Gmail Filters

How to Use Gmail Filters in Your Inbox

Using Gmail for customer emails doesn’t mean being controlled by your inbox. Gmail filters allow you to take charge and manage your incoming mail more effectively. 

catherine heath

Last updated: January 9, 2023

8 mins read

Many customer service teams are using Gmail to manage their incoming email from customers. However, the sheer amount of email you can receive is overwhelming, and service reps might be wondering how they can more effectively handle their email. 

It may be tempting to just hit “delete”, but unfortunately for customer service teams this isn’t really an option. Customers are waiting on tenterhooks for you to respond to their emails in a prompt fashion. 

The answer is Gmail filters. 

This is a how-to article for users trying to understand how to set up and use a Gmail filter. It includes how to create a Gmail filter, how to edit a Gmail filter, and some clever ways to use Gmail filters (or “must-have” filters).

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What is a Gmail filter?

Gmail filters are automation rules that perform an action with your incoming email so that you don’t have to. For example, if you wanted to automatically delete an email from a certain sender, this is possible in Gmail. Alternatively, you might want to always mark a customer email as important, to ensure you never overlook their email. 

Gmail filters save you time in Gmail because it means you don’t have to manually perform every action each time an email hits your inbox. This reduces the clutter of your inbox and makes the high volume email of a customer service team much more manageable. 

Gmail filters take just a little time to set up but can significantly enhance productivity. For customer service teams that want to keep using Gmail, filters are a must. Instead of having every single email hit your inbox, you can manage and sort them to help you reach inbox zero. 

Creating filters in Gmail

It’s relatively easy to start creating a filter in Gmail. There are three main avenues that you can take to bring you to the filter creation screen. 

Read More: How to Clean up Gmail

Option 1: 

  • Create a filter from nothing. To do this, head to the Settings menu (click the gear icon and then ‘See all settings’) and click on “Filters and Blocked Addresses.” 
  • Simply click “Create a new filter” to launch the process.

Option 2: 

  • You can open the filter criteria options by selecting the right-hand icon on the Search bar at the top of your inbox. 

Option 3: 

  • Open an email, then select the vertical ellipses in the upper-right corner. Click “Filter messages like this.”

The advantage of using the different options to create a filter in Gmail is that some fields will be pre-filled when you eventually come to create your filter. 

The next stage of creating a filter is selecting the filter criteria that you want to match. The next stage is: 

  • From enables you to filter emails from a particular email address (or multiple addresses if you wish).
  • To enables you to filter emails directed to a particular email address. All emails in your inbox include you as a recipient, but customer service teams might want to filter emails also sent to a teammate which are included in your inbox.
  • Subject enables you to filter emails with certain keywords in the subject line, or a specific subject line.
  • Has the words means you can filter emails with specific keywords and phrases that match the body of the email.
  • Doesn’t have means you can filter emails that are absent with specific keywords and phrases in the body.
  • Size references the total size of the email, including any attachments.
  • Date within shows when you access filter options from Search.
  • Search shows when you access this option from Search. 
  • Has attachment and Don’t include chats means you can define in more detail which types of messages are included.

Gmail Filters Step 1

Finally, you specify what happens to your emails when they reach your Gmail inbox. 

  • Miss out on the Inbox (Archive it) will automatically archive incoming messages that match your filter criteria.
  • Mark as read will automatically mark those messages as read.
  • Star it will note those messages with a star next to them.
  • Apply the label will enable you to add an existing or new label to these incoming emails, which helps you easily categorize them according to your own pre-defined criteria.
  • Forward it lets you forward it to a specific email address that you have specified within the system.
  • Delete it automatically deletes these emails, suggesting you never want to read them. 
  • Never send it to Spam whitelists emails that match these criteria and ensures these emails always land in your inbox.
  • Always mark it as important and Never mark it as important allow you to automatically add or remove an importance marker from these messages.
  • Categorize as: allows you to choose a category like Primary, Social, Updates, or Promotions to which you can redirect incoming emails. Google does automatically categorize most emails, but adding another filter sorts out emails that slip through the net.
  • You can also apply filter to matching conversations. Normally, filters will only be applied to future incoming emails. Checking this option means you can mark or categorize emails presently in your inbox that fulfill your criteria.

Gmail Filters Step 2

Edit filters in Gmail

Sometimes you might have created the filter but would like to change the parameters or the instructions for what Gmail should do with it. It’s simple to edit filters in Gmail. 

  • Select the gear icon in your inbox, then See all settings, then Filters and blocked addresses. 
  • Gmail will show you a list of all your existing filters. 
  • You can select ‘edit’ your filter to bring up a screen where you can change the conditions. 
  • Once you’ve changed your settings, you can select ‘Continue’ to be taken to a screen where you can modify the actions you want the filter to take. 
  • Finally, select ‘Update’ to save the changes you have made to your filter. 

Gmail Filters Edit

Manage Gmail filters

You can manage your Gmail filters by navigating to ‘Filters and blocked addresses’ as we showed you earlier. By accessing the list of all your existing Gmail filters, you can stay on top of which ones are helpful or not and delete ones that no longer serve you. 

