Gmail aliases can be set up on the fly and used to filter mail cleverly.
First, Are you Creative?
Let me answer that for you: yes, you are very creative. Not even half way down this page, you will have created at least one new email address—by just thinking of it (and typing it perhaps, so people can actually use it). Take that, law of attraction!
All right, let’s get started. Because…
Who does not like free?
Free email addresses, for example: you got about a million when you set up that Gmail account.
Really. Gmail lets you create unlimited alias email addresses on the fly.
How To Create a Gmail Alias
You have two options to create a new Gmail alias: the dot method, and the plus method.
Using Dots for New Gmail Alias Addresses
To create a new Gmail address on the fly:
- Add a dot (.) anywhere in front of the @ sign in your Gmail address.
If your email address is “firstname.lastname@example.org”, for instance, all of the following will still deliver to your regular Gmail inbox:
Using the Plus Sign for New Gmail Alias Addresses
To create a new Gmail alias:
- Insert a plus sign (+) followed by any word (or just characters) in front of the @ sign in your Gmail address.
If, again, your Gmail address is “email@example.com”, email sent to all of the following addresses goes right to your regular Gmail inbox:
So, Which Method Should I Use?
Use the plus sign method.
While it’s nice to know that you can make up Gmail addresses that deliver to yours on the fly by adding dots, serious use requires the plus sign:
- Using the plus sign offers way more options, and
- you can be descriptive in what you add to the address.
firstname.lastname@example.org tells you nothing about how it differs from email@example.com, while firstname.lastname@example.org explains itself.
Now, What Can I Do with My New Gmail Alias?
You are more than creative, of course. Your creation is also useful.
That Gmail address you just made of, for instance: let’s put it to good use with one Gmail feature in particular: filters.
You can set up a rule in Gmail that treats all mail sent to a specific alias (created with the plus method above) in a special manner.
The Basic Gmail Alias Filtering Process
To set up a rule in Gmail that treats all messages sent to one of those aliases you so creatively thought up:
- Use a plus Gmail alias (see above) instead of your regular Gmail address.
- In the Gmail search field, type “to:” followed by that Gmail alias.
Example: Type “to:email@example.com”.
- Now click the Show search options button (a triangle pointing downwards, ▼) at the end of the search field.
- Click Create filter with this search ».
- Choose the action or actions you want to be applied to emails sent to the alias:
- Skip the Inbox (Archive it): Avoid seeing the message in any of your inboxes but keep a record.
- Mark as read: Useful in particular in combination with Skip the Inbox.
- Star it: Mark the message with a yellow star. Who does not like stars?
- Apply the label: This makes it particularly easy to spot certain emails right in the inbox, or to find them later.
- Forward it to: Copy or redirect—in combination with Delete it—an email; can also be used together with Skip the Inbox, for example.
- Delete it: You might use this if an alias is receiving nothing but junk.
- Never send it to spam: This is probably better left unchecked. The Gmail spam filter is usually good at picking the good from the bad.
- Send canned response: Yes, you can set up an auto-responder with Gmail. Make sure the reply is sent from your main Gmail address (or a different alias), or the sender might receive your auto-response more than once.
- Always mark it as important: Give VIP treatment to messages sent to an alias.
- Never mark it as important: Make sure these emails are not highlighted as important.
- Categorize as: Pick an inbox tab for these emails.
- Click Create filter.
Handle Newsletters Your Way (No Matter What Gmail’s Tabs Think)
To have Gmail handle your email newsletter subscriptions in a special manner:
- When you sign up for a newsletter, use a plus Gmail alias (see above) instead of your regular Gmail address.
Example: In place of firstname.lastname@example.org, you could use email@example.com.
- Set up a Gmail filter to handle the newsletter emails sent to the address. (See above.)
- You could make sure they are categorized as “Promotions”, for example, or
- have them marked as read automatically.
- If, even after unsubscribing, you receive junk, you might want to set up a filter that simply deletes emails sent to the newsletter’s alias.
Set Up an Auto-Responder in Gmail
To make Gmail send particular information whenever somebody emails a particular address:
- Post the plus Gmail alias on your website, for example, hand it out at networking events or include in your email signature with the note: “Learn to Write Headlines That Sell: Email firstname.lastname@example.org”.
- Create a canned response in Gmail with the auto-responder information.
- Set up a filter that automatically sends the canned response when email is received at the plus Gmail alias. (See above.)
(Gmail aliases tested with Gmail in a desktop browser; updated July 2017; title image: StockUnlimited)