In today’s world where so much of our business is done via email, keeping a tidy and organised inbox is hugely important. Using email filters should be a standard part of any inbox maintenance for both you and your customers and it’s often one of the first things I will help a customer to get sorted when I start working with them.

Google Apps and Gmail is commonly used by small business owners, and it also has a very effective filtering system. Here’s how to set up email filtering in Gmail.

Define your search

To set your filter, your first need to define the search terms that will trigger your filter to start. To do this, click the drop down arrow on the right hand side of the search bar within your gmail inbox.

Gmail Filters (6)

You’ll then see the search wizard. There are numerous options to choose from, so you can be as creative as you like! Set your various options, such as filter messages that are sent from or sent to a certain person, include a specific subject line or have an attachment. Google also has a number of advanced search operators that you can use, such as AND, OR or ways to exclude certain words. For a full description of these, take a look here.

In this example, we want to filter all messages from members of our team and add them to a “Team Communications” folder. To do this, in the box labelled “from” we enter the email addresses we want to apply this rule to

Note: google understands operators such a AND and OR, so in order to apply this filter to more than one email address we would use OR

When you have defined your search terms, select the option “create filter with this search

Gmail Filters (2)

Apply your filter

You will then see the next screen with some options on how to handle your filtered emails. For example you can send them to a specific folder, mark them as read, delete or archive them. Here, I am going to give these emails a label of “team communication”.

Simply tick the box “apply a label” and then select your label from the drop down box next to it.

If your label doesn’t already exist, you can create it on the fly from this section

Gmail Filters (3)

If you would like to run this filter now and apply it to any historical conversations in your inbox, as well as to future emails, select the option “also apply filter to matching conversations

When you are done, click “create filter“.

Gmail Filters (4)

You should then see a message telling you that your filter was created.

Useful tip: if you receive an email regularly that you’d like to create a filter for, you can have gmail automatically generate your search terms. To do this open up your inbox and locate an email that you would like to set up a filter for.On the right hand side of the email, click the drop down arrow next to the ‘reply‘ icon. You will then see a list of options. Select “filter messages like this

This will then open up the filter wizard as in the steps above.

Gmail Filters (1)

Note: once created, you can edit or delete your filters at any time from the inbox settings.

  1. To do this, click the gear icon in the top right of your inbox Gmail Filters (7)
  2. Select Settings > Filters tab
  3. Find the filter you’d like to change and click edit or delete