Doug Behl & Ken Getz: Organize email by using filters in Gmail |

Doug Behl & Ken Getz: Organize email by using filters in Gmail

Photo for The Union John Hart
Jorn Hart | The Union

I use Gmail, and I get a lot of emails from various online shopping sites, and although I do like seeing the specials, it would be so nice if those emails didn’t appear in my Inbox. Is there some way to sweep those shopping emails into a separate folder or something?

We completely understand — it’s useful to get notices about special online deals, or perhaps email about upcoming events, or whatever, but having these emails clogging your inbox makes it difficult to see what’s really important. Gmail does provide special filtering for categories of email, and you may find Gmail’s automatic categorization of emails to be useful (we do not, however, and prefer to generate our own filtering mechanisms).

First off, please note that Gmail does not support the standard kind of “folder” concept that you might be used to. Putting email into a “folder” implies that each email can be in, at most, one folder, just like a piece of paper in a real file folder. On the other hand, Gmail supports applying labels to messages, and any message can have as many labels as you want applied to it. These labels can be thought of in the same way as filing messages in folders, but they’re far more powerful. Because you can apply multiple labels to the same email message, you can organize your email in very clever ways, using your own system of labels. Google gives you a huge amount of storage for emails, and their concept is that you never really need to delete an email (unless you really want to) — you can archive all your email, labeling things as you go, and later find old emails by searching for key words or by looking at groups of emails with the same labels applied to them. Note that in Gmail, “inbox” is itself a label applied to messages when they first arrive — when you look at your Gmail inbox, you’re viewing all the messages with the “inbox” label applied to them. If you remove the “inbox” label from a message, it automatically appears in the special All Mail group. Asking Gmail to archive an email does exactly this: It removes the “inbox” label, so that Gmail still maintains the email message, but doesn’t display it in your inbox.

But back to the original question: Labels wouldn’t be very useful if you had to apply them manually to each email. Gmail allows you to create rules that can filter email messages automatically, as they arrive. Given a message that you’d like to filter (so that it doesn’t appear in the inbox, but does have a label associated with it), you can select “Filter messages like this” from the drop-down menu to the right of your email message. This action allows you to create a rule that automatically labels the message for you. Note that if you want the message to have a new label but no longer appear in your inbox (this is Ken’s goal when he receives marketing messages), make sure you also choose the option to skip the inbox — this causes Gmail to remove the “inbox” label from the new message. You can also choose to have Gmail mark the message as read, or leave it in its unread state.

Using Gmail without using labels means that you’re really not taking advantage of all that Gmail has to offer, as labeling messages is one of Gmail’s greatest features. For more information on creating and using Gmail labels, check out this link:

Setting Specific Power Modes in Windows

I’m using a laptop for my daily work, and depending on whether I’m running on battery or not, I’d like to have different settings for screen timeout, hard-drive usage, sleep timing, and so on. Does Windows provide settings that let me control this behavior?

Windows provides full-featured support for managing different power states based on whether you’re plugged in or not. In addition, you can also make power management decisions based on the time of day: For example, you might want to have the power settings work differently during the normal work day than you do at nights or on weekends. The feature is powerful, and its name is Power Plans.

To get started, open the Windows Control Panel, and select Power Options. Once there, you’ll find some built-in, default power plans. You can modify these power plans, or you can create your own. Choose “Create a power plan” to create a new plan; choose “Change plan settings” to modify an existing plan. You can determine how long to wait before turning off the display, and how long to wait before putting the computer to sleep, in the basic plan settings. Click “Change advanced power settings” to modify other settings, like how long to wait before putting the hard drive to sleep, and whether to wake the computer based on mouse activity. You always have the option to restore power plan default settings, so don’t worry about messing things up!

For more information on creating and modifying power plans, check out the article here: http://

Doug Behl and Ken Getz spent years answering technical questions in private, and are minimizing the questions by pre-emptively publishing the answers. Hear Doug and Ken’s tech tips on KNCO radio weekdays at around 8:21a.m. and 5:38 p.m.; find full write-ups including links to the products they mention at Submit your own technical questions to

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