In Microsoft Outlook, power users often use a feature called Inbox Rules in order to have Outlook automatically sort their email. Google Mail has a similar feature called Filters. Filters can allow you automatically label, organize, or delete incoming emails based on criteria that you choose. Check out the video below or read the article to learn how to use this powerful feature in Google Mail.

Creating and Editing Filters

To create a new filter or edit existing filters, click on the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner of the screen then select 'Settings':

Once you're in the settings menu, choose 'Filters and Blocked Addresses' from the menu at the top of the screen:

To create a new filter, click on 'Create a new filter' at the bottom of the screen.

Step 1: Criteria

When you set up your new filter, you'll first be prompted to choose a search criteria. All filters follow an "If This, Then That" format: If a message meets X criteria, then take Y action. When setting up your first filter, you'll want to choose what kinds of messages Google Mail will act upon. You can filter messages that come from a particular sender, messages that contain certain words in the subject, messages that have attachments, etc:

Keep in mind that in order to meet the conditions of the filter, the message will need to meet ALL of the criteria you specify. If, for instance, I set up a filter that looks for messages from "" and that contain the word "Shoretel" in the Subject line, the filter will only work on messages that meet BOTH of these conditions. Once you've created your filter criteria, it's time to move on to the next step. Enter your criteria, then click "Create filter with this search" at the bottom of the screen.

Step 2: Actions

What should Google Mail do with the messages that meet this criteria? You get to decide during the second step of creating a new filter. You're given a menu of different options but the most common choices are to Skip the Inbox, Mark as Read, Apply a Label, or Delete It. You can select one option or several, depending on your needs:

Before you create your new filter (by clicking the blue "Create filter" button), you're also given the option to retroactively apply your new filter to existing emails. Google will helpfully tell you how many emails fit the criteria you created. In my example above, I have three matching conversations. Once you've set up your filter the way you like, hit the blue button and you're done.

Pro-Tips and Advanced Filtering

  • Be careful with over-filtering your email. It's possible to have so many filters that most of your incoming email is filed automatically and never hits your inbox. While this might sound like a great state of affairs, you may find that rather than checking for new messages in one place (your inbox), you may need to actually check dozens of individual labels for new messages.
  • You can create filters that search for multiple words by typing the pipe character (it looks like a vertical bar: |) between your search terms. For instance, if you'd like a to filter incoming emails about Grand Teton National Park, you could enter this into the Subject field: "Grand Teton National Park" | "GTNP" | "Grand Teton".
  • You can also create filters that meet one of several conditions. For example, what if I want to filter messages that come from anyone with an NPS.GOV email address OR mentions "Grand Teton National Park"? These are a little more complicated and it helps to know someĀ Google Search Syntax. Here are two examples how I would set up the search in my example, though: