by George Heymann

Three easy steps to an uncluttered Gmail inbox!

Are you a Gmail user? Do you use your Gmail inbox as the repository for all your correspondence? I do. Gmail’s generous free online storage and the addition of Google Docs has become for me an irresistible proposition. The added convenience of having all my e-mails available on my phone or from any desktop through Gmail’s Web interface puts the icing on an already delicious cake.

I’ve been using Gmail since it was introduced in 2004 as an invitation-only beta. In the past six years I amassed  tens of thousands of e-mails and documents. I hate to admit that I had more than 5,000 unread items in my inbox, comprised mostly of sales flyers and newsletters. I knew there had to be a better way to manage my Gmail inbox and I have seen the light: That beacon of hope is called filters. Using my unread e-mail problem as an example, we will mark all the unread e-mail items as ‘read’ at once by creating, then applying, a Gmail filter.

Create a new filter by clicking on ‘create a filter to the right of the Gmail ‘search mail/search by the Web’ buttons within Gmail. The next dialogue box is where you’ll set the parameters for your filter. Add ‘is:unread’ to the ‘has the words’ text input field.
At this point you are given the option of further refining your filter by adding additional criteria such as ‘from,’ ‘to,’ ‘subject,’ ‘doesn’t have’ and ‘has attachment.’

Click ‘next step’ and you will be presented with the ‘choose action dialogue’ box. Tick the mark ‘as read’ and also apply to ‘xxx conversations’ boxes, then click ‘create filter.’ All of your unread e-mail is now marked as ‘read.’ See the graphic above for a visual step by step guide.

Just remember to delete your filter afterward or all new items that come in will also be marked as ‘read’ as soon as they hit your inbox.
My Gmail inbox is my virtual filing cabinet. I find myself sending copies of receipts, registrations or scanned copies of documents that I may want to retrieve at a later date.

Remember: All of the e-mails are searchable so it makes looking up old e-mails, registrations or receipts trivial.
All that convenience comes with a disadvantage; before long you may become overwhelmed with a mountain of correspondence that you no longer need. I tried to alleviate the problem by tagging items I wanted to delete through keyword searches.
This method works great if you have a couple dozen items; but when you have thousands of items, it becomes very frustrating and inefficient.

Using keywords, you are presented matching items a screen at a time. Then you have to re-select the items on subsequent screens for deletion and page screen to screen. Filters can be used to alleviate this problem as well.

One caveat: If you are going to use filters to do a series of mass deletes, make sure and test your search criteria  in step 2 before applying your filter in step 3 to avoid inadvertently deleting a document you need. Proceed with caution!

Using your newfound knowledge of filters, you can tailor this same 3-step process to suit your needs. With the use of filters you can now tame and organize that once unruly mailbox!

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Filed under: General technology, How To's, Software, , , , , , , ,

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