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The Other Google + Canvas

Email may be antiquated but so is my 1997 Ford F150 that has 219,000 miles on it. However, just because something is old does not mean that we should throw it out and not use it anymore.

The trick with old vehicles AND email is to continue working with them to make sure they are efficient and useful for you. With my truck, that means regular maintenance and updating things that fall off or quit working. With email, it means utilizing the new Gmail feature I just learned about…Using an Address Alias.

If you haven’t switched to Gmail yet…well…what are you waiting for? How can you say no to plenty of free space, Internet access to all your mail, threaded messages, and a great spam filter? If you haven’t yet made the switch, I highly encourage you to do so.

If you DO use Gmail then congratulations! Gmail has many fine and worthy features. However, what Gmail does not have (and no email system has) is a single “anti-inbox-clogging” feature. What I wouldn’t give for one button I could click that would auto-magically eliminate all the trash from my inbox, sort all the important messages, and delete everything I don’t need to read. What Gmail DOES have, however, is a whole list of tools and processes that you can set up to help you keep your inbox clean and organized (per the Inbox Zero mentality).

One of the tools I just learned about yesterday (oh, where was I when this first came out?) is Google Alias. I call it “the Other Google +”. Google Alias allows you to create an email “alias” by adding “+youralias” to the end of your email address (before the @ symbol) and then you can set up filters to organize those messages.

Let me illustrate. I use the Gmail label system to organize my messages. With a respectful nod to Maria Andersen and her “Organize your Digital Self” philosophy, I cannot live without my labels…many, many of them. I use labels to organize all parts of my email inbox including messages related to work projects AND the courses that I teach. Instructure Canvas, the new LMS that we are switching to at Maricopa, does a GREAT job of pushing out all kinds of notifications to my email. The only problem is that those notifications add to the amount of email I get and I have to sort through them quickly to see what and when I need to respond and to which class label I need to add them.

This summer, I am teaching one course (MAT122 online). I created a label in Gmail called 000_SU2012_MAT122 and gave it a nice color (blue).

In Canvas, I added the alias email address, “” and made it the preference for all my notifications:

In Gmail, I set up a filter for messages sent TO the alias, skipped the inbox, applied the label I had made, and added a star to each one.

Then, I tested it by sending messages to the email alias and Voila!!!! Like magic the messages organized themselves into the label. Now, any message I receive from a student via Canvas goes right into that folder. I can collect the messages during the day and respond to them at specific times. This helps me set good communication expectations with my students, keep my sanity, and avoid misplacing messages.

Contact me if you want additional information. I’d be happy to walk you through it. Happy emailing!