is:” that can do this, say my label is “work” I can search for:
    label:work is:unread
    and it will find all the e-mails labelled work which are unread.

    I was so happy to find this, I thought I’d share.

  6. I don’t actually see the point in this, although I know a lot of people use it. Where’s the advantage in this functionality compared to just setting up filters for email coming from certain locations or with certain keywords?

    I just have them all coming into the same email address, and filter for keywords/addresses. Simple!

  7. I, personally, am sick of receiving other people’s email when they try to use this. If it doesn’t work on both ends, it’s invalid. I receive a ton of email lists AND important emails via my Gmail account addressed to other people

  8. I’ll second what Elliot is saying. I love aliases for personal stuff, but when I try using them for stuff like mailing lists, social networking sign ups, etc. Most of them block it. A real shame for such a useful trick. Too bad the aliases aren’t simply a ., then it would work. Still useful for plenty of stuff tho.

  9. Aliases in GMail are a great concept, however using them isn’t quite as simple… MANY services that have you enter an email address will check to make sure that email address is legit – and unfortunatly, having a plus sign in there fails almost every filter.

    They can still be useful, but I’d love to setup aliases for several shopping accounts so I can filter all their promos – but it doesn’t work that way.