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Ask HTG: How Can I Email Groups of People with Gmail?

Mailing lists are an old tool in the email arsenal, but their implementation in Gmail isn’t immediately intuitive. Read on as we show you how to email groups using your Gmail account.

Dear How-To Geek,

I’m probably going to smack myself when you show me how easy it is, but right now I’m at a loss: how do I set up a simple mailing list in Gmail? What I want to do is make a list of people I routinely email and have some sort of shortcut, list, or anything that would let me email them all at once without having to type in all their email addresses. Even with Gmail’s suggestion feature it still takes too long and I often forget someone on the list. Surely an email service as modern and advanced as Gmail has some way to do this? I’ve looked in every menu under Settings and I can’t find a thing!

Sincerely,

Mailing List Blues

Don’t be too hard on yourself, you can look all the live long day in the Settings menu and you won’t find anything. Gmail does in fact have a mailing list function but they certainly don’t advertise it and it isn’t even, for all purposes, part of the actual Gmail system.

Whether or not you use it, attached to your Gmail account is a Google Contacts account. That’s where Gmail pulls those auto-complete email address suggestions from. In order to create your mailing list you’ll need to first visit your Google Contacts account and group together the people you wish to email.

Head over to contacts.google.com and login if you’re not already logged into your Google account. Start the process of building your mailing list by searching for one of the contacts you wish add to your list. Alternatively, you could click New Contact and create an entry. Whether you’re using an existing entry or creating a new one, double check that there is an email associated with the contact (otherwise your email list won’t be too useful).

In the entry, look for the Groups button, which looks like three little people clustered together:

Click on that button to drop down your existing groups (if you’ve never used this feature, the list will be sparse and may only contain the default “My Contacts” entry). Select “Create New” at the bottom of the drop down menu.

Name your new group. This name will serve as the shortcut for your email list, so name it something that will be easy to remember and/or easy to type. Upon creation the contact you’re viewing will now be associated with the group:

Search for the other contacts you wish to add to your mailing list. For each contact use the Groups drop down menu and, this time, select your new group name instead of creating a new one, like so:

After you’ve gone through and added each of the contacts you wish to use to your new mailing list (or Group, as it is known within the Google system), you’re ready to head back to Gmail and take advantage of the shortcut associated with the group.

In your Gmail account, compose a new email. In the email’s address slot, begin typing the group name:

Now, one thing you might notice is that we placed our Group shortcut in the BCC slot. If you’re not emailing a small group of people who are expressly working with each other and need to be able to email back to the whole group (or other members of the group), don’t use the TO or CC slot, use the BCC. The BCC is especially important if you’re emailing a group of people that are, for all purposes, unrelated to each other (such as sending out an email to the parents of all the kids you tutor to remind them that you’ll be away during Spring Break). You can read up on the uses of CC and BCC in HTG Explains: What BCC Is and Why You’re a Terrible Person If You Don’t Use It Correctly (Or At All).

Now that you have a new group and a list of contacts associated with it, you’re ready to go!


Have a pressing tech question? Shoot us an email at ask@howtogeek.com and we’ll do our best to answer it.

Jason Fitzpatrick is warranty-voiding DIYer and all around geek. When he's not documenting mods and hacks he's doing his best to make sure a generation of college students graduate knowing they should put their pants on one leg at a time and go on to greatness, just like Bruce Dickinson. You can follow him on if you'd like.

  • Published 01/17/14

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