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GMail & Mailing Lists

How to Follow Mailing Lists Using Google Mail

Here is a small trick to manage your mailing list subscriptions with your GMail account without cluttering your inbox.

Step 1: Setup multiple inboxes

  • Open GMail and go to Settings
  • Go to Labs
  • Search for Multiple Inboxes and enable it
  • Save your changes
  • Go to Settings again
  • Go to Multiple Inboxes
  • Replace the search query for Pane 0 with this: -label:muted label:]-groups is:unread
  • Delete the search query for Pane 1
  • Set Extra panel positioning to Below the inbox
  • Go to Settings
  • Got to Labels
  • Create a new label ] Groups

What have we done so far? We have told GMail that we want a second inbox below our main inbox that

  • does not display muted posts. This is a nice hack, it turns out that muted is a hidden label in Gmail, so you can filter for muted conversations
  • does display anything that has the label ] Groups (filtering for labels seems to be case insensitive)
  • does only display conversations that are unread

Step 2: Create filters for your mailing lists

If you are subscribed to N mailing lists you need to create N+1 filters now.

First create one big filter for all your mailing lists. Set it up like so:

  • Has the words: list1@example.com OR list2@example.com ... OR listN@example.com
  • Skip inbox
  • Apply label: ] Groups

At this point you would be able to see how many unread mailing list posts there are because the ] Groups label would become bold and display a number behind itself. However, it would be nice if you could see exactly how many unread items each of your subscriptions has. For this you simply need to add one more filter for each subscription:

  • Has the words: listX@example.com
  • Skip inbox
  • Apply label: ] Groups/listX

So if you are following the Python users mailing list, you would for example create a new sub label called python-users under the label ] Groups.

Step 3: Profit

This setup allowed me to follow 16 mailing lists during the last 2 years without drowning in content overflow. If a thread on the list is very active but you already know that you are not interested in following the discussion, just mute the conversation and it will no longer pop up in your second inbox.

Because the new filters make sure that those messages skip the main inbox, you will not get notifications on your Android phone for all these messages, which is another huge plus.

From now on it is just scanning through the headlines in your inbox and marking them all as read. Another good thing about this is that you will be able to perform searches in GMail to find old discussions.

Your new inbox should look like this:

Gmail with multiple inboxes

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