How to: Use Gmail to Manage List Emails

I subscribe to a bunch of mailing lists because they frequently contain useful information, but being subscribed to these lists using the email account provided by our hospital would be problematic. The volume of postings on some lists would clutter up the acount, making it more difficult to manage and making it more likely I’d miss other, more important emails from inside our organization.

So I subscribe to lists using a Gmail account. Here’s why:

  • Separating list emails into a separate account allows me to treat them, as a whole, in a different manner than emails from higher-priority senders (patrons, co-workers, etc.). This lets me keep my attention focused where it needs to be.
  • Because list emails are in a separate account, I also never have to annoy other list subscribers with “out-of-office” messages that get sent to whole list– because there’s never need to turn on an “out-of-office” message for this account.
  • Threaded conversation: Instead of having one line per each email received, Gmail inboxes have one line for each conversation. That means that my Gmail lists inbox doesn’t get as cluttered. It also lets me efficiently manage whole conversations instead of individual emails, even if a particular email is sent to multiple lists I subscribe to. Example image below shows that all (23) emails on the topic of “abortion” being made a stopword in POPLINE are one (expandable) line item in my Gmail inbox:
  • Mute function: If there’s a particular conversation(/thread) that I’m not interested in continuing to follow, I can “mute” the conversation and not need to see any further emails in that thread.
  • Gmail’s search capabilities are awesome. If I want to find a MEDLIB-L email I remember was sent by Michelle Kraft about OvidSP, I can search for label:medlib-l from:Kraft OvidSP and find it really, really quickly.
  • Gmail’s filters are powerful and easy to use.
    • Assigning labels: You can set up your Gmail filters to automatically assign colorful labels based on information that lets you scan your email quickly. For example, you could set your account up to automatically assign colored labels based on which list the conversation is from.
    • Forwarding based on content: You can combine Gmail’s great searching and filtering to monitor your list subscriptions. Say you subscribe to multiple lists, but only really want to pay attention if Young Adult services are mentioned. I can create a filter from the search for young OR youth OR “YA” and set any hits from that search to be automatically forwarded to my primary email address so it comes to my attention. Imagine the time saved by not having to manually look through all those emails for mentions of the topic I want to follow.

Bonus tip: Would you rather read your list email information in your feed aggregator? Set your lists Gmail account to forward the emails to MailBucket, and MailBucket will give you the content in an RSS feed.

18 thoughts on “How to: Use Gmail to Manage List Emails

  1. Yay! I may resub to MEDLIB-L now. This was worth it just to be reminded of threading and mute. Especially in re: MEDLIB-L. I think I may borrow this for SEA Currents.

    What I wish, though, is that more blogs were as iPhone friendly as Gmail.

  2. Please consider the hint taken, Dale. 🙂

    When I’m done with other more pressing projects, I’ll get around to other items on my to-do list like installing an add-on to make for an iPhone-friendly version of the blog.

  3. I didn’t mean any blog in particular.

    I WAS however, lying in bed, trying to read this one with my iPhone.

    If you don’t support indolence, who will?

  4. I’ve switched all of my list emails over to gmail about two years ago, and it has been really wonderful. I don’t dread dealing with email now. I didn’t know about the mute function. That’s great!

  5. Ah you are slowly convincing me to maybe go use gmail. The only pain in the butt thing is changing to another email address.
    How is the spam thing? I know gmail has less spam, but eventually your email gets inundated with spam as the airline company or that you bought e-tickets from ups and sells your information.
    Just curious.

  6. Hey Michelle.

    Gmail’s spam filters are excellent. I manage every email address I have through Gmail and have radically cut down on the spam I have to deal with.

    The emails that you continue to get from companies with whom you’ve previously had business isn’t really spam- it’s bacn.

    If you don’t want to see that either, it is quick and easy to set up a Gmail filter that’ll pluck these emails out of your inbox (and stick ’em in the archives or delete them) before you see them. I only see a handful of unwanted emails each week.

    I’ve set up filters that prevent email from whole domains from ever reaching me. 🙂

  7. I have question about gmail – maybe you can set me straight. Is it possible to do an old fashioned sort in gmail? What if I want to see all the emails from a particular sender? Does one have to rely on search (by sender) to do this?

  8. Hi Amy!

    Gmail doesn’t do “sort”, but I don’t mind at all.

    If I want to see all email from my wife, I could search for from:liz.

    I’ve gotten so accustomed in Gmail to finding exactly what I want immediately that I have to stop myself from trying to do the same thing when I’m using Outlook 2007 at work.

    Example: Today I was looking for some slides I’d emailed to Michelle Kraft before the MLA Web 2.0 Webcast in March and found them immediately by searching for to:michelle has:attachment MLA ppt

  9. Do you use the same gmail address as for personal email? I’ve tried it with a separate account, but I seldom go and check the list one. Blah.

  10. Dale-

    You can set the lists Gmail account ot automatically forward to your main Gmail account. From there, you can filter as you like and receive your listserv items.


  11. Yeah. I thought about that and didn’t like it. I had hoped you’d supply something a little more sexy like a way to have two gmail accounts open on the same browser. Damn you for your lack of a sexy reply.

  12. Thanks for the reply – I guess sometimes I wish I could separate the threads so that I could look at all the emails from one particular person without having the other threaded discussions distracting me. I’m going to see if searching the way you demonstrated does that…

    Have fun at AMA!

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  14. I have multiple emails accounts being forwarded to my gmail account.
    How can I apply a filter to separate each email, so that I know which account it was forwarded from..

  15. Sir, am a gmail user from a long time and hence, I have a lot of mails in my inbox as well as spam, in lot as a garbage…
    But, this has a lot of good collection of e-mails, as well as my personal mails received from my good ones.
    So, what if I want to collect all the mails I received from a particular person (e-mail id), ???? Is there any way out???? please answer….I would be well best if you could use my gmail, to send a reply….
    Thanking You,
    Harikrishnan Nair.