Split a single email account into separate virtual email inboxes


Email clients seem to make the assumption you have multiple ‘accounts’ you want to merge into one email stream.

But for me I only use one email account for everything and want an ‘email client’ that breaks it into separate email streams or inboxes.

Many clients have Smart Folders, search filters or smart inboxes with rules to separate. But often I have found they don’t work seamlessly across iOS (iPad/iPhone) and Mac (Desktop).

So nothing I have found really can do it. I am almost at the point of creating separate email accounts so I can use existing email clients as they were intended. But I don’t really want to have multiple email accounts.

I heard of OmniFocus (tasks) as a option, but there a cost and just wondered if anything availabile, I haven’t tried.

Doesn’t anyone know of a client that assumes one email account you want to split it up into virtual inboxes for different topics or tasks.

My best shot for this would be to set up a Gmail account (or any emai provider that support labels or tags), assign tags based on some automated rules on GMail and then use automation on macOS or iOS to directly open the folder associated with the tag.


How would your email client know which emails go into which “Stream” If they all come in on the same email address.

You’re in the realm of building custom email rules to file emails into different mailboxes (Apple Mail term) or folders (common term) or Labels (Gmail Term) based on their sender, subject and content.

To be honest, I like to segment things like this for many reasons, not least being legal reasons. I don’t know your work situation, but if someone took you to court and you had to had to disclose items, there’s a possibility of accidentally disclosing personal emails. If you process information about EU citizens, there are potential data protection issues, especially if multiple people (e.g. a Spouse) have access to you email account.

The only way to do this reliably is to have separate account for personal and work purposes.

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My email account is gmail, I am in Australia so no concerns about EU requirements. I am sort of semi retired or working out what to do next.

For me it is interesting problem and odd that there isn’t really any existing solution. It is sort of I did the opposite of what most people chose to do.

Plus most people would prefer the idea to only have one email account with a few aliases but the ability to treat them differently or separately.

For me an email client should simply be email formatting of your email stream so where you put you emails structurally shouldn’t matter.

I can’t readily use another email account even if I wanted and it happened slowly. It started as my personal email address, that I evolved.

What I find I can sort of do it in desktop client but doesn’t translate to mobile clients.

It almost like email clients are only email account consolidators.

I will keep looking for a solution.

Maybe you can use “plus addressing”, if your mail provider supports that?

(apologies for mentioning Fastmail again, but they support that really well)

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Maybe via some method involving aliases, you can add labels and outlook seems to have some advantages over gmail. This article below explains.

The “Plus” addressing seems similar to aliases and I have briefly look at fast mail.

Although I am not wanting to have additional email accounts as this would even notifying recipients of the new address (messy), just separate inboxes for particular email streams coming into my single mailbox. So my personal inbox, my brothers affairs (guardianship), finances, family matters, hobbies etc.

I am expecting I just have to do what everyone else does create multiple email accounts if I want separate inboxes.

But I find it more interesting exercise that I went left (single email account) wanting a separator of the email streams. While traditional everyone else went right (multiple email accounts) with a consolidator.

You can do what you’re trying to do with mail rules. There are two challenges:

  1. You have to figure out how you want to sort incoming emails into one “inbox” or the other.

By sender? That’s the simplest, but if you have people who send you email about more than one domain, it won’t work.

By subject line? Great for newsletters and such that have a consistent subject line. Much harder for email from people.

And so on. This may be the biggest challenge.

  1. Making sure your system works on mobile and elsewhere.

Cloud mail services like Gmail and (I think) Fastmail will cover this — the rules are applied in the cloud, and so work everywhere. Sanebox also applies here, and might be your best bet for using with another email host, since it can be put between your email provider and any email app you use, mobile or otherwise.

For Apple Mail, Thunderbird, etc., the rules would only be applied when the app is running, on a Mac. So unless you go with a cloud provider or a solution like Sanebox, that’s a limitation you’ll face.

I may be overlooking some obstacles. But I genuinely think your biggest challenge is the heuristic on of just how you separate the “streams” — conceptually, they seem very clear to you, I’m sure, but teaching a computer to recognize them consistently will probably be difficult. Picking a technical solution the. Is a matter of taste (which cloud service provider do you trust, if any?) and needs (does it work for you to keep an app running on a Mac to process rules locally?).


Yeah I have found Smart Folders in Outlook and smart inboxes (same thing) Apple mail worked to break up the streams into separate folders (inboxes) but not work on mobile (iPad/iPhone) devices, annoyingly.

I found Spark can show Smart Folders (search strings) but has syncing problems so the Smart Folders didn’t appear across desktop and iOS devices.

I was doing a combination of from, subject, and then excluding stuff out, actually Outlook was good. Checking the generic inbox for anything missed and tweaking further. So more excluding.

You than stuck like you say for Apple mail having a Mac on for syncing to iOS, some people use iCloud.com to sync across iOS devices. But my account is gmail, so won’t help.

So than stuck using generic folders and rules, which would work but messy if want to rollback. So not ready to start that yet until exhausted all options.

I have a look at sanebox. Cheers

If you’re using Gmail, why mess with local rules (Apple Mail and I think Outlook too maybe)? Just use Gmail’s rules to label emails as they come in, and a Gmail client on iOS that understands labels?


This is the biggest misconception of GDPR. It applies globally if you’re processing data of EU citizens.

If you’re a one person shop it’s never likely to be a problem. But it still applies.

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I went back to basics in the end. On my iPhone/iPad I created separate custom mailbox folders for each activity or task and manually move the individual emails into them, as document in below help explains.

My desktop iMac ensures they sync across devices, as always on. I can have the same view on iMac, iPhone and iPad. I can even use Outlook, which I am more familiar with as used from workdays and seems to have a better search engine.

It is more rudimentary but works.

Some of these mailboxes will eventually retire as the activity winds up and my original mailbox returns to just being my personal email account.

But this way I can more easily keep track of each activity and not become lost in my inbox. Plus works on my mobile devices which I tend still use more.

I found it doesn’t automatically move emails into these ‘folders’ but it does appear to remember where you put a similar email and suggests the appropriate folder to move it into. So probably enough for me.

When I worked for IT company in support my boss asked all of us to turn off our email rules because we were never bothering to check those emails. So manually moving them is still valid.

Cheers for all the suggestions too.

Yeah when working for a US IT company I had to be careful with the EU GDPR requirements.

But I don’t have any interactions with the EU personally or business related to be a consideration.

Although I do plan to visit UK next year 2022 if able to travel, but more as a customer.

I use server side rules to sort my iCloud email. Doesn’t matter which device I use as the mail is in the proper place before the client device sees it. The rules use a variety of criteria to determine where they go.

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