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Simple Filters for email: Organizing your email is easier than you think

It amazes me how many people still have a single "inbox" folder for their email, where absolutely everything goes. It is most often people who keep their email like this that also tell people "Oh, sorry, I must have missed your message in the volume of all the others"

This is a simple guide to making your email not only more organized, but a lot more useful, too:

  1. Take a look at your inbound email and ask yourself: "What are the most common sources of mail ? Which are the ones that I should respond to, or pay attention to, first ?"
  2. In your email application or website, you have the ability to "Create new folder" - Often just by right-clicking on your inbox. Under your inbox, create your main categories of mail. For the sake of this article, we will use
    • "Facebook"
    • "Family" and
    • "News Updates"
  3. Go to your "create filters" option - This is often under the "tools" menu, or a right-click option under your inbox.

There are three important components to creating a mail filter:

  1. The field to search
  2. The text to search for
  3. What to do with the message when it's found

So, for filter number one, "Facebook", we would use the following:
Field to search: "From:"
Text to search for: "facebook", or "facebookmail.com" (the first might catch spoofed messages, the second is specifically for facebook.com email notifications)
Action: Move message to folder "Facebook"

Filter number two, "Family":
Field to search: "From:" Text to search for "email@address.of.mom.com"
here, you should have either a plus icon, or the ability to add another field. We want to add the ability to search for more than one bit of text, with an "OR" operator, so for this example, we would have three possible matches:
Text to search for "email@address.of.sister.com" OR
Text to search for "email@address.of.brother.com"
* It is important to note the use of "OR" instead of "AND": If you used "AND", you would tell the filter to ONLY match messages that contained mom AND sister AND brother's email address in the From: field.
Action: Move message to folder "Family"

Filter number three, "News updates":
Field to search: "From:"
Text to search for: "news@address.site1.com" OR "news@address.site2.com etc
Action to perform: Move message to folder "News updates"

Many mail applications will allow you to run newly created filters on your already received mail in your inbox: If you've already done the above, run your newly created filters and see your inbox shrink and your new folders grow - Now, when you receive mail, if they match any of your filters, they will automatically be sorted into folders, with the folder name either changing colour or bolded to let you know there is new mail in them.

Pretty neat, eh ?

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