There are lots of great reasons to use an email alias — an email address that is different from your primary one but still goes to your inbox. An email alias is useful for both work and your personal life. By using an alias (or several), not only will you be able to keep your inbox organized, but you’ll gain some privacy and security as well.
You can use an alias to quickly identify incoming messages from colleagues versus new business acquaintances, from close friends and family versus everyone else, and between known people and the all-too-friendly salesperson who somehow got your email and now sends you daily messages about his new product. And of course, you can use an email alias for all of the accounts, subscriptions and forms you sign up for online.
An email alias is a bit like a disguise — only the people you identify will know your true identity.
You can set up one or more email aliases on most major email services, including Microsoft and Google. However, this is one area where Microsoft Outlook is far more flexible than its competitor Gmail.
Let’s start with Outlook. But before we jump into the instructions, note that the steps may not be exactly the same for you. It will depend on your Outlook version. Also, if you are looking to do this on a work account, the email alias may not be available, so check with your company’s IT department for assistance.
Open your inbox and look for the gear icon in the upper right corner. Select "View all Outlook settings," "Sync email" and then "Manage or choose a primary alias." At this point, Outlook will verify your identity by sending a text message with a code to your phone. Once you’ve responded on your computer with the code, a new window will open where you will be able to set up one or up to 19 email aliases. Under the section titled "Account alias," click "Add email" and type in the new email address you’d like to use as an alternate to your primary one. It’s a good idea to write down your alternates with the purpose for each, especially if you are using variations of your name.
Back in Outlook on the web, messages sent to this new address will arrive in your inbox, along with those to your primary email address. You can also use your aliases when composing a new email and when replying. See the email address options by clicking on "From."
If you’d like to take the sorting a step further, you can set up a rule for handling email from your various addresses. For instance, you might make a "Prospect" folder for incoming messages from new business contacts. Open your Outlook settings again, choose "Rules" and then "Add new rule." Choose the email address from the dropdown in the "To" section, select "Move to folder" and then create a new folder. In the future, all emails sent to this address will go into the designated folder and you can go through them when you’re ready. Similarly, you can tell Outlook to automatically delete emails or mark them as important. You have many choices to set up your inbox so it works for you, and you can go back into your settings at any time to make adjustments.
Google’s Gmail for business users via G Suite offers email aliases as described for Outlook, but the standalone version does not. Instead, Gmail users must use symbols to set up alternate email addresses, which works just fine but does call attention to the fact you’re using an alias.
To set up an alias, you will use the plus or period symbol to alter your primary email address. If you use a plus, add it to the end of your name and then use a descriptor: firstname.lastname@example.org. Periods can be put anywhere before the @ symbol, so you might choose email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. All of these Gmail addresses will funnel into your inbox. Unfortunately, you do not have the option of sending or replying using an alternate email address, but the technique will still help you categorize emails.
By setting up filters, which are similar to Outlook rules, you can tell Google what to do with each email variation. You can automatically have them starred, labeled, marked read or low priority. You can also block all incoming emails to a specific email, which you may want to do if you’ve used an email to get a one-time discount and have no interest in receiving updates from a company.