To delete a Gmail filter, simply press ‘delete’ next to the filter in the list. It’s likely that your filter needs will change and an email address you might have automatically archived might suddenly become relevant. 

You can also export Gmail filters from your account or import Gmail filters from another account. When you’ve set up several filters in one Gmail account, you may want to use them in another account, in which case you’d use Gmail’s import/export option. 

To export Gmail filters: 

  • Go to the gear icon, select ‘See all settings’, and then navigate to Filters and blocked addresses. 
  • Select your filters using the checkboxes and then use the ‘Export’ button. 
  • This generates an XML file which you can then edit in a text editor, or simply save and import into another Gmail account. 

To import Gmail filters: 

  • Go to the gear icon, select ‘See all settings’, and then navigate to Filters and blocked addresses. 
  • Select ‘import filters’ and then upload your XML file that you created earlier. 
  • You will then be able to use the checkboxes to create your new Gmail filters. 

Must-have filters in Gmail

There are certain must-have filters in Gmail that save you untold amounts of time and effort. Instead of manually having to delete spam emails, for example, there is a filter for that. You can also prioritize certain customers so their emails are always marked as important. 

Automatically delete spam email

If an email is marked as spam, you can tell Gmail to automatically delete it so that it never darkens your inbox again. 

  • Navigate to the Gmail search bar and click on the right-hand icon.
  • In the dropdown that appears, go to the ‘Has the words’ field and type in is:spam.
  • Click on the “Create filter” button.
  • Use the “Delete it” filter action and confirm that you want to create your filter.

And voila! All emails that are marked as spam will be automatically deleted, freeing up valuable space in your inbox. 

Automatically apply labels to your emails

We’ve previously talked about how important labels are for keeping your Gmail inbox organized. So what if you have Gmail labels and you automatically want to apply them to incoming mail? 

Well, there’s a filter for that. 

  • Go to the gear icon, select ‘See all settings’ and then go to Filters and blocked addresses. 
  • OR, alternatively open an email by the sender you want to apply a label to and select ‘Filter emails like this’. 
  • Create a filter based on the sender’s email address or keywords. 
  • In the next screen that opens, select ‘Apply a label’ and choose a label from the options that appear in the dropdown menu.
  • Save your filter. 

Now, all incoming emails from that sender can be automatically labeled with something like ‘To do’ or ‘Take action’. No more important customer emails will get missed because you can simply filter them using your label. 

Mark your emails as read

Sometimes in Gmail you don’t want to delete an email but it’s not necessary to actually read it. In order to help you reach inbox zero, you can automatically mark emails as read so they’re not showing in your unread emails but you don’t have to actually read them. 

To automatically mark emails as read: 

  • Go to the gear icon, select ‘See all settings’ and then go to Filters and blocked addresses. 
  • Create a new filter for the sender’s email address or keywords.
  • In the next screen that opens, tell Gmail to ‘mark as read.’
  • Save your filter. 

This filter is useful for emails where you know what they are going to say but you don’t actually want to delete it. 

Prevent annoying messages from people

Perhaps you’re using Gmail and you typically get annoying emails that you don’t want to read or open. You wouldn’t quite classify it as spam but you don’t want to waste time on these emails. In this case, you might want to create a filter in Gmail that automatically archives emails from annoying senders so you don’t have to deal with them. 

  • Go to the gear icon, select ‘See all settings’ and then go to Filters and blocked addresses. 
  • Create a new filter for the sender’s email address or keywords.
  • In the next screen that opens, tell Gmail to ‘Archive it.’
  • Save your filter. 

In this way, you can keep your inbox clean without having to manually go through archiving your unwanted emails. This frees up more inbox space for the emails that really matter, and ensures that customers are continuing to get the care and attention they deserve. 

Automatically forward emails

In your Gmail inbox, from time to time you may get emails that are relevant to a specific recipient and you want to forward a task onto them. For example, you may get notification of a new customer inquiry, and you want to delegate the task of looking after this customer to a particular person. 

In this case, you’d want to automatically forward emails in Gmail with a filter. 

  • Go to the gear icon, select ‘See all settings’ and then go to Filters and blocked addresses. 
  • Create a new filter for the sender’s email address or keywords.
  • In the next screen that opens, tell Gmail to ‘Add forwarding address’ and then follow the steps to add a forwarding address to Gmail. 
  • Save your filter. 

This means tasks can automatically be forwarded to the relevant person without manual intervention. 

Wrapping up

Using Gmail for customer emails doesn’t mean being controlled by your inbox. Gmail filters allow you to take charge and manage your incoming mail more effectively. 

If you take advantage of Gmail filters you’ll be much more productive at managing your emails, and less likely to suffer from overwhelm. When you’re receiving hundreds or maybe thousands of emails a day, small timesavers like Gmail filters really start to add up. If you have so many emails, it’s not really possible to deal with all of them manually. 

When you combine Gmail filters with labels, you have a powerful system that helps you organize and manage your email inbox without too much stress. Gmail is optimized for classifying your emails to help you keep on top of a tsunami of mail. 

catherine heath

Catherine is a content writer and community builder for creative and ethical companies. She often writes case studies, help documentation and articles about customer support. Her writing has helped businesses to attract curious audiences and transform them into loyal advocates. You can find more of her work at

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