Getting More Out Of Gmail

Late-night scrolling through Twitter turned up something interesting (really!). The thread described two hidden features within Gmail.

The first was using plus-signs ('+') within the email address for Gmail ... here's something I can really get on board with.

The second described using any number of periods ('.') within the same address ... interesting, but I found out this doesn't work anymore.

Here's the original thread: HERE

I am not advocating using these patterns for free trials and discounts as is mentioned in the thread.

I intend to summarize the article I read and work through a couple of use-cases.

Article Summary

A Gmail address provides more than just name @ gmail.com. Here is a "hidden" tools that allow the address to be modified, while the email still gets through:

Appending a plus-sign ('+') and any combination of words or numbers after your email address. The plus and anything following are ignored.

As I said earlier in this article, the Twitter thread talked about being able to use any number of periods ('.'). After testing this, it was found that this pattern no longer works as described. You cannot add multiple periods to an address.

Use-Cases

To talk about these use-cases, let's assume a fake email address of bob@somewhere.com.

Use-Case #1: Filtering

One use-case that jumps out is being able to filter on the address variant. Changing the left side of the address to bob+buying-001@ would then give me the ability to filter on this address variation and star, label, or archive the email as it comes in.

When setting up filters, search for deliveredto:"bob+buying @ somewhere.com"

Use-Case #2: Tracking

This is powerful.

This address now allows me to see not only that the address was used in a certain scenario, but additionally how the companies I interact with use (or resell) my information.

Additionally, I can automatically archive these addresses at some point, straight to the trash. We don't often know where an address sold is coming from, but we now can identify what address it is going to.

Use-Case #3: Development

I can see a case where a developer is creating a registration system. Often, in this case, the developer needs to clear out the database records or have several email addresses available to register with. Here, the address could be changed using a simple numerical pattern: bob+registering-1@, bob+registering-2@, bob+registering-3@, ...

Clarifications

It should be noted that 'replying to' one of these addresses can be challenging with some Gmail accounts. For instance, if I wanted a bob+amazon@ address on my Amazon account and they want verification of the address (via reply):

  • A corporate email account may not allow the changes I would need to reply with the non-standard form of the address.
  • A personal email can allow this change, but an additional address will need to be defined.

Additionally, there are many companies that incorrectly flag emails with a plus-sign as invalid.

Conclusions

For filtering, tracking, and development, this is a powerful tool. There are some inherent limitations and it seems as if the tools have changed over time and may again in the future.

But, for the basic use-cases described in this article, there are some good tools hidden within Gmail.

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