Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Gmail Hack : Bulk Delete

I am lousy at inbox management with my Gmail.  I have over 5000 "unread" messages.  What that really means, of course, is that I'm ignoring 90% of what comes in.  And then, once it gets into numbers like that, the interface for deleting things is just unwieldy.  (Remember the early days when they tried to argue that there was enough space that you never needed to delete anything?  Sure I can archive, but I don't want to archive stuff I never read and never plan to read.)

I just found a trick I'm quite happy with that should help take care of some of that bulk:

  1. Search for a string that's unique for what you want to delete.  Typically this would be the sender's entire name, but if you want to get creative, go for it.
  2. Gmail will tell you how many conversations matched, and show you the first 20 or so.
  3. Select all.  You'll get those 20.
  4. In the status message that tells you "20 conversations selected", there'll be a link that says "Select all conversations that match this search."  Click that!
  5. Now, hit Delete.  Gmail will warn you of what you're about to do.  Go for it.
  6. Tada!  Potentially hundreds of old emails wiped out, without having to page through months of messages 20 at a time.
  7. Optionally, go into Trash and do a "delete forever".  Otherwise all you really did was move them from one place to another.

Unless I'm mistaken, you can't sort gmail by sender, and this is exactly why you'd want to do that - bulk deleting.  At least with this trick if you can identify it as something you want to bulk delete, it's only a few clicks away.

BONUS  TIP - Trying to figure out what to delete?  Hit that "Oldest" button in the lower right corner to jump to your oldest conversations, and start there.  The stuff on the front page is still new enough in your mind that you're thinking about whether to keep it.  But the oldest stuff might go back months or longer, and you'll find yourself saying "I forgot I even had that" for things that you can now happily blow away.

 

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25 comments:

steveo said...

How many emails do you get each day that you can only read one out of ten?

Is the bulk of what you don't read spam? Mailing lists? Flames about how bad your blog is?

I can't imagine not reading my email. The only things I don't read on a regular basis are some high volume mailing lists. But those are set up to be filtered to their own directories.

Duane said...

I've never quite figured out how to get past the "out of sight, out of mind" hurdle. If I filter into directories, then it's almost as good as deleted to me, I'll forget it exists.

Most of the unread stuff, you're right, is either auto confirms about the blog(s), or else high volume mailing lists. But then much of it is stuff like one-off conversations that I want to keep around for reference because I may or may not have a moment to write back. If I archive it, I'll forget all about it. So I leave it lying around. Another large portion of mail comes from businesses that I do enough business with that they're not spam, but unless I'm in the market, I'm not interested. For instance, something like a Babies R Us. Sometimes I do in fact get legit mail from them, so I don't filter them. But I don't necessarily read 90% of what comes in, I just don't take the time to delete it *as* it comes in.

Ragavendra said...

I too thought of srch & del. Wasn't sure of 'Select all conversations that match this search' until I saw your blog. Thanks. it was helpful.

FromTheCapitol.com said...

Cool thanks. I have done this before but I forgot how to do it. I get too much darn email.

DonMc said...

Thanks - I am an extreme example of this issue - I currently have over 30,000 emails in my inbox. And yes - there is simply no way that I am going to read everything that lands in my inbox. Steveo clearly leads a quiet "online" life...
This is a good tip for the bulk cleanup that I clearly need to implement.

Mike said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!

This is really a brilliantly simple idea.

I use a gmail account as kind of a rolling backup of some general use addresses where I work and have gotten so sick of deleting messages 100 at a time.

So glad I found this page.

Shri Dutta Pachori said...

Thanks buddy..i was not able to see that tiny link...ppl like you are angels.. :)

Madhuram said...

Thank you so much Duane. I had set google alerts to one of my gmail account and did not get to it and had accumulated 5000 mails and didn't know how to delete it. I googled for an easy way and landed in your page and your trick worked like magic. Thanks a million.

amanjain said...

Thanks! I was looking for this for long time.

a said...

Sweet! I just got rid of 1400 Facebook messages I never wanted ;)

Thanks!

Englishman in Adana (Turkey) said...
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Englishman in Adana (Turkey) said...
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Chris said...

Thanks for the gmail mass delete tip!

-Chris

Aneesh Surender said...

Muchos Gracias. You're a life saver :)

Laura said...

Thanks for that. I filtered by the string @hotmail.com and got rid of 2344 spam messages !

Wayne said...

If you want to delete all your messages on a particular gmail acount:

1. Select All (which selects the first 50.
2. Click on "Delete All Messages That Match This Search"
3. Click on Delete tab.

Mark Evans said...

Thanks for the tips - been looking for something like it for ages.

Palace Fan thats a NEW Dad said...

Thanks for this post!

Palace Fan thats a NEW Dad said...

oh and I have been using from:'sender' i.e from:facebook to get the search to list only from the 'sender' rather then "facebook" contained within an email

Anonymous said...

Ah man! Life saver!
I was using my mailbox for logging user actions on my site - after a day or two I had well over 10,000 mails... This saved me a lot of time!

Organisation phreaks salute you! :P

Dave G. said...

'Select all conversations that match this search' is a fantastic tip - tiny thing that makes a huge difference in cleaning up 1000's of messages. Thanks so much for posting.

Larry said...

Searching for the letter "a" will get all of them.

Anonymous said...

1841 emails title WARNING CLEARED deleted - only 8 emails that are useful remain! Great tip!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the tip :)

Nick Werle said...

it doesnt work selected all conversations!


why the F do you think I searched this any way?!