I often participate in open-source mailing lists such as python-ideas. These mailing lists are usually run by a software called Mailman, which unfortunately doesn't have a feature that is really important to me: I want to only get mails for threads I participate in. Just because I'm participating in a discussion in a mailing list, doesn't mean I want to get updates for every single post that someone makes. I only want to get updates on threads that I participated in.

Now, Google Groups has this basic feature, but Mailman doesn't. And people on python-ideas don't like it when I post through Google Groups because it makes messages look weird or something. So they're asking me to use Gmail. They suggested using Gmail filters to avoid getting all the mailing list messages in my inbox.

So I tried this filter:

Matches: [Python-ideas] -{[email protected]}
Do this: Skip Inbox

But it didn't work, because some messages that are in my thread but after a message I sent appear to not include my email address.

What can I do to filter out all messages that are in threads I didn't participate in?

  • 1
    What, if anything, is different about the emails you receive from a thread that you have participated in to one that you have not? Any distinguishing headers perhaps?
    – MrWhite
    Oct 10, 2014 at 20:09
  • w3d: Not as far as I know :(
    – Ram Rachum
    Oct 10, 2014 at 20:55
  • There was a similar question asked here but I haven't been able to turn it up.
    – ale
    Oct 10, 2014 at 22:16
  • Without a way to distinguish messages in threads where you're participating or not filters aren't going to be workable. Perhaps using "mute conversation" on threads you don't want to follow or stars on conversations you do might be the only practical solutions.
    – ale
    Oct 10, 2014 at 22:19
  • The star solution would have been acceptable, but it's impossible to specify is:starred to a GMail filter :(
    – Ram Rachum
    Oct 11, 2014 at 10:13

3 Answers 3


I don't think you're going to be able to do this with a filter, since there's no identifiable characteristic on the message to let you know if it's for a thread you're participating in or not.

You should be able to do what you want with a simple search, though.

Since all the messages you send (including, obviously, any replies you make to a thread) will get the sent pseudo-label. So, a search like:

in:sent subject:"[python-ideas]"

should bring back all of the conversations with "[python-ideas]" somewhere in the subject that you've replied to. Anything that's unread will be conversations with new messages. You could even filter that further:

in:sent subject:"[python-ideas]" is:unread

This also generates a unique URL that you can bookmark or otherwise store for future use.

  • Nice workaround. I hope though that I won't have to take it.
    – Ram Rachum
    Oct 16, 2014 at 19:56

If you don't have any way to distinguish a conversation you participated in from the rest of mails, you could try this:

  • apply a filter to "mark as read" every mail coming from python-ideas
  • apply another filter to "mark as unread" every mail with the following subject: "blah"

Where blah is a copy-paste of a topic you participated in. According to In what order are filters processed in Gmail? this will work as long as you have your filters-for-subjects below the filter-that-mark-as-read.

It will work either you update "blah" with OR'ed subjects or if you just create one filter for every conversation you participate.

Of course is more work than 'create one filter and done' but without access to at least one email in reply to you and one email without you participating, I can't imagine anymore.

Hope that helps,

  • Having to go into GMail settings to edit/create filters every time I send a message to the mailing list would be a huge pain in the ass.
    – Ram Rachum
    Oct 13, 2014 at 9:00

Another solution comes to mind, but it will require some changes to how you're managing your inbox.

First, you'd need to turn off all of the category tabs (Social, Promotions, Updates, Forums) and turn on the "Multiple Inboxes" Lab.

Add extra lists of emails in your inbox to see even more important email at once. The new lists of threads can be labels, your starred messages, drafts or any search you want, configurable under Settings.

Then in the "Multiple inboxes" settings, set one of your extra inboxes to use the search query:

label:Python-ideas in:sent

Assuming you're labeling all of the mailing list messages with your label (and skipping the inbox) this will give you an extra pane with just the threads with that label that you're participating in.

It does require sacrificing the current default functionality for the Inbox, and there's always the possibility that that particular Gmail Lab (or all of the Labs, for that matter) may simply go away.

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