Roomba for Gmail
July 7, 2011 8:05 PM   Subscribe

Is it possible to set up a script or macro to run periodically on my Gmail inbox?

There are certain kinds of recurring mail I'd like to be able to archive automatically every once in a while. (Example: Mail that includes "is now following you on Twitter", mail from Google+, mail with headers from email lists I subscribe to.)

Here's the problem: I DO want these emails to go to my inbox. But I don't want to have to interact with them beyond that -- just seeing the subject is all I need out of that kind of email.

Setting up a filter to archive this kind of mail means I'll just plain never see them, and I do at least want to see them. But it's also annoying to have to do an inbox search for these recurring mails every couple of days to clear the clutter.

What are my options, if any?
posted by Andrhia to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You want to see them, but you want them to also disappear? Why not filter them? The filter will default to "keep as unread," and then items that aren't in your inbox but filtered away and unread will make that filter bold with (x) next to the filter name, indicating the number of unread messages. That way, you will notice new messages, and can read those items whenever you wish, but they won't clutter your inbox.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:09 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I would suggest a filter. I'd set it up to search the subject line for "is not following you on Twitter" and set it to archive into a label that you can see above the fold on the sidebar (set the label so it shows up all the time), e.g. "New Twitter followers". Then you can see by the unread count in the label how many new followers you have (or whatever) and just clean that out periodically.
posted by Phire at 8:18 PM on July 7, 2011

As per the question, a filter does not support the behavior I'm looking for. If they don't hit my inbox initially, I will simply never notice them. I know this because I've done it before: Me and my Google Alerts filter that I remember to look at mayyyybe once every two weeks.

This also wouldn't let me easily see these emails as they come in from, say, the inbox on my phone while I'm traveling. I want to see them in my inbox on arrival and then automatically archive them after about a day.
posted by Andrhia at 8:23 PM on July 7, 2011

Can you set it up to get a custom label automatically, but not archive the messages? Then you don't have to do a custom search, you can simply click on the label and delete everything. You can use Boolean search terms (OR, AND, etc.) so that messages from Facebook and Tumblr and Twitter all get caught.
posted by Phire at 8:28 PM on July 7, 2011

gmail forums and more recent help forums seem to imply that his is something that a lot of people would like, but no easy way to do this automagically. You could theoretically set up an IMAP program to do something more automatically [i.e. check your mail and delete stuff based on more refined filters] but this sounds like it's outside of the range of what you want, complication-wise. I'd ask again over in this forum, they seem to be the go to folks for gmail hackery.
posted by jessamyn at 8:43 PM on July 7, 2011

How are you using Gmail? If it's on a web browser, the notification for new unread messages in a filter don't jump out at you, but they're (for me) visibly notable (filters being located to the left side of the inbox), but they're not readily visible on smartphone views (at least on my Droid). Perhaps your typical use could lend some more ideas and hints from others.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:15 PM on July 7, 2011

I have the same sort of desire on my inbox. I actually have over 75 filters working, but want certain items to be observed once and then once a week I could archive them. I have not found a solution that involves a script or macro or anything other than a Friday afternoon task I undertake.

But, I changed the way I view my email. I no longer keep the inbox as my primary view. I watch "All Mail" as my default view. What I do is set up the filter to sort it into its proper label without marking it read. Then when viewing in the "All Mail" view, I view it when it comes in using my keyboard commands and it is already archived. Effectively what I have done is make my inbox for mail from new senders and for "Follow-up" items I unarchive and send to the inbox.

I have also set up some "quick links" I think from Labs that allow me to sort all emails meeting certain filter types and then I simply check all and archive and viola, no more in the inbox. I guess what I am saying is that I know of no way to automate the process (I am not a programmer by any stretch of anyone's imagination) but I have made what I believe to be the most efficient work around.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:07 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Could you use a combination of the lab feature multiple inboxs and filters. You could have the inbox at the bottom or the side of your main emails clearly separated.
posted by Raff at 2:49 AM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use the Labs "Multiple Inboxes" feature and filters for this very purpose. The extra inboxes are at the top, and show items that match one of several labels and are unread. For example, any number of forum "someone has replied to your post" emails get filed away into my "Reply Notices" mini-inbox (skipping the main one), and vanish as soon as I read them. There's another inbox for "Someone sent you a message on Facebook/OkCupid/your website/Google+", which behaves similarly, and a "Todo" inbox/filter combination that collects emails from myself with "todo" in the subject line, labels and stars them, and stops showing them when I unstar them.
posted by NMcCoy at 4:52 AM on July 8, 2011

filthy light thief: A good point on my mail use cases. When I'm at home and working, I use Gmail in a standing tab in Chrome on a Macbook Pro. I don't find filtered labels in the sidebar stand out enough for me to notice them, and particularly not in a timely manner for ex. responding to a comment.

When I'm out and about, I use Gmail in the basic IMAP mail app on my iPhone, so anything that gets filtered out of the inbox is functionally invisible, label or no.

So far it looks like Phire's suggestion is the closest I'm going to get -- create a label that goes to the inbox and manually archive it once in a while. Multiple inboxes sounds like it would work for the browser case, but I'm assuming it wouldn't help any on my phone. (Tell me if I'm mistaken!)
posted by Andrhia at 6:04 AM on July 8, 2011

Yeah, I'm totally in love with Multiple Inboxes (though the new 'priority mail' feature that Gmail's rolled out sort of simulates a similar function, if you tweak it enough) but you won't see it on any of the mobile interfaces.

If you want to make these stand out even more when you're cleaning them up, you can always assign a different colour to the label, which will be a stronger visual guide for when you scan your main inbox.
posted by Phire at 12:25 PM on July 8, 2011

Yep, phire, your labeling schema seems to work pretty well for periodic cleanup. Thanks for the suggestions, everyone!
posted by Andrhia at 9:42 AM on July 9, 2011

Woah, there is rudimentary support for scripting things in Gmail! (Prompted by this how-to blog post from Google)
posted by misterbrandt at 9:47 PM on July 29, 2011

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