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Gmail Filter Tips

I haven't seen anyone cover some of the undocumented filters trick you can do with Gmail. Gmail doesn't even have a "how to" on filters yet. The reason they don't have a "how to" is because it's pretty dang simple (oh yea, and its in beta still).
You can setup a filter to automatically do actions on an e-mail such as: Skip the Inbox (Archive it), Star it, Apply a label, or Move it to the Trash. These filters can be based upon a combination of: From, To, Subject, Has the words, Doesn't have the words, and Has attachment.
I haven't pushed the limited, but from this tricks 'n' tidbits page I see that Gmail currently has a limit of 20 filters.
So I offer the follow tip for creating less filters: Use "|" (OR) and "*" (wildcard) characters to catch multiple e-mail addresses and apply a general filter.
Example 1:
Starring and Labeling e-mails from specified buddies of mine. I setup a label called "Buddies". Then I go and create a new filter. The "From" field can contain multiple e-mail addresses, but not a comma delimited list like one might first expect. You need to separate each e-mail address with a "|" (pipe) which means "OR".

From: joe.shmoe@hotmail.com|Bob.Dole|geek@foo.com

The above example will catch e-mail from either joe.shmoe@hotmail.com, Bob.Dole@gmail.com (notice in my filter I didn't specify "@gmail.com", this is because you don't need the domain when referencing other Gmail users - same for when composing an e-mail), or geek@foo.com.

Click "Next Step"...

Then just select the "Star it" option, and select the "Buddies" label. Now all new messages from these three friends will be starred and labeled automatically.
Example 2:
Very similar to example 1 but now using "*" wildcards. This filter catches all e-mail from vendors I frequently make on-line purchases with. Some vendors like Amazon.com will use multiple e-mail addresses when I make a single purchase - one when I first place my order and then another when my items ship.

First I create a filter "On-line Shopping". Then I go and create new filter with the following...

From: *@amazon.com|*@paypal.com|*@ebay.com|*@buy.com|*@thinkgeek.com

The above covers a few places that I purchase items from - your list of course will vary, but you get the idea. And depending upon how avid of an eBay seller/buying you are - you may want a separate label.

Personally, I "Star it" and apply the "On-line Shopping" label to this filter as well. Then, when an order arrives and the transaction is complete, I manually unstar and "Archive" the e-mail, and it will always be available by the label search.
So, I hope I was able to open a few eyes to the possibilities of using filters. Now... to test Regular Expressions in filters???

User Comments

Monday, June 21st 2004
Off topic: I got 13 out of 20 smiles right.
Also, I can't get the BMW ipod thing to play. Quicktime gets up and plays, but the screen stays white... Idownloaded MPEG4 as suggested too. BTW I am still using Mozilla.
Monday, June 21st 2004
Another quick Moz question. BTW I am liking Moz mo' and mo'. Anywho- here is the question.
I like the quick search thingy that is just right of the URL bar. Along with google, I added a couple of dictionary resources. So, how do I have the search thingy provide results in another tab/window instead of changing the page I am currently viewing?
I often am reading an article and use the dictionary research thingy, but it changes the page I was reading...
Monday, June 21st 2004
JB - Either post Moz related stuff in the Firefox entry - or e-mail me...

You can't make those open in a new tab by default (as far as I know). The quickest method is to hit CNTRL+T - this will open a new tab AND put your cursor in the URL bar so you can do a quick search.
Friday, June 25th 2004
Hey, Erik, very cool tips. Thanks for sharing!

And fie on those jerks who took your Gmail invites and didn't even have the basic courtesy to post a thank you note. What jerks! At risk of sounding hardened, this is why I only give invites and such to existing friends; they're my friends already because I *KNOW* they are thoughtful people.
Friday, June 25th 2004
Thanks for your comments Adam. I like the idea I labeling those people who didn't give thanks... I did hand out plenty of invites to my friends before I made the offer here on the site.
Monday, June 13th 2005
Thanks for testing the filters. Your post was the second result in Google when I searched for help. I really like that they went with a pipe instead of commas or semi-colons... total geek appeal.
Saturday, January 20th 2007
You can also use the word OR instead of a pipe if you put the whole expression in parentheses. For example, (amazon.com OR paypal.com OR ebay.com). Of course, I prefer pipes.

I'm not sure that the asterisk actually works as a wildcard in gmail filters. At least, it doesn't for me. I think it's currently just ignored. You'll notice that if you remove the asterisk from your examples they work the same.

A better test of wildcards would be something like this,

To: erik-*@errorik.com

In my experience, it doesn't work.

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