How to Automatically Filter Gmail Messages

Have Gmail tidy up your inbox before you open it

What to Know

  • Select email(s) to filter > More (three vertical dots) > select Filter messages like these > enter criteria > Create filter.
  • Next, choose actions for filter > Create filter.
  • To edit filters, go to Settings > See All Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses.

Setting filters serves as a powerful tool for taming an out-of-control email inbox; Gmail supports robust user-defined filtering so that you can either purge your inbox automatically or highlight special messages that ought not to be lost in the clutter. Filters can apply one or more criteria to emails as they arrive and sort them automatically while following your action instructions.

Organize Your Gmail With Automatic Filters

A Gmail email message with the 'Filter messages like these' option highlighted

Start by going to your crowded Gmail inbox. Select a message by placing a check in the box next to it. You can select more than one message, but make sure they all have the same filtering criteria. You can choose messages from a single individual or from several people for the filter. This is a useful feature for grouping emails from several senders who share a common interest, such as co-workers or friends.

To make a new filter in Gmail:

  1. Select the More menu at the top of the inbox, indicated by three vertically aligned dots.
  2. Select Filter messages like these in the menu to open the window where you enter the criteria for the filter.

Select Your Criteria

The filter window in Gmail with 'Create Filter' highlighted

After you select the example messages that you want to filter, you specify the criteria. Gmail makes guesses from the messages you select, and it's usually accurate. However, sometimes you need to change Gmail's default.

Gmail can filter messages by From, To, or Subject fields. Look closely at Gmail's guesses and modify them if necessary.

You may opt to have messages from your knitting group tagged with "crafting," or you can apply a Gmail filter that auto-archives receipts from Amazon so that 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 specific with this feature. For example, you may want to apply a filter to references to "Java" that do not also contain the word "coffee" or "island." 

You can enter size restrictions by listing a "greater than" or "less than" size in megabytes or kilobytes.

At the bottom of the filter window, place a check next to Has attachment or Don't include chats to add these options to the filter.

After you're satisfied with your filter criteria, click Create filter to open a screen containing actions Gmail can take on the filtered emails.

Choose an Action for the Filter

A Gmail user creates a new filter

The screen that opens when you create the filter contains the actions that Gmail can apply to your filtered messages. You may want to Star the emails in the filter, delete them automatically, always (or never) mark them as important, archive them, or mark as read. You can select a label and category or choose to have Gmail automatically forward the email to a different address.

Be as detailed as you like with categories and labels, or keep things simple by filtering solely by sender, co-workers, or family.

Clicking the box next to Also apply filter to matching conversations will instruct Gmail to apply the filter immediately to every matching email you have.

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

Edit and Delete Filters

Gmail Filters and Blocked Addresses page with the edit and delete filter options highlighted

You've set up your filters, and your Gmail inbox just became easier to manage.

If you ever want to change the settings or check to see which filters you're using, log in to Gmail and go to Settings > See All Settings > Filters and Blocked Addresses.

Place a check in the box in front of a filter name. Next to each of the filters are links to edit and delete.

  • Click the edit link to return to the filter setup screen and make any changes there, or click Continue and make changes to the filter actions.
  • Click delete to remove the chosen filter.

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

Currently, you can't manage filters from the Gmail mobile app for Android and iOS mobile devices.

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