Knowledgebase A Northside Prep Repository


GMail Filters and Labels

Labels: A More Powerful and Flexible Folder Alternative


Think of Gmail Labels like old-school folders, only far more powerful. Like folders, you can move messages into and out of Labels, but you can also apply multiple Labels to any given message. While Outlook would balk at putting the same message in your Work, New Project, Action and Expenses folders -- forcing you to strictly sort your e-mail -- Gmail can add all four labels to a message without any trouble.

We've spent far too much time thinking about this (so you don't have to), but we opt for a two-tier label system: one based on importance and the other on context. There are countless philosophies for labeling, so find something that works for you. (Type, sender, to-do list and importance are a few ways people organize their mail.) Switched staff works on an Action-Pending-Archives rubric, to decide how to handle a correspondence. Labeling an item as "action" means it needs our attention -- an RSVP, an appointment, responding to someone. We set up an Action label, if you will, for anything we need to act on. Next is a Pending label for things we want to keep visible, but don't necessarily need to be dealt with immediately. After that, everything gets sent to the Archives. Archives is a brilliant aspect of Gmail; with so much room, you can send info to the Archive attic, hidden permanently but never deleted.

labels and colorsThe next set of labels helps to sort by type and context. Create labels for Family, Friends and Work, and then break down other regular e-mail by Newsletters, Finances, Social Networks, etc. It's easy to go overboard, so take some time to consider the variety of e-mail you get, and focus on creating labels that are broad enough to capture and organize chunks (e.g. Receipts), without being too limiting (e.g. Receipts_October_2010).

Let's touch on one last bit of customization before moving on: colors. Adding color (left-click the square next to the label in Gmail's labels sidebar) can make your inbox easier to scan at a glance. Get your Action or Important labels to stand out by setting them as red or yellow. Contrast a cool color palate on Work-related tags with a warm one on family. We prefer a subtle pastel for Facebook, Twitter and other social updates, saving more intense tones for friends and finances.

Filters: Stress-Free Organizing

Gmail Filters

With your newly created labels in mind, let's move to Filters. Labels identify what will appear as what, but you're still going to have to manually add them to e-mail as it hits your inbox. This is where Gmail's filters are an enormous help; they'll sort, modify and label e-mail before it even appears in your inbox.

You'll need to do some e-mail soul searching here to gauge the importance of the messages flooding your inbox. Is your daily Gilt Groupe e-mail important? Is your college newsletter worth reading immediately? If not, send these straight to the archive with a tag. Then, you can revisit when you actually have the time. A filter can automatically label every newsletter you receive as a Newsletter, archive it and keep it set as Unread. This way, you won't be getting distracted with new message updates every time a newsletter hits. Because you can set messages to skip the inbox but stay unread, you can still keep track of how many unread missives you've got in the left rail. There's a lot here, so it's time to get creative.

Gmail offers six different search criteria to work with:

  • From:
  • To:
  • Subject:
  • Has the words:
  • Doesn't have:
  • Has attachment

and you've got eight actions that you can apply to these results:

  • Skip the Inbox (archive it)
  • Mark as read
  • Star it
  • Apply a label
  • Forward It
  • Delete It
  • Always mark as important (Priority Inbox)
  • Never mark as Important (Priority Inbox)

Gmail Filters 2To show the power of filters, let's start with Facebook friend requests. Click "create a filter" at the top of the Gmail page (next to "Search the Web"). Now, in the "Subject:" field, enter "wants to be friends on Facebook". Click next. Apply the appropriate actions. Set this filter up to automatically apply the Social label (or whatever you set up earlier) to every message with this subject. Select "Social" under "Apply a label," set to skip inbox, click Update Filter and Gmail will ask you if you want to apply it to all previous messages. Be careful; browse through the search results and make sure everything is displaying correctly before applying the actions to the results. Now, all of your Facebook friend requests are labeled Social, moved out of your inbox and you can deal with them on your own terms.

Next, try family. Gather the e-mail addresses from everyone in your family, create a filter that searches for any e-mails (add "OR" after every address to add multiple people) from familial contacts and labels it "Family." In just a few quick clicks, you can easily label thousands of e-mails spread over several years, without having to go in and manually label any individual e-mail.

