Plus (+) Address Tricks with Gmail
Gmail is a great free service. Sometimes it seems that everybody in the world is using it, making it hard to register your favorite email address. But did you know there are ways to customize your Gmail address and automatically process it for different senders and for yourself? Here’s how.
A Near-Infinite Number of Customized Addresses
There is a trick to creating as many customized Gmail addresses in Gmail as you can use, using the Plus (+) sign. If your email address was MortimerSnerd@gmail.com, you can add the plus sign and a combination of numbers and letters (and some symbols) to create a custom address. (The technical term for this is “subaddressing.”)
Mortimer’s Cat Grooming Business
For example, if Mortimer was using Gmail for both his personal use and his freelance cat grooming biz, he could give out email@example.com as his business email and then have Gmail automatically prioritize those emails and sort them with his “cats” tag.
Then, when he was checking his email, he can go right to his “cats” messages to respond quickly and make appointments. In fact, he could create special addresses for appointments and for invoices by using firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. But that only begins to use the potential.
Anne Teak’s To Do Lists
Suppose Anne Teak wanted to create the ability to send quick memos to her To Do list while on the road, shopping for antiques. From her cell phone or tablet, she could tell Cortana or Siri to send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org. When Anne returns home, it’s easy to find and process her task list.
People who use the Getting Things Done system can personalize this even more, perhaps using:
- +(date) or +(month)
If you process your tasks in a specific sequence, you could just use +1, +2, +3 or whatever works for you.
Crystal Glaess uses a different system for her Glaess Collectibles newsletter. She’s not into GTD, but has special addresses to help her respond quickly to queries, using:
- +user or +reader or +custsvc (for quick customer service)
You can make up your own tags:
Bud Tugly hates a full inbox, especially when its filled with those email newsletters he subscribes to. He has a couple of options:
First option, when he subscribes to a newsletter, he can use a custom Gmail address to sort those messages, perhaps using +news or creating a special address for his Handsome Man Mag newsletter. Thus, when he subscribes he uses either email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then, he autosorts the incoming email with his “Newsletters” tag and removes them from his regular Inbox, so he can read them at his leisure. With the second address, he can monitor that particular newsletter to see if Hansome Man shares his email address (intentionally or not) with other email services.
After Bud decides he likes his system, he can go back to any other e-newsletter and just update his subscription address. Most reputable email list manager services allow you to unsubscribe, resubscribe, or change your email address easily, usually from a link at the bottom of the email.
Also, if he finds his subscription address is now being used by spammers, he can just filter all those messages into his spam folder and create a new address for his legit subscription.
Anita Jobb’s Jobhunting Campaign
Anita uses a special email address just for her résumé, cover letters, and online job hunting services, so she doesn’t need a Plus address for those. (She knows that employer HR ATS systems might not parse a plus address correctly.) But she uses several tags for her job hunting.
Whenever she sends out an application, query, or other communication, she BCC’s herself with a specialized address, such as AnitaJobbemail@example.com, to keep a copy in a folder or forward to an Evernote notebook. She can also create addresses with +query, or +jobdescription to automatically give those messages a tag so she can quickly follow up with the proper action.
Alternatively, she could also use a plus address for each company she creates a campaign for, so she can instantly find a copy of each incoming and outgoing email for each company.
Marti Graw’s Anti-Spam Campaign
New Orleans-based Marti Graw hates spam. Really. Whenever he signs us for a service or buys something online, he uses a customized address.
He used to use firstname.lastname@example.org to automatically register on some sites and then, after a purchase confirmation email, he’d forward any other email to his spam folder. Mary Christian did the same thing with email@example.com. But, then, she began to wonder if some spammers who knew Gmail were just deleting the +spam suffix and using her regular Gmail address.
She was also annoyed by those online forms that wouldn’t let her use a plus sign as part of an email address.
Then they both learned the truth about Gmail and dots.
Gmail ignores dots (periods) in incoming email.
Gmail has “dot blindness.” No, it’s not a handicap; in fact it can be used to your advantage.
We’ve all seen (and possibly used) corporate email systems which use dots (yes, outside the email world they are often called periods) to separate first and last names, such as firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can do the same in Gmail, but when reading incoming email addresses, it ignores the dots. So rocky.beach@gmail, rockyb.each, roc.kyb.each and rockybeach@gmail are all seen as the same to Gmail. He could even use r.o.c.k.y.b.e.a.c.h@gmail and have the message come in.
BUT, Gmail’s sorting tools DO see the dots. So, an alternative to using the + sign is for Rocky is to add rocky.beach@gmail as his spam-fighter email doppelganger to rockybeach. Few spammers would catch the extra period and – whoosh – those messages can go straight to his spam folder, or get any other tag Rocky likes.
Your “Second” Gmail Account
When you sign up for Gmail, you actually get two accounts. When Egks signs up, he gets his Egks-Benedict@gmail.com address, but also Egks-Benedict@googlemail.com, which both work the same. As before, you can use Gmail filters to sort them differently.
Teachers and Workgroups
Teachers and schools have special Gmail accounts. A teacher, Mary Best, could ask her first period students to use bestteacher+p1@gmail, second period students, bestteacher+p2, etc. Or divide into subjects: besteacher+math7, etc.
Workgroups can use special tags, too:
Going Even Further with Forwarding
With Gmail filtering you can also forward certain messages to other accounts. Terri Aki sets her email@example.com address to automatically forward to her accountant and sorted into her Accounts Payable folder.
Evernote Plus, Evernote Premium and Evernote for Business allow you to submit things to Evernote via email. Moss E. Forrest set up his firstname.lastname@example.org to be forwarded to a special folder in his Evernote or Evernote for Business account. (OneNote, Microsoft’s free alternative to Evernote, has similar tools.)
If you use LinkedIn, you can add your address to your LinkedIn profile with something like MannyLinks+trainingpro@gmail to sort those messages. That way you can give people who use your special LinkedIn address a priority. If you start getting too many sales messages or spam, just delete it from your LinkedIn profile (or replace it with another), and send any further messages with the old address to spam.
If you use the software tool IFTTT (If This, Then That), you can probably figure out other things you can do with Gmail, forwarding and processing.
If you are studying mysticism, you can also find numerological tricks for sorting your email, too. Fans of Douglas Adam’s might send their high priority messages to DAfan+42@gmail.
This is not nearly a complete list of all the tricks you can do with custom Gmail addresses.
A Few Important Notes
Gmail makes no distinction between upper- and lower-case letters. WarrenPeace and warrenpeace are all the same to Gmail (and Google search, too).
The maximum length of a Gmail address name (the part before the @ sign) appears to be 64 characters. This should be long enough for your regular email name, the plus sign, and your customized or disposable address.
Some other email services do recognize dots (periods) in a user name.
These tricks work with Gmail and not with other email services, although other services might have their own tricks. According to Wikipedia, iCloud and Outlook.com also use the + symbol to add customized addresses. Yahoo! Mail uses a hyphen, and some others might use an equal sign (=).
If you have other tips for Gmail addresses, please share in the Comments, below.