Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Setting Gmail up to auto-forward to multiple recipients

My husband and I both have our own email addresses, and the "Compass" management system at our kid's school is for some unknown reason incapable of consistently sending notifications to both of us. Their solution is "both parents should use the same email address". Alrighty.

Usually it's not me that receives the notification, but randomly it is, which means if I don't remember to log in every week, or my husband doesn't remember to forward every single email just in case, I miss stuff. Then there's all the sporting club emails that only allow one registered email address field, so I spend time every week just forwarding emails and logging into systems to make sure I know what I'm supposed to know.

Today I set up a new Gmail account. I chose Gmail because (a) I already use it, (b) it allows forwarding and importantly, also filtering, and (c) Gmail has good spam filters (which is also why my kids got Gmail accounts when they were old enough to first get email). Neither of us wanted one more account to check, so I've set this new account up to automatically forward anything sent to it, to our usual email addresses.

Most email allows forwarding, but only to one address. Here's how I set up Gmail to forward to both of us:

  1. First - go to "Settings" and then "Forwarding and POP/IMAP". The bad news is, you can't just enter the multiple email addresses in here because it only allows one.
  2. Click on the "Add a forwarding address" button and enter the first email address you want to forward to.
  3. Click on the "Add a forwarding address" button again and enter the second email address. (Keep doing this for all subsequent email addresses).
  4. Ensure that "Disable forwarding" is ticked and click on "Save Changes".
  5. Each email address you've entered as a forwarding address will receive an email with a link to click, which confirms they are willing to be forwarded-to.
  6. Once all the email addresses have been confirmed - click on "Filters and blocked addresses".
  7. Click on "Create a new filter".
  8. Enter a very long and random set of characters in the "Doesn't have" box (I used a 50 character string generated via my password manager). This is the matching part of the filter, so you're effectively saying "forward everything that doesn't match this 50 character string". Click "Continue".
  9. Click on the "Forward it to" checkbox and click to select the first forward-to email address. (You may also like to check "Skip the Inbox" and "Mark as read" - it doesn't affect the forward but keeps the inbox of your generic account empty, so if something goes wrong you'll be able to log in and see what you haven't had forwarded). Create the filter.
  10. Create another filter (I used the same 50 character string) in the same way, and select the second forward-to email address. (Create as many filters as are required).
  11. Test your filters to make sure they're working. Send an email from a different email, to the new generic address. Then check that all of the forward-to recipients have received the test email.
  12. Start using your new generic family email address in situations where you both want to get the email.
Seriously, it's 2018, shouldn't technology be better than this by now?!

PS: If you're thinking of setting this up for a sporting organisation or not-for-profit, take a look at Google Groups instead. A Google Group can be created to act just like the old-style mailing listings, where everybody sends email to a single address, and everybody in the group gets the email. It also keeps a copy on the web, so it's easy to go back and find things later on.


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