Save Time with these 2 Strange Gmail Tricks

How to Use the Gmail Plus Sign and Dot Tricks to Save Time

A number of folks have recently signed up to receive my emails. Looking over the subscriber list, I see that about two-thirds of you have Gmail addresses. I wanted to share 2 time-saving Gmail tricks that you might not be aware of.

Gmail logo

The following two tricks work for Gmail and some other email providers as well:

1. Gmail Plus Sign Trick

Let’s say your email address is john.doe@gmail.com. After the “john.doe” part and before the “@gmail.com” part, you can add a plus sign and almost any other text you want, and the email will still get delivered to you.

As an example, an email sent to john.doe+blablabla@gmail.com will go to the same recipient as an email sent to john.doe@gmail.com. Try it for yourself! (With your own address. Don’t bother poor John Doe.)

Here are two ways to use this feature to save you time:

1a. Combine the Gmail Plus Sign with Email Filtering

Let’s say you want to receive emails from Banana Republic because you know that they often contain coupon codes for 40% off. So you sign up using your email address: john.doe@gmail.com.

You receive their emails all right, but more than you anticipated. Soon, they clutter your inbox.

You could unsubscribe from Banana Republic’s emails. But then you won’t have a 40% off coupon code the next time you want to buy something there.

Alternatively, you could create an email filter so that whenever an email arrives from Banana Republic, it skips your inbox and is placed, instead, in a “coupon” email folder you create. The next time you go to purchase something from Banana Republic, you can check in that folder (or just search in the Gmail search bar) for an email containing a 40% off coupon code.

That’s not a bad approach. The problem, however, is that you have to repeat that process for every such subscription that you want: J. Crew, Gap, etc.

The better approach is to sign up, in the first place, for all such stores by entering your email address like this: john.doe+coupon@gmail.com. Then, you create an email filter such that any email sent to that address skips your inbox and goes into your “coupon” folder.

Using the Gmail plus sign trick in combination with email filtering saves you time in two ways:

  1. First, you only have to create an email filter rule once, rather than once for each store.
  2. Secondly, and more importantly, your inbox receives fewer emails, thereby saving you time dealing with email.

Want to know how to quickly set up email filters in Gmail? Snag my free “Gmail Filters Quickstart Guide.” I created it to have you up and running in no time:

1b. Use the Plus Sign to Manage Accounts for Others

A second way I use the plus sign to save time is when I’m signing my wife up for an online account that I will manage. In that case, rather than signing up with my standard email address—e.g., john.doe@gmail.com—I sign up with this address: john.doe+sarah@gmail.com.

Take, for instance, Sarah’s and my accounts with Hyatt. My account uses my standard email address.

Sarah’s account, however, uses my email address with the john.doe+sarah@gmail.com format. As a result, whenever Hyatt sends an email to the address in Sarah’s profile, the email lands in my inbox instead of hers.

That arrangement saves us time in two ways:

  1. It saves Sarah time because she doesn’t have to forward emails to me from Hyatt that she doesn’t really care about.
  2. And it saves me time because I don’t have to go hunting for an email to her from Hyatt that I care about. Those emails just come straight to me.

One Problem with the Gmail Plus Sign Trick

Some sites, unfortunately, do not recognize a plus sign as a valid character in an email address.

The workaround in those cases is to use the following trick instead.

2. Gmail Dot Trick

Gmail completely ignores any single periods that are between characters to the left of the “@” symbol in a Gmail address. The following email addresses, for instance, are all identical in Gmail’s eyes:

When a site won’t allow me to create an account for Sarah using the john.doe+sarah@gmail.com format, I just create it instead by modifying the number of periods in my standard email address. My own account with that site will use my email address, e.g. john.doe@gmail.com. And Sarah’s account with that site will use a modified version of my email address such as johndoe@gmail.com.

(As for how to remember the account credentials for an account you create using such a modified version of your email address as the username, you need a password manager. I cover password managers and provide my recommendation for the best, free password manager in this post: “How to Save 20+ Hours/Year with a Free Password Manager.”)

Question: Did you know about the Gmail plus sign and dot tricks? If so, are there other ways you use those tricks? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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2 thoughts on “Save Time with these 2 Strange Gmail Tricks

  1. These are terrific tricks!! Especially the +! My mind is buzzing with all the ways I can use that! I actually just used it for the first time when I signed up for your newsletter. 😉 I am signed up for a number of interesting newsletters and I enjoy reading them, but at my leisure, and I would rather they *not* fill my Inbox causing me to miss other important, time-sensitive e-mails.

    Thanks for taking the time to share!