What to Filter

With online grocery delivery, utility payments, Amazon, iTunes and countless other ways to spend money online, the e-mail receipt is inescapable. Look at the subjects and from: address on your receipts ('Your receipt' or 'Your Monthly Statement from...'), and build a smart filter that automatically labels all incoming receipts.

Newsletters and Mailing Lists
Label incoming newsletters, and then set them to bypass your inbox. Once you have time, you can pull up the Newsletter tag in the left rail, and read through your newest, uh, news.

Social Media Updates 
Grab the "from" address in your social network update e-mails and send the flood of Facebook and Twitter directly to the Archives. If you're worried about missing messages, set up special filters to keep direct messages or Facebook notes in your Inbox.

Movies, Recipes and Reminders
As much as we love sites like delicious and Yelp for bookmarking, we often opt to e-mail ourselves reminders. Set up special filters and reminders to catch and sort research, movies and recipes.

Filters and labels can be combined to reveal all messages with attachments -- helpful for finding that recent PDF report or gathering all your large files in a single place.

Pro Tips

While many of these are far nerdier than others (e.g. Keyboard Commands), Gmail pro tips will help the geek in all of us .

Keyboard Shortcuts
Speed up your sorting and labeling with Keyboard Shortcuts. Head over to "General" under your Gmail settings, and turn on keyboard shortcuts. Press shift + ? to bring up a reminder for your options; now your fingers don't have to leave the comfort of the keyboard for moving through e-mail.

Multiple Inboxes (Google Labs)
Once you've got your Labels set up, Google Labs' Multiple Inboxes feature is amazingly helpful for letting you see, naturally, Multiple Inboxes. Set one up for e-mail you need to reply to, friend e-mail and anything else you'd like to regularly track.

Google calendar gadget (Google Labs)
A simple left sidebar plugin, this gadget pulls in a scrollable version of your Google Calendar.

Multiple Accounts (Google Labs) 
If you've got Gmail importing your work, home, ISP and personal e-mail accounts, set up filters and tags to help keep each account organized.



Moving the Default Placement of Your EMail Signature

The default location of your email signature is at the bottom of any email that you forward or reply to. By default,
your response is first, followed by the previous email and then finally your signature.
To change the placement of your email signature to have it directly underneath your response or message you need to:
  • Open your CPS@Google inbox
  • Click on the box with the gear in it on the right side of your email settingsgear
  • Click on the "Settings" link
  • Click on the tab labeled "General"
  • Scroll down to the "Signature" section
  • Put a check in the box to "Insert this signature before quoted text in replies and remove the "--" line that precedes it."
  • Scroll to the bottom and click the "Save Changes" button

Stars and Signatures (VIDEO)

20121210  Video Tech Tip

Today we are looking at enabling multiple stars for prioritizing and categorizing, creating a signature for your email messages and a Gmail Lab that changes the placement of your signature in reply and forwarded messages.

You can full screen the embedded video or use the link below with your own MP4 viewer.

Stars and Signatures (VIDEO)




Connect to NCP User Info Folder and Import Student Contacts (VIDEO- Faculty and Staff Only)

20121205  Video Tech Tip - This is a Faculty and Staff video that can only be accessed with authorized login credentials.

This week we will make sure everyone can connect to the NCP Useful Information folder that is in google drive. This folder contains documents that are useful for reference to faculty and staff. We will also go through how to import students to your contacts since they are not part of the CPS global contacts directory. This will be important to complete before creating Google Groups (video to come next week).

You can full screen the embedded video or use the link below with your own MP4 viewer.

Connect to NCP User Info Folder and Import Student Contacts (VIDEO)




GMail Labs: Reply to All and Send & Archive (VIDEO)

20121203  Video Tech Tip

Gmail Labs allows you to try out experimental new features in Gmail. Our first lab is Default 'Reply to all' and that is exactly what the feature does. Next time you are part of a group email conversation, you can keep that conversation going with a single click. We will also look at the Send & Archive Lab which allows you to send your message and archive it in a single click. Archiving is preferred to deleting messages. This way you can find a message in future should you need it. All Google@CPS email messages are retained for a period of one calendar year from the date sent or received, then they are permanently deleted and cannot be retrieved.

You can full screen the embedded video or use the link below with your own MP4 viewer.

GMail Labs: Reply to All and Send & Archive (VIDEO)