Gmail and the Mystery of Auntie Spam

Gmail is sometimes too aggressive about sending messages to spam. This can be especially frustrating when you're a member of an email discussion group and find that you're missing out because some of those discussions are bypassing your inbox and going straight to your spam folder. Fret no longer! There is a solution.

The solution lies in creating a what is termed a filter. You can prevent list messages from going to spam, and you can label and organize them at the same time. 

Begin by reading a list message from Gmail's web interface. Then select Filter messages like these from the More menu at the top of the message. Figure 1 shows that menu, and the item you want to choose is the last one in the list. 

Figure 1. Selecting to add a filter

A dialog will open like that in Figure 2. Here is where you tell Gmail how to identify incoming messages as being list messages. Many email discussion lists are configured to specify a list-specific address in the To line. Look at your list messages. See whether they are all sent to the same address. Type that address into the To field in Figure 2's dialog. 

Figure 2. Identifying messages as being list messages

You've given Gmail the criteria by which to identify incoming message as being from the list. Now click the Continue link to reach the dialog in Figure 3. Here is where you tell Gmail how to respond when a list message is received. 

Figure 3. Specifying Gmail's response to each incoming message from the list

Figure 3 shows the settings that I personally use to manage one of my own lists. These settings do the following:

  • Skip the Inbox reduces clutter in my inbox by archiving the list mail upon receipt. I don't see the messages until I specifically sit down to read them. 
  • Apply the label tags each message with an identifying label. That label appears as a link to the left side of the Gmail interface. I can see all the list messages anytime I want by clicking on that label link. 
  • Never send it to Spam is the magic sauce for never missing a discussion. Check this box to prevent list mail from ever being sent to your spam folder. 

Never send it to Spam is the one option you want to be sure to select so that you never lose a message to spam. What you do with the other two options depends upon your approach to organizing your email. 

Caution! If you are a Gmail user who reads his email through Microsoft Outlook, then be aware that skipping the inbox may mean that Outlook does not download those messages. In that case, avoid selecting Skip the Inbox when creating a filter. 

You can make different choices for different lists to accommodate your preferences. I have one list set to skip my inbox, and another list that I allow to go into my inbox so that I am alerted immediately to each incoming message. I make different choices for different lists. You can too, and that level of control helps make your inbox a lot more manageable.