How to Automatically Filter Gmail Messages

Inbox by Gmail Screenshot
Inbox by Gmail. Google, Inc.

Filters remain a powerful tool for taming an out-of-control email inbox. Gmail supports robust user-defined filtering so you can either purge your inbox automatically or highlight special messages that ought not be lost in the clutter.

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Organize Your Gmail With Automatic Filters

Filter Gmail Messages Step One
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Start by going to Gmail on the Web at

Next, select a message by selecting the check-box next to the message subject. You can select more than one message, but make sure they all match the same filtering criteria. This multi-select feature is useful to select messages from more than one sender and group them all as coworkers or friends.

  • Go to the pull-down menu at the top of your inbox labeled More actions.
  • Select Filter messages like these.
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Select Your Criteria

Filter Gmail Results Criteria
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You have selected example messages you want to filter. Next, you have to specify why these are examples. Gmail will guess for you, and it's usually accurate. However, sometimes you will need to change Gmail's default.

Gmail can filter messages by From, To or Subject fields. So messages from your knitting group could always be tagged with "crafting," for example. Or you could auto-archive receipts from Amazon so they don't take up extra space in your inbox. 

You can also filter messages that do or do not contain certain words. You can get very specific with this feature. For example, you may want to apply a filter to references of "Java" that do not also contain the word "coffee" or "island." 

After you're satisfied with your filter criteria, click the Next Step button.

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Choose an Action

Apply Filter to Gmail Messages
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Now that you've decided what messages to filter, you have to decide what action Gmail should take. You may want to make sure you see some messages, so you'd want to apply a label to the message, flag it with a star or forward it to another email address. Other messages might not be as important, so you could mark them as read or archive them without reading them. You can also delete certain messages without having to read them or make sure some messages are never accidentally sent to your spam filter.

You can also apply your filter retroactively to the messages that are already in your inbox by checking the box next to the Create Filter button. 

After you've completed this step, click the Create Filter button to finish.

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Edit Filters

Edit Filters in Gmail
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Your filter is finished, and your Gmail inbox just got easier to manage.

If you ever want to change the settings or check to see which filters you're using, log into Gmail and go to Settings | Filters.

You can edit filters or delete them at any time.

Now that you've mastered filters, you can combine it with other Gmail hacks to create a custom email address you can filter automatically.