Turn Gmail into a Personal, Searchable News Archive

The web is a great place to read up on the news, but it can be tricky to find past articles if you don't know exactly what you're looking for. Google has some fantastic search operands, but unless you have a specific article in mind, and can recall at least a few specific words from the headline, finding the information you're looking for can get a bit tricky.

I've long been a fan of Gmail's labeling system which, when combined with a powerful filter, can turn your email into a powerful and easily searchable archive of news. Here's how.

Start with deciding which news organization(s) you'd like to use as a source. I trust the New York Times, so I'll use them as an example. Note that to use the Times, you'll have to sign up for an account. Once you do, head over to the my account page. Here you have a few choices to make in deciding what news you'd like to be delivered. Once selected, you'll get an email from the Times containing all of the day's headlines in the categories you've chosen. In my experience, the Front Page headlines tend to come around 5am, while the op-ed section is delivered in the early afternoon. If you choose to sign up for alerts, you'll also receive email alerts about breaking news. These are typically reserved for fairly huge stories, so don't worry about being constantly bombarded if you sign up for the alerts.

Now, when you receive your first email, we need to create a filter to tell Gmail what to do with it. If you've never created a Gmail filter, it's quite simple.

Head into the message, click the "more" tab, and select "filter messages like these":

You should see a dropdown menu appear with the "from" field automatically populated with "nytdirect@nytimes.com." Leave the rest of the fields blank, and click "create filter with this search." On the next menu, click, check the boxes next to "Skip the Inbox", "Mark as Read", and "Apply the Label", using the dropdown menu to select a new label. Use that menu to create a label specifically for your news archive (the obvious selection is "news"). You can also choose from the other options presented- these, at a minimum, will prevent your phone from alerting you to every new email, and will, as the option implies, skip the inbox.

To access all of your news emails, you can either navigate to the news label by using Gmail's left sidebar, or typing "label:news" into the search box:

To search for a specific event or article, you can further refine your search. For example, say I'd like to find the articles by the Times related to Osama bin Laden's death (note the search string):

I can now choose the news alert that was sent to me on May 1, 2011:

... or I can head into the daily digest email containing the article:

That's it. Obviously this method can be tweaked a bit to suit your needs- you can use a different news source, play with your filtering options a bit, etc- but the end result will remain the same: a personal, highly searchable news archive that's more efficient than a general web search, and always at your fingertips, as long as you have access to your email. This might come in handy in 2030 when you want to access the Times article on Sssimpli taking the world by storm in 2013.