What is an email alias?

An alias is an extra email address that can help you protect your privacy, block spam, and keep your inbox organized.

Your personal email address is an essential part of your digital identity. Like your phone number, you don’t give it to everyone you meet.

That’s why it’s useful to have other email addresses you can use for different purposes. But you may not want the hassle of managing multiple email accounts, each with its own login. That’s where aliases come in.

What is an email alias?
Why use an email alias?
Creating email aliases
How to create an alias in ProtonMail?
How to create an alias in Gmail, Outlook, and iCloud?
How to organize your inbox with aliases?
How to send an email from an alias?
How can aliases help your business?
Aliases for privacy and productivity

What is an email alias?

An alias is an additional email address that you can use with your existing email account instead of your personal email address. Much like an offline alias, an email alias is another title that you can use and be recognized by.

For example, let’s say your name is Alice Jones and your email address is alicejones@email.com. Depending on your email provider, you could create aliases like:

  • alicejones+shop@email.com for online shopping and receipts.
  • alicejones+news@email.com for news updates and newsletters.
  • ali-subs@email.com for mail relating to subscriptions.

All mail sent to an alias arrives in your usual inbox, letting you manage several email addresses in a single email account.

Why use an email alias?

Aliases can help you:

  • Protect your personal email address: By using an alias for your online accounts, you can shield your primary email address from spam, including malicious email, depending on the type of alias you use. Reserve your personal email for people you know and trust.
  • Create a temporary email address: If you want to test a new product or service or need a temporary address for a short-term project, use an alias. You can delete or disable it when you’re done.
  • Spot and block spam: Aliases can help you reduce spam. If a particular alias starts attracting junk, just delete the address and use another.
  • Organize your inbox: With most email services, you can use aliases with rules or filters to automatically sort your mail into folders or apply labels. For instance, Alice could create a filter to sort all mail sent to her alias alicejones+news@email.com into a folder called “Newsletters”.
  • Create multiple addresses for work or play: If you run a small business or club, you can use aliases for different purposes, like job titles (director@alicejones.com) or marketing campaigns (jumbocupcakes@alicejones.com).

Creating email aliases

Most of the big email providers offer email aliases, but they all behave slightly differently. Here we’ll look at ProtonMail and explain how other providers differ.

How to create an alias in ProtonMail?

In ProtonMail, you can make aliases in two ways:

  • With a plus sign (+): Add “+something” to your username. For example, if your address is alicejones@protonmail.com, you could create aliases like alicejones+shop@protonmail.com or alicejones+news@protonmail.com. These are officially known as “email subaddresses”, though we call them “+aliases” for short.
  • With new usernames: Create completely new addresses, either with a ProtonMail domain (@protonmail.com) or with your own custom domain (@your domain.com). For example, Alice could make aliases like