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Multi-email

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I haven't written in a while, so I must get something in the books. It's also very late so I'll keep this short. This is an update from my online presence minimization story. I'm now down to just 3 Gmail accounts, I'm still stuck with the one with the Google Play balance. I'll just hang on to that one until I figure out what to use it for. This story was going to contain 2 (short) parts: cool Gmail features that allow you to really expand your inbox, and a frustration I just found out about UC Davis's student email addresses. However, once I started writing, I couldn't stop, so I decided to split it into 2 posts. So, today is a twofer!

Gmail Plus?

Do you have a Gmail address? You can try this right now at home! Let's say your email is bob@gmail.com. You can add periods anywhere in the bob part, and it will send it right to you! For example, b.o.b@gmail.com is a valid address that sends mail to bob@gmail.com! But, this isn't really useful. Prepare to be amazed at this next part. A plus sign (+) and anything after the bob part will also send it right to you! So bob+smith@gmail.com is a valid email for bob@gmail.com. Still, not super exciting... or is it? Basically, with this email format, you can have an unlimited amount of email aliases (aliai?) for one email! And with unlimited aliases, comes unlimited power.

Usage

Say you want to sign up for the popular social media app, Fakebook.com. You can use bob@gmail.com, or... bob+fakebook@gmail.com perhaps? Now, Fakebook will only send spam to your email alias, not your primary email. However, this goes to the main inbox anyway. But with some quick configuration, you can create a Gmail label and have mail automatically put into that label.

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Click the gear icon
  3. See all settings
  4. Filters and blocked addresses
  5. Create a new filter
  6. To = bob+fakebook@gmail.com
  7. Click "Create Filter"
  8. Check "Skip the inbox"
  9. Apply the label (create a new label called "Fakebook")
  10. Click "Create Filter"

And voila! Any emails from Fakebook go to that label! And if Fakebook gets hacked, or sells your data, then the shady individuals will get bob+fakebook@gmail.com, and not your primary address.

Multi Accounts

What if you wanted to create a secondary account on Fakebook, but every time you tried to set it up, you get the error:

This email address already belongs to another account.

This fixes that too! You can create bob+fakebook.1@gmail.com and bob+fakebook.2@gmail.com for instance. Just remember to create filters for both of them if you want them organized.

Send Mail As

Now you're thinking, that's great, but what if I need to send mail from that address, e.g. to their customer support team? You can do that too!

  1. Log into Gmail
  2. Click the gear icon
  3. See all settings
  4. Accounts and Import
  5. Under "Send mail as:", click "Add another email address"
  6. Enter the name you want to appear as and bob+fakebook@gmail.com
  7. Check "Treat as an alias"
  8. Click "Next Step" (there are no next steps)

That's it! Now, when you go to draft a new email, the "From" field is now a dropdown, and you can pick between bob@gmail.com and all your aliases!

Conclusion

So this is exactly what I did in my long term migration project from 8 to just 2 Gmail addresses. I created aliases and filters for several "known spammy" accounts I own. For example, I use the address <my_email>+github@gmail.com for my GitHub account. The main downside is that some websites I use do not like the plus sign in my emails, so I was forced to use <my_email>@gmail.com for some websites here and there. A small price to pay, I guess.

Although, there is still a case to be made to use <my_email>@gmail.com for everything, since it can be a bit cumbersome to remember all those aliases, unless you use a password manager. Some of my aliases are <my_email>+website@gmail.com and others are <my_email>+website.com@gmail.com. I made some poor planning decisions that led to these inconsistencies.

I definitely think this feature is extremely useful and will continue to explore it and find out if there are other uses for it. Stay tuned!