Use Thunderbird’s Email Filters to Keep Your Inbox Clean

Are you missing important emails in a sea of newsletters, shipping updates, and cat picture forwards? Your first step should be to unsubscribe from all those newsletters, but step two should be to set up some email filters to automatically sort your incoming mail. Thunderbird, one of the most popular desktop email clients, lets you set up an e-mail account, folders, and filters in just a few minutes. Even better, you can run the filters on an already-cluttered inbox to sort out your existing emails.

If you already have your email connected to Thunderbird and know how to create folders, you can jump straight to the third section: “Creating and running folders in Thunderbird.”

If you already have an email client connected to your webmail, it probably uses IMAP. This allows two-way communication, so any changes (deleted emails, created folders, etc.) made in one will appear in the other.

1. Go to “File” and hover over the “New” button. When that menu appears, you’ll want to select “Existing Account.”


2. Enter your name, email address, and password. (it’s best to check the “Remember password” box unless you want to enter your password every time you login.)


3. Thunderbird should find your email provider and automatically configure IMAP for you. If it doesn’t, you may have to search for your webmail provider’s IMAP settings and enter them in “Manual Config.”

1. Right-click on the name of the email account you want to create a folder in.


2. Hit “Create Folder” and give it a name – “Work,” “Banking,” “Cat Pictures,” etc.


3. Once you click “Create Folder,” that folder will show up in both Thunderbird and in your webmail.

Creating and running filters in Thunderbird

1. To find your filters, go to “Tools” and click on “Message Filters.”


2. Here, you can see all filters for your currently selected email address. Make sure you’ve selected the correct email address in the “Filters for” dropdown menu. Select the “New…” option on the right side to create a new set of rules, or if you want to copy an existing filter to a different email account, you can select the arrow on the right to see the “Copy” option.


3. Enter a name for your filter. Making it the same name as the corresponding folder is a good idea. The “Manually Run” (lets you run the filters yourself) and “Getting New Mail” (automatically sorts incoming mail) checkboxes should already be selected. The other two, “Archiving” and “After Sending,” will filter your messages as they are archived and sent, respectively. “Filter Before Junk Classification” means that emails that would have otherwise been put in your spam folder will instead be sorted to the folder specified in the filter.


4. It’s time to lay down a few rules! Thunderbird can sort your emails based on the subject line, the sender, keywords in the body, and many other options, so select what you need.


5. Here you can tell the program about your keyword. Is it complete (is) or partial (contains)? Are you filtering for emails that have the keyword (contains) or don’t have the keyword (doesn’t contain)?


6. Finally, enter the keyword. This can be an email address, a name, a number – anything you need Thunderbird to look for. You can create and delete rules by pressing “+” or “-.“ If you have multiple rules, you’ll need to select whether an email needs to match all of the rules or any (just one) of the rules to be sorted.


7. The “Perform these actions” section presents even more options: do you want to move the email to your folder, make a copy, auto-forward it, or maybe put a star on it? You can set multiple rules here as well; if you need to, you can auto-forward it, “star” it, and move it all at once.


8. If you selected “Move” or “Copy,” you’ll also need to select the folder to send your email to. Just click “OK” to save the filter.


9. If you want to apply this filter to the emails currently in your inbox, you can either select a filter and run it on any folder in Thunderbird from the “Message Filters” menu, or you can go back to “Tools” and select “Run Filters on Folder” to automatically run all of your filters for that email address.


Thunderbird’s filters are a powerful way to get your emails organized, whether you need to handle new ones more efficiently or clean up a clogged inbox. Nonetheless, keep an eye on the results of your filters to make sure none of your rules are going wonky. Rules that are overly narrow, broad, or complex may need some tweaking. Remember, filters execute in the order they appear in the “Message Filters” menu, so if you have two filters that could potentially catch the same email, only the first one will execute.

Image credit: Shocked man busy sending messages emails from smartphone by DepositPhotos

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