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The Quixotic Engineer

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Gmail - Mark Spam Messages as Read

I had mentioned in an earlier post that I was mildly frustrated by the "new spam messages" counter in Gmail, mostly because I mistook it for the "new inbox messages" counter in my peripheral vision. Before my hard drive crash, I used a Firefox plug-in called Greasemonkey to hide the counter. This solution turned out to be inelegant when I realized that at work, at school, and on any computer other than my own I would still be visually assaulted by that silly counter. I decided then and there that there must be a better way.

Fortunately for me, there was. I had previously tried to go about using the remarkably versatile Gmail filters to mark all spam messages as read, but lacked an adequate description of what messages to mark. A closer look into Gmail search semantics revealed that I could use the keywords "in:spam" to refer to the all messages in my spam folder. Knowing this, I set up the following filters:

  • Has the words: in:spam
  • Doesn't have: my name, my school, my work, etc.
  • Do this: Mark as read

This filter simple and efficiently hides all new spam messages, while still alerting me when potential non-spam messages have been blocked. If you're as fussy as I am when it comes to Gmail, I hope that this little trick comes in handy.



  • I have been looking for something like this for a while.

    By Blogger Vivek Jishtu, At November 17, 2007 at 9:39 AM  

  • Works great, but be aware that the "Mark as read" option is only available with the newer Gmail interface, which at the moment is still locking up my Firefox on Windows.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 17, 2007 at 9:52 AM  

  • Thanks for the heads up, man!

    By Blogger TonNet, At November 17, 2007 at 9:53 AM  

  • This comment has been removed by the author.

    By Blogger Bill N, At November 17, 2007 at 10:08 AM  

  • I delete it. In my trip to putting my address everywhere, I end up with various spam (viagra? porn?). I just set it to delete all that crap.

    Nice tip, by the way.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 17, 2007 at 10:34 AM  

  • The CustomizeGoogle FireFox extension also can hide the spam counter. It works most of the time, but fails occasionally.

    I now use your "in:spam" filter as a backup measure, just in case.

    Thanks for the great tip.

    By Blogger Junior Bodine, At November 17, 2007 at 11:05 AM  

  • Awesome! I just created my filter and it works beautifully!

    What a fantastic idea - thanks for sharing that with all of us.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 17, 2007 at 11:09 AM  

  • Yeah the spam count is so annoying that I always use Thunderbird now instead of the website.
    I requested a way to just delete spam rather than constantly remind me of it years ago, but google never fixed this:

    So thanks for the tip. Now that gmail supports IMAP though, I never need to use the website.

    By Blogger Doug Holton, At November 17, 2007 at 11:26 AM  

  • @Everyone:
    Thank you! I'm glad you found it useful.

    @Doug Holton:
    I've set up my Gmail with Thunderbird at home as well, with the MinimizeToTrayand MinimizeToTrayEnhancer
    add-ons to let it run in the background. However, I usually just use this to give me an offline copy of my e-mail, as well as notify me when new mail arrives. For day to day use I find the Gmail interface is much nicer to work with than Thunderbird, but that's just personal preference. Thanks for the comment!

    By Blogger Matthew Gallant, At November 17, 2007 at 11:37 AM  

  • should it work if I 'skip inbox' and archive it? will it still mark it as read if archived? (see what anonymous said above). I am using opera with gmail IMAP and there are currently issues due to a clash in their similar fucntionality, this causes duplicated mail among other things, but most annoying was the spam getting into opera's 'unread' accesspoint. I have had no new spam messages to test whether or not it works yet! great manipulation of gmail though, thanks for sharing.

    By Anonymous Ian, At November 17, 2007 at 1:35 PM  

  • @Ian:
    I did a bit of reading around the Opera + Gmail problem, what a frustrating bug. I'd be curious to know what happened if you used the same filter, but chose "Delete it" instead of marking them as read.

    As for choosing "Skip inbox", I'm really not sure how that would work. My best guess would be either:
    a) Spam messages never reach the inbox, so the filter has no effect.
    b) The spam messages would be archived with all other mail, which would be bad!
    If you do test it, please let me know the results.

    By Blogger Matthew Gallant, At November 17, 2007 at 1:50 PM  

  • i was going to try this with my domain mail hosted at gmail (google apps) but "mark as read" is not an option! it is there in my old mailboxes however but i don't use them anymore.

    By Blogger DyNama, At November 17, 2007 at 11:13 PM  

  • @Matthew:

    A short test with my old GMail-account shows that "Skip the Inbox (archive message)" makes the spam messages available in the "All Mail" folder... Not what you'd want!

    I'll wait until "Mark message as read" is rolled out to GAFYD-accounts.

    By Anonymous Martijn Coppoolse, At November 18, 2007 at 6:04 AM  

  • @Martijn Coppoolse:
    Thanks for letting me know.

    By Blogger Matthew Gallant, At November 18, 2007 at 10:36 AM  

  • You also need to have the Language set to English (US) to get "Mark as read"

    By Anonymous Anonymous, At November 18, 2007 at 12:44 PM  

  • Nice tip!

    Here's a way to add this filter using Gmail's new for permalinks support. Just change "my name" to your name and tell the fliter to "Mark as read". ;)

    By Blogger Marsh, At November 19, 2007 at 2:28 PM  

  • @Anonymous:
    Gmail certainly has some strange idiosyncrasies...

    Thanks for the tip!

    By Blogger Matthew Gallant, At November 19, 2007 at 3:28 PM  

  • thanks man! i've been looking for a way to note folder location in a filter!

    i use apple mail with gmail imap, and ever time i get a new e-mail the mail counter will list it both in the inbox and the "all mail" (archive) folder--and it will continue to be listed in all mail, even after i've marked the inbox version as "read."

    i tried to setup a filter through apple mail but couldn't find a way to specify folder location; now, however, after reading your tip i am golden!

    glad to see other people out there are as OCD as i am about their...everything.

    By Blogger Andrew, At November 19, 2007 at 5:31 PM  

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