Use a Gmail address alias to organize your inbox and reduce spam headaches

July 24th, 2009 by Daniel DiRico
Gmail logo

Gmail logo

I’m sure like most of us, you probably cherish your personal email address and feel a little bit of hesitation every time you type it into an online sign-up form.

If you use Gmail, there is a simple way to create an alternate version of your email address (an alias) that you can use for these automated sign-up forms.

It works like this:

If your email address is, all you have to do is add a plus symbol [+] after your user name and some kind of description of your choice.

For example, if is signing up for news subscriptions from she can simply provide her email address on the sign-up form as:  Jane’s emails from the NY Times will still be received in her email inbox just as any other email would, but she now has a new way to separate “news” email from her other email.  She can then use this same alias on other news sites as well.

Why would I want to do this?

The power of this lies in Gmail’s filters.  In the example above, Jane can now tell Gmail (using filters) “if you see any email arrive that is addressed to jane.doe+news then put those emails into folder X, or label those emails in red.”

Your primary, personal email address becomes safe from automated mailings (and potential spam as a result) while your “alias” email address takes care of business for you.

Obviously this is not a foolproof way to protect your email address in mailing lists (since it is easy to determine what your actual email address is) but it certainly helps keeps things organized.  To my knowledge, you can setup as many Gmail alias names as you see fit.