Software

How to auto-forward emails in Gmail and G Suite

Gmail forwarding can help simplify email search, streamline customer response, and help staff smoothly deal with long-term leave.

Animation showing email sliding into Gmail icon, then also moving into another Gmail icon
Image: Andy Wolber / TechRepublic

In the past few months, I've received several questions from Gmail and G Suite users about email forwarding. One person was trying to share specific emails with an assistant. Another wanted to receive all emails sent to an address while a position was vacant for a few months. And another needed to re-route email for a person on long-term leave.

Here's how to configure Gmail and G Suite to forward all—or some—email automatically to another account.

Auto-forward all incoming email

I auto-forward all my email into one G Suite account to simplify search. That way, it takes one search to find content. Otherwise, I would need to switch-and-search within each email account separately, or use a mail client to search locally-stored email. In my case, I forward email from at least four accounts—a personal Gmail account, a G Suite account I use for a class I teach, as well as two other accounts—into my primary Gmail account.

To configure forwarding in Gmail, login, then choose the Sprocket (upper right area) > Settings > choose the "Forwarding and POP/IMAP" tab > then select the "Add a forwarding address" button. Enter the email address to which you want to forward mail. You'll then need to login to the destination mail account, then open and click a link in a verification message to allow email forwarding. After you've done that, revisit (and refresh) your Gmail forwarding settings page.

You can choose what you want Gmail to do after forwarding each email: Keep it, mark it as read, archive it, or delete it. If you're not sure which to select, I recommend you select "keep it," which preserves the original email in the source account's inbox. Only rarely should you choose Delete, as that removes the email from the original source account, leaving only the email in the destination account.

Screenshot of Gmail setting showing email forwarding active

You can configure Gmail to auto-forward all email to another account.

Auto-forward some incoming email

You also may configure Gmail to auto-forward incoming email that meets specific criteria. For example, you might forward any email from a specific software vendor to the email address of a person in accounting. Or, auto-forward email from a specific high-priority client to another person on your team able to immediately respond.

You still need to add a forwarding email address, as above, with the destination email account owner accepting email forwarding.

Then you configure your filter criteria: In Gmail, go to the Sprocket > Settings > choose the "Filters and Blocked Addresses" tab > then select "Create a new filter." Add the criteria you want to use here—the from or to address, content in the subject or body, or more—then create filter with this search. On the next screen, select the box next to Forward, choose the destination email address, then click Create filter to activate forwarding.

Screenshots showing filter criteria, forwarding, and resulting Gmail forwarding setting display.

You can also create filter criteria in Gmail to auto-forward only specific incoming email to another account. In the image: (upper-left) specify criteria, then (upper-right) add forwarding address. Filtered forwarding (bottom) shown in Gmail settings.

Admin blocking of auto-forwarding

In an organization, email forwarding may present a security and/or audit concern: What's to stop a person from forwarding all incoming email to a personal account, then deleting the source email? As a result, some organizations may prefer to prevent email forwarding.

To configure this, a G Suite administrator can go to the Admin console > Apps > G Suite > Gmail > User settings > Automatic forwarding> and uncheck "Allow users to forward incoming email to another address." That prevents users from completing the forwarding steps described above.

Screenshot of G Suite admin mail routing settings

A G Suite administrator can route incoming email to multiple accounts.

Admin email routing

If you use G Suite, an administrator may also configure email routing so that email sent to one address also arrives in another account. For example, if a staff member is out for an extended period, you might choose to deliver email to another employee, as well.

To configure this, a G Suite administrator will login to the Admin console (https://admin.google.com), then navigate to Apps > G Suite > Gmail > Default routing > then choose Add setting. There are three settings to select.

First, choose the email envelope recipients—you can route incoming mail sent to one or more accounts. For individual email forwarding, choose Single recipient, then specify the email address of the account whose email you want to forward.

Next, choose Modify message, and select the checkbox to the left of "Add more recipients." After you select the box, choose Add, then enter the email address of the one or more addresses. Choose Save when done.

Then, change the radio button for the third setting to "Perform this action on non-recognized and recognized addresses," Then select Save to preserve your new email routing rule. Now, when incoming email arrives for one recipient, it will be routed to not only the addressed recipient, but also the other email addresses you specified.

Other alternatives

Google offers at least two other ways to share email: Delegated access and a collaborative inbox. Delegated access gives another Google account the ability to access and reply to email in your account. And, as a special type of Google Group, a collaborative inbox allows multiple people to read and reply to email. Generally, I see delegated access used to share email with an assistant, with a collaborative inbox shared among a customer support team.

Do you use either email auto-forwarding in Gmail or email routing in G Suite? What's the most unusual reason you've heard that prompted email auto-forwarding? Let me know in the comments (or on Twitter: @awolber).

Also see

About Andy Wolber

Andy Wolber helps people understand and leverage technology for social impact. He resides in Ann Arbor, MI with his wife, Liz, and daughter, Katie.

Editor's Picks

Free Newsletters, In your Inbox