How to Use "OR" Conditions in Gmail Filters


If you're a heavy Gmail user, juggling all of the incoming emails can sometimes feel like a huge task. For many of us, it would be great if there was a way to more easily categorize, prioritize, or even automate some of our email actions. What many users don't know is that this can actually be achieved in Gmail with advanced filters, like those that use boolean conditionals.

Gmail Filters

Gmail's filters are a handy tool to automate the organization of your incoming emails based on some predefined criteria. They let you to tell Gmail to perform certain actions automatically, like moving an email to a specific folder, marking it as read, forwarding to another email, or even sending it to trash, depending on the rules you set.

For example, if you want all emails from your workplace to be moved to a folder named "Work", this is certainly something you can do with Gmail filters. But, as versatile as it is, the power of Gmail filters can truly be seen once you learn the usage of conditionals.

Why use "OR" Conditions in Filters

Without using OR conditions, a Gmail filter operates on a simple "AND" basis. If multiple conditions are set, all conditions need to match for the filter to execute the specified action. However, using the "OR" operator makes the filter more flexible by allowing any of the multiple conditions to initiate the action.

Using "OR" conditions essentially broadens the scope of a filter, making it useful for a wider range of circumstances. It can help you streamline your email management more effectively.

How to Use "OR" Conditions within the Same Field

Creating a Gmail filter with "OR" conditions is quite simple. Let's say you want to create a filter for emails from either "" OR "". Here are the steps:

  1. Click the down arrow in the Gmail search box at the top.
  2. In the "From" field, write OR You may notice that Gmail will change the query to from:( OR, which is also a valid form.
  1. Click on "Create filter" button.
  2. In the next screen, choose the action you want Gmail to take when an email from either of these addresses arrives. For example, you could apply a label to all of these emails, like "Social Media".
  1. Finally, click "Create filter".

Note: Gmail's OR operator is case sensitive! You must use either "OR" or the symbol "|". Gmail will not interpret the lowercase "or" as the boolean "OR" operation.

That's it! You've successfully set up a Gmail filter with an "OR" condition. Remember, you can apply this process to any part of the email such as the subject, content, or even attachments. This way, you can manage your Gmail inbox more effectively, sparing you the need for manually sorting through each email.

How to Use "OR" Conditions on Different Fields

In the last section, we showed how to use the "OR" condition on the same field. This way we were able to filter emails from one of two senders. But what if we want to filter emails on different fields, say the "From" field and "To" field? The process is similar, but with one important difference:

  1. Again, click the down arrow in the Gmail search box at the top.
  2. In the "Has the words" field, write OR to:[email protected].
  1. Click on "Create filter" button.
  2. Choose the action to take when the filter matches an email.
  3. Finally, click "Create filter".

You may notice the two differences: Using the "Has the words" field and to prefix each condition. The prefix (i.e. "from:" and "to:") tells Gmail which field to apply the filter to.

Advanced Usage of "OR" Conditions in Gmail Filters

If you're looking for even more advanced filter conditionals, you can combine the "OR" condition with the "AND" clause, parentheses, and negative (-) character. For example, from:([email protected] OR [email protected]) AND subject:(invoice OR receipt) will filter emails from the specified addresses having either "invoice" or "receipt" in the subject line.

Note: Parentheses help Gmail to evaluate your condition correctly. Just like in math, the operation within the parentheses gets priority.

The negative (-) character excludes instances when a certain condition is met. For example, from:([email protected] OR [email protected]) AND -subject:("cancellation") will filter emails from the two addresses that do not include "cancellation" in the subject line.

You can experiment and combine these markers to create powerful filters that match your requirements. For more information on advanced searches, see Google's article, Search operators you can use with Gmail

Potential Issues and How to Troubleshoot

Now, as great as advanced features can be, they can also be more prone to issues or misuse. The "OR" condition in filters is straightforward but can sometimes cause unexpected results when not used correctly.

One common mistake is to forget the "OR" operator between email addresses, subjects, or keywords. Without it, Gmail tries to satisfy all conditions simultaneously, which might not yield the desired results. Or maybe you entered "OR" as lowercase, in which it is not applied as a boolean operator in Gmail. Always double-check your filter conditions!

You might also find issues if you have multiple filters with overlapping conditions. Gmail applies filters in the order they were created. So, it might apply a different filter first, and the expected filter might not work as expected. In these cases, try changing the order of your filters (which, unfortunately, Gmail doesn't have great support for).


As we wrap up, it's clear as day that the ability to specify "OR" conditions in Gmail filters can massively enhance your email management. From streamlining conversations from various senders into one label to customizing how your notifications behave based on multiple criteria, Gmail gives you the ability to take control of your inbox.

For some, setting up conditionals may appear a bit technical at first, but with the simple steps outlined above, you'll be good to go in no time. Just remember, effectiveness lies in experimentation.

By using advanced filters for compiling incoming messages from multiple senders, filtering on multiple fields, or even concocting advanced conditions, the power of conditionals in Gmail might be just the email management tool you've been needing.

Last Updated: February 26th, 2024
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