Gmail Hack: Creating Virtual Folders

Gmail Hack: Creating Virtual Folders

Range Govindan
Aug 24, 2010

A hard thing to understand for people who have never used virtual folders is what exactly are they? How can folders be virtual? While we mentioned in passing how to create virtual folders in Gmail, we didn't really explain in detail how to do so. In this post, we'll take it step by step so anyone can become an inbox ninja!

In this post, we're talking about virtual folders in Gmail. There may be other applications and email software that has them, like Mozilla Thunderbird, but using them in Gmail is a easy way of clearing up a lot of incoming emails that you might want to address at a later date. Examples of this could be Facebook notifications, email notifications, newsletters, and even spam!

Basically, virtual folders in Gmail are easily created when you use a '+' sign to give your email to a another site, blog, newsletter, etc. For example, if your email is, then you could use for any football related tasks. This means that people will use the email to send you some. The beauty of Gmail is that it accepts all of these emails. Once you've started doing this, it's time to create a filter rule in the Settings tab so that all of these emails get tagged by labels.

These labels can be used as virtual folders. It's hard to understand at the beginning why we refer to these tags as virtual folders. However, they allow you to sort your incoming email in a certain fashion and assign categories to it. Inherently, they are virtual folders. I find that it's important to differentiate between virtual folders and tags. Some labels are just keywords added to emails, ie tags. This makes finding them again extremely easy.

We'll take you through these steps. In order for this to work, you'll need to use the different '+' that fit your situation. +work, +studies, +webdesign, +spam, +Facebook, +newsletters, +comments are among a few that will work.

First, click on Settings. Navigate to the Filters sub menu.

In the to box, write down what the incoming email address will be. In our example, it's Click next.

Then, you'll have to select what will happen with this email. The best options include 'Skip Inbox', meaning that the email will be automatically archived. The other one that we want is 'Add Label'. In order to work well, virtual folders require a certain hierarchy, meaning that some folders are more important than others. I use the prefix '@' in a folder name when I want to ensure that it appears first. This list of folders is short, but most of my incoming traffic can be sorted this way.

In our case, we'd add '@football' as a label. You're done! You can even have Gmail run through your inbox to label emails that you've already received.

[head photo via News On It]

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