Trenton Broughton danger: high entropy

Two tips for faster email reading in Gmail: Part 2

Two tips for faster email reading in Gmail: Part 2

If you are anything like me, most of your communication happens through email. This can be a time consuming task, so I am always looking for ways to make things more efficient. In this post, I am going to outline two of the things that I use to spend a little less time dealing with email and a little more time getting things done.

Filters and Labels

Keeping all of your mail in one place is great, but it can become quite a mess if it is not organized. That’s where Gmail’s labels come in. In the “old days”, we used folders to organize email. That worked for a while, but as email evolved, placing a message in a single folder became a restriction. In Gmail, conversations do not belong to folders, instead conversations have labels applied to them. Since there is only one copy of a conversation, it can appear in multiple views, but you do not have to worry about keeping track of many different copies of it. It is important to note that if you delete a conversation, it will no longer appear in any view.
There can only be one…
Another nice feature that has graduated from labs is nested labels. For example, I have a label called Finance, and under that I have a label called Bills, another called Taxes, and another called Incoming. To create a new label, open a conversation, then click on Labels above the message in the menu bar. Choose Create new. There you also have the option to place it under another label. Once your label is set, you can apply it to other messages, and you can view all messages that have that label.

The “Taxes” label doesn’t deserve a color.
You can also change some of the label settings from the left side menu. Click on the small square to the right for a menu.

Wouldn’t it be nice…

Having things organized is great, but it is even better when Gmail does it for you. If we only use labels by themselves, we are still stuck organizing every conversation by hand. With filters, we can apply labels to a conversation base on several different criteria.

To create a label from a conversation, choose “Filter messages like these” from the “More” drop down menu above the message. This menu is also available when a message is selected in the inbox.

Creating a filter
In the picture above, I have created a filter on a message that was sent to me from twilio. You can see that there are many different criteria available to find messages to filter. It is also worth noting that you can use just a domain in the search box (like, and any email address from that domain will be matched. You can also match more than one email address by putting “OR” between the addresses (e.g. [email protected] OR [email protected]). You can experiment here without going through the whole process by clicking the Test Search button at the bottom of the form. Once you are happy that with the search results, click on Next Step.
Lots of options!
Now we choose the action that we want to happen whenever an email arrives that matches the search we created in the previous step. Choose what ever options make sense. Here I am just adding the Programming label. Some messages I want to stay unread when they arrive, but I have them skip the inbox. That way, I can focus on the important emails first, and go on to read the others later (I can still remember that they need to be read because Gmail will show the number of unread messages in each label to the left of the Inbox). Click on Create Filter here and you are set (just be sure to check the box next to Create filter if you want your label or action applied to the conversations already in your inbox)!

Once your labels and filters are created, you can always go back and make changes in Gmail’s settings. Just remember that you get to the settings page through the gear menu on the far right of the top bar.

I hope these tips make your emailing more productive and efficient! In my next post, I will be writing some thoughts about Google’s newest product, Google+.