Redirecting vs. Forwarding Email

Not many email programs can redirect, but it's a useful tool nonetheless

Most people either reply to or forward emails, but a rarely implemented redirect protocol helps get a message from a sender to the right recipient by means of an intermediary recipient.

Redirecting is also known as remailing.

Redirecting vs Forwarding Emails

What Is an Email Redirection?

A redirection is a special case of an email forward. In a standard forward, the person forwarding the message appears to be the sender. In a redirection, the message appears to come from the original sender.

For example, if receives a message from, and Bob forwards it to his colleague, it'll appear to Fred as a forward from Bob. However, if Bob redirects Sally's message, it'll look as if it came from Sally directly.

Most modern email clients no longer support per-message redirection. The exceptions include TheBat and Thunderbird.

How Can I Redirect a Message?

One exception is Mozilla Thunderbird, which — while it doesn't support redirection natively — does offer support for add-ons that include this capability. But unlike TheBat, which merely inserts a redirect-from header, Thunderbird add-ons rewrite the sender line to indicate the redirecting sender, but "on behalf of" the original sender. This functionality mimics a pure redirection, but imperfectly.

Can I Redirect All Messages?

Some modern programs, however, do support rules-based redirection. For example, the desktop version of Microsoft Outlook supports custom rules that allow for mail meeting specific criteria to be automatically redirected to a different user. Although these rules apply without end-user intervention — meaning, you can't individually redirect messages — it's a great tool for redirecting classes of messages. For example, an Outlook rule can redirect messages from a generic inbound account to a specific user.

Redirection is not the same as configuring your email account to automatically forward all emails (or all emails that meet a rule) to a different address. That process is still forwarding, even if the email program actually calls it redirection.