How to Create Rules In Gmail For (Almost) Anything

Get your email organized and keep it that way

Screenshot of a Gmail inbox with 6,763 messages

gabrielle_cc / Pixabay

By applying specific filters to your Gmail account you can dictate various behaviors including how certain emails are labeled, whether or not they are automatically archived or deleted or if they are marked with a star. You can even choose to have some emails forwarded to another address if you like.

How to Create Rules in Gmail

Creating rules in Gmail is a fairly straightforward process once you understand where the interface is located and which configurable settings are available.

There are actually two ways to go about it. You can create a rule from scratch and enter all of the requested information, or you can select one or more emails that meet the criteria for your desired rule and create the filter(s) based off of their header or content details. In this tutorial we've given you the option to follow either path, although the latter is usually somewhat simpler.

Screenshot of Create filter interface in Gmail for web

Creating Rules From Scratch

  • To create a rule from scratch, first open the Gmail interface in a web browser.
  • Click the down arrow located on the far right-hand side of the Search mail box, found at the top of the screen.
  • A pop-out box will appear containing the following customizable options, each potentially applicable to your new rule.

From: This option allows you to specify one or more senders.

To: This option allows you to specify one or more recipients.

Subject: This option lets you specify partial or complete text from a message's subject line. 

Has the words: This option allows you to filter messages based on specific words found in the body.

Doesn't have: This option allows you to filter messages based on specific words not found in the body.

Size: This option lets you filter messages based on their size, either greater than or less than a specific baseline measurement.

Date within: This option allows you to filter messages based on when they were sent by choosing from a number of predefined intervals.

Search: This option lets you limit the filter to certain folders or labels, if you wish.

Has attachment: When checked, will only apply this rule to messages that contain attached files.

Don't include chats: When checked, will only apply this rule to actual emails and not chat conversations.

  • Once satisfied with your entries, click on the Create filter button. You can also choose to show which existing messages meet the entered criteria by selecting the Search button.
  • After you've clicked on Create filter a screen will appear containing several options, each accompanied by a checkbox, including the following: Skip the Inbox (Archive it), Mark as read, Star it and Delete it, among others. Place a check mark next to those that specify the behavior you'd like to apply to this rule. For example, you may want to automatically archive messages that meet your specified criteria, ensuring that they never actually land in your inbox.
Screenshot of Create filter interface in Gmail for web
  • Once satisfied with your behavior settings, click on the Create filter button again. Your new rule has now been created and activated.

Creating Rules From Existing Emails

  • To create a rule from existing emails, first open the Gmail interface in a web browser.
  • Select the message(s) that meet the criteria for your new rule by placing a check mark next to each of them.
  • Click on the More button, represented by three vertically-aligned dots and located on the right-hand side of the Gmail toolbar - a set of icons positioned between the Search mail box and your messages.
  • When the drop-down menu appears, select the Filter messages like these option.
  • A pop-out box will appear, containing several customizable options each potentially applicable to your new rule. These options are detailed in the previous tutorial above. The difference here is that some may already be prepopulated with details taken from the messages that you have selected. 
  • Once satisfied with your entries, click on the Create filter button. You can also choose to show which existing messages meet the entered criteria by selecting the Search button.
  • After you've clicked on Create filter a screen will appear containing several options, each accompanied by a checkbox, including the following: Skip the Inbox (Archive it), Mark as read, Star it and Delete it, among others. Place a check mark next to those that specify the behavior you'd like to apply to this rule. For example, you may want to automatically archive messages that meet your specified criteria, ensuring that they never actually land in your inbox.
  • Once satisfied with your behavior settings, click on the Create filter button again. Your new rule has now been created and activated.

How to Manage Rules in Gmail

Once you've created a set of rules, you may want to modify or even delete some of them as time goes on. Your Gmail filters can be managed by taking the following steps.

Screenshot of edit filter interface in Gmail for web
  • To manage your Gmail rules, first open the Gmail interface in a web browser.
  • Click on the Settings button, represented by a gear icon and located towards the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  • When the drop-down menu appears, select Settings.
  • Gmail's Settings interface should now be displayed. Click on Filters and Blocked Addresses.
  • A list of your existing filter rules will now appear, each accompanied by an edit and delete link. From here you can choose to modify or remove one or more rules.

Other Gmail Rules to Help You Stay Organized

There are a couple of additional features available that can help you stay organized when it comes to your incoming email, both involving tweaks to your Gmail address itself.

Creating Aliases

One of Gmail's more lesser-known features provides the ability to construct multiple aliases associated with your primary email address. This can be done in one of two ways, by using the plus sign or a period.

In either case, all email addressed to these aliases will still be sent to the same Gmail account. This can come in very handy for filtering purposes, as you can simply create a rule that factors in a particular alias and assign whatever behaviors you wish to that rule.

To utilize the plus sign (+), simply place it after the main portion of your email address followed by whatever additional text you wish to add. For example, I can create an alias of scottorgera@gmail.com named scottorgera+lifewire@gmail.com and provide said alias to anyone that may want to contact me about my Lifewire articles. You do not need to actually register this alias within the Gmail interface, as Google only uses the characters found before the plus sign when routing the message to your inbox.

To utilize a period (.) instead, place it anywhere within your Gmail address before the @ symbol. These periods are essentially ignored by Google, allowing you to create as many aliases as you want in whatever format that you want. For example, each of the following could be valid aliases of scottorgera@gmail.com: scott.orgera@gmail.com, sco.ttorgera@gmail.com, scottor.gera@gmail.com. However, you cannot add additional characters using this method.