How to create custom Gmail alerts on any Android device

Custom Gmail Alerts Android

Notifications are one of Android's most powerful features -- and the way they work out of the box is only the start.

Case in point: I rely on my phone's Gmail notifications religiously, but I don't want them to alert me every single time I get a new message. With the amount of email I get, that'd turn my phone into a nonstop beeping and buzzing machine and make the whole system useless -- like a phone that cries wolf all day long.

What I need is for my phone to alert me only when important emails come in -- emails from certain people or with specific words in the subject. In other words, I need a little notification intelligence. I need custom Gmail alerts.

Luckily, setting up custom Gmail alerts on Android is actually pretty easy -- and it can make your Android device more useful than ever. Your phone can alert you with a unique sound anytime you get a new email from your boss, for instance, and/or alert you with a unique sound when you get a new message with a phrase like "schedule change" in the subject. The possibilities are practically endless.

Here's the trick:

1) First, you'll need to create a filter so that Gmail will automatically assign a special label to your alert-worthy messages. Sign into the regular Gmail Web interface from any computer. Click the small down arrow at the right of the search box, then fill in whatever info describes the type of email you want to target for your alert -- a specific sender's name or email address, a specific keyword in the subject, or whatever the case might be.

Custom Gmail Alerts Android: Filter

2) Click the link at the bottom of the search box that says "Create filter with this search." Check the box that says "Apply the label" and then create a new label. You might want to call it something like "ATTN" or "Notify."

3) Be sure to click the blue box that says "Create filter" to save the rule when you're done.

4) Now pick up your Android device and head into the Gmail app. Tap the overflow menu icon (the three vertical dots) at the top-right of the screen, select Settings, and then select your Gmail account from the list that appears.

Custom Gmail Alerts Android: Settings

5) Scroll down and select the "Manage labels" option. Find your new label in that list -- "ATTN," "Notify," or whatever you ended up calling it -- and tap on it.

6) Tap "Sync messages" and change the setting to "Sync: Last 30 days." Then check the box for "Label notifications" and tap the "Sound" option to pick what sound will play when one of your important messages comes in. You can also select whether the important message alert will cause your phone to vibrate and whether the phone will notify you every single time a new message arrives (a setting I'd recommend enabling).

Note that you will need to have notifications turned on for the account in order for this to work; if you don't, Gmail will prompt you to fix that. If you'd rather not get notifications for regular ol' messages, just head back to the main settings page for your Gmail account and select the option labeled "Inbox sound & vibrate." There, you can set the general notifications to be silent -- in which case you'll see them in your status bar but won't get any audible alerts -- or you can disable them entirely by unchecking the "Label notifications" box.

Either way, that setting is unrelated to the custom alert you just configured. Think of it as the default behavior and the custom alert as the exception to the rule.

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And, voilà: You're good to go. If you want to create additional custom Gmail alerts, just repeat the same process and use a different label for the messages and a different sound for the notification.

Easy peasy, right? Now your notifications are working for you.

More Android Power tips and tricks:

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How to make your home screen look like KitKat -- without Google Now

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