Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Inbox growing? Delegate to an always-available, eager-to-help assistant

In just a few minutes you can stop being a slave to your inbox and make you inbox a slave to you.  All you have to do is delegate

In this case, you're delegating to Gmail (or whatever email service you use).

If that sounds odd, consider this:  Gmail is eager to help, it's always available and, with it's easy-to-use and precise filtering rules, amazing nimble and judicious.

Here's an example of what I mean:  Let's say you have an investment account and it sends you regular messages.   Every day you get a closing summary, once a month or once a quarter you get a full report on your portfolio, you get announcements about annual meetings of companies whose stock you own, and somewhat regularly you get what amount to sales pitches. And they all come from the same email address.

Gmail can handle that just like you do.

Assume they all come from Investment Alert.  The subject lines each identify the contents of the message:

  • your eStatement
  • Closing Summary
  • Annual Meeting
  • deposit to investment account
  • Annual Report

With rules, you can handle each of those messages in a different way.  Here's how.

Open an eStatement. Click:

More Actions > Filter messages like these

The From: box should already have in it the sender -- your investment company.  Two boxes below that you'll see Subject:

type eStatement

then click

Test Search

This is important.  It helps you make sure your criteria are catching all of the messages you're trying to filter and, possibly more important, none of the message you don't want to filter.  Just review the list of messages that show up to make sure they're all what you want.

Then click:

Next Step

Here you decide what to do with these messages.  I don't read the eStatements as they come in, but I like to review them if I get a chance.  As a result, I want them out of my inbox, labelled "investments" and marked as read (so they don't add to my already depressing unread count.  To do that, use these options:
check "Skip the Inbox (Archive it) 
check "Mark as read" 
check "Apply the label: and select "investments" from the drop-down menu (or select "New label" and create it) 
If you have a few of these messages in your inbox, they should be listed below the filter.  To handle all of them:

check "Also apply filter to x conversations below"

Finally, click
Create Filter
Have two investment accounts (or whatever kind of message you're filtering)?  Apply the same filter to both.  In the From: box:

  • parenthesis around the from address
  • add a space
  • type OR (all caps)
  • add a space
  • type the second from address in perenthesis

The From: box should look like this: ( OR (

Now the filter will handle email from both senders.

A Few Technical Details
Gmail gives you a standard set of filter options:

  • From:
  • To:
  • Subject:
  • Has the Words:
  • Doesn't Have:

If you use more than one of them, it treat the two criteria as ANDs, i.e. the filter happens if the message meets both of the conditions you enter.

So, if you enter

From: sender at


Subject: funny

the filter will apply to messages from that also have "funny" in the subject line.

Any words you include in the Subject: box will be used as criteria; you don't have to include the entire subject line.  If you want to include more than one word, you can just enter them.  If you want a sequence of words to be exact, put the sequence within quotation marks.  If you want to include message that specifically don't include a word in the subject line, put a dash before the work as in: -urgent.

Rather than typing OR between two conditions, you can just put || between them.  That's two vertical bars.

1 comment:

Mike said...

Informative post! I will certainly share with my friends. If you want to include more than one word, you can just enter them. If you want a sequence of words to be exact, put the sequence within quotation marks.
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