One of the greatest feature in gmail is labels that can be applied to any message. Unlike folders, you can apply as many labels as you want. If someone sends me a funny picture, rather than having to create a new “funny pictures” folder, I can just apply the existing labels “comedy” and “pictures”. Similarly, if someone sends me an unfunny picture, I can just label it “pictures”. And if someone sends me comedy that isn’t a picture, I can label it “comedy”. Multi-labels are POWERFUL, and keep you from having to have as many “folders”. Back in the folder days, I would frequently save the same email to 2 or 3 folders, creating extra copies and wqasting extra space.

One of my basic tenants of email is that people’s emails should be labeled with their name. If your name is Frank, I want any emails from you or to you under my “Frank” label. Since labels can have custom colors, this is very useful. For instance, since Tabbitha loves pink so much, I made her label bright pink. Her emails stand out in my inbox — assuming they are labeled.

So this gets us to the labeling problem. For me to highlight Tabbitha’s messages pink, I have to create two filters! Maybe even three!

1) If message is from Tabbitha, label “Tabbitha”.
2) If message is to Tabbitha, label “Tabbitha”.
3) If message subject contains Tabbitha (for evite or facebook notifications), label “Tabbitha”.

Obviously, it is time consuming to make 3 filters every time you meet someone. Guess how many filters I’ve created in my 4+ years of using gmail? 1,993!

It would be SO SO SO nice if they had an “OR” operator. So I could put Tabbitha in “from”, “to”, and “subject”, and click “or”, and then if she was in any of those, it would work. But nooooooo. Gmail defaults to using “AND”. So if you put Tabbitha in “from”, “to”, and “subject”, it will only apply to messages that are from AND to her AND have it in the subject. And by definition, those emails would never get to me (they are from Tabbitha, and to herself.. so I’m not getting them… haha). Gmail fails here, because they use “AND” and not “OR”. I really wish they would let us choose the boolean operator.

So anyway, in an effort to keep this number as low as possible — I figured out a way to combine 2 or 3 filters into 1, by FOOLING GMAIL. This allows for faster filter creation. Observe the method for squeezing 2 filters into one:

gmail filter hack - squeeze 2 filters out of 1

See the first circled part? This shouldn’t be accepted as valid user input, but it is.
Because the parenthesis shouldn’t be there, gmail adds a right parenthesis to close it.
See the second circled part?  This is how gmail resolves it – it closes the parenthesis, which contain nothing in them, and as such “cancel out” in an almost algebraic way. The remaining code is “from:(dynamite44) OR to:(dynamite44)”. I’ve successfully subverted gmail into using “OR” instead of “AND”. w00t!

This ends up giving the desired effect of 2 filters in one.

Finally, Facebook and Evites and Flickr often give you notification for people using their username, or their first and last names. So, this concept can be extended to the subject as well. In this example, I made a filter for someone who consistently uses ‘remodulated’ for their email and flickr notifications:

gmail filter hack - squeeze 3 filters out of 1

In this case, the filter would match any message that is from remodulated OR to remodulated OR has remodulated in the subject. Normally, this would require 3 filters. But you can trick gmail into doing it all in 1 filter. double w00t!

Mood: bad taste
Music: Marilyn Manson – Dried Up, Tied And Dead To The World (live) (USA NY Utica)