Advanced Mailing Lists – Filtering

Advanced Mailing Lists – Filtering

You can manage many mailing lists from across the Internet easily when they are filtered into their own mailboxes.

The email filters section provides information about using filters to perform automatic actions on incoming email. One of the available actions is the ability to automatically move new email into specified mailboxes, which is exactly what is needed to manage multiple mailing lists so that they don’t overwhelm your Inbox. To set this up, carry out the following steps:

  • Folder. First create an email folder called “Mailing list traffic” or something similar.
  • Mailbox. Create a mailbox in the folder created above for each mailing list you join, and name it after the list. For example, the mailbox for the list “” could be named “Gardening” for easy identification.
  • Filter. Set a filter in your email application to automatically transfer the incoming email from each list into its own mailbox. For example, if the email from the Gardening list always has a “From” field of “”, then you can create a filter like the following:

IF “From:” contains “”
THEN transfer to mailbox “Mailing Lists / Gardening”.

Some mailing lists set the “From:” field to the original sender of each email, not the mailing list address, which means it varies and can’t be used for a filter trigger. In that case, usually the “To” field is set to the mailing list name and can be used for the filter trigger instead. With some applications you can set the filter to trigger if “any header” contains the mailing list name. However, make sure that whatever you choose for the filter trigger is completely unique to that list, so you won’t filter non-list email by mistake, which is why setting the trigger to the full email address of the mailing list is usually the safest criteria.

If you join several mailing lists, you can set up more than one kind of filter:

  • Basic filters. Foundation filters as described above to provide basic management of most of your lists.
  • Current lists. For a few low volume and/or high interest lists — such as a humor list that comes each morning, or a business letter that comes three times a week — you might choose not to filter and let them continue to arrive in your Inbox for immediate reading.
  • Fine grain. Occasionally for important matters you might set up a fine-grained filter to copy messages with high-profile keywords into a separate mailbox for consolidated reading. For example, if you are breeding championship roses, then you might create a filter that copies any email from the gardening list that contains the word “rose” anywhere in the message into a top-level mailbox named “Roses”. Or if you’re writing a paper on Mark Twain, you might filter any email containing the word “Twain” from several literature mailing lists into a top level folder named “Twain”.

    These sophisticated filters might require use of boolean logic to combine two or more conditions with the AND operator, and often need to be moved to the beginning of the filter list so they get first crack at all incoming email. An example of the rose filter is shown below:

IF “From:” contains “”
AND anywhere contains “rose”
THEN transfer to mailbox “Roses”.

These filtering techniques enable you to conveniently join many mailing lists, even a dozen or more, since their messages no longer clutter up your Inbox. After you scan the messages in a mailing list mailbox and read the ones that look interesting, you can select all the messages and then set their status to “read” with one command with a menu item or right-click option with most email applications. This usually turns the mailbox highlight off until new email arrives, which helps you see at a glance which lists have new mail and which ones don’t.

Because this technique is so convenient, you might build up hundreds of unread messages in your filter mailboxes over time, so should periodically review and delete old messages that you no longer need. Most mailing lists maintain archives that you can use to retrieve old messages later if you really need to.