February 28, 2021

Gmail’s getting smarter about searching for emails from users with aliases


Gmail aliases might seem like something only big businesses would use as part of Google Workspace, but even folks that just happen to have more than one email account can take advantage of them. But sometimes, aliases can also make things confusing when you’re searching for something in Gmail. Thankfully, Google Workspace is rolling out a change that allows searches for email addresses in Gmail to return related aliases it’s associated with.

This may seem like a technical subject, but it offers pretty useful advantages, and I’ve run into this issue myself. When a person’s role changes, a company rebrands, or someone’s name changes, tracking down emails from them later can be a pain if their email address changes as well. But frequently, folks will alias their old address for at least a while during any transition. If you received messages from them during that time, this change means those seemingly separate addresses will appear together in search results. That way, you’re not left wondering why any results for a long-time business acquaintance before a certain date don’t seem to show up.

If you don’t want to see aliased results, just enclose the email address you search for in quotes to pull only exact matches, and Google isn’t violating anyone’s privacy with this move either: Results will only be scraped from the to, from, cc, and bcc fields of emails, or their contents. So if a connection between a user and an alias isn’t drawn from prior communications with them, it won’t appear.

It’s also worth pointing out that Google says this change won’t affect labels, so you don’t have to worry about your perfect organizational schema being destroyed by this seemingly minor change.

The feature is rolled out now, with no admin or end-user control, and available for seemingly all Google Workspace and G Suite customers. Google also confirms it applies to consumer Gmail as well.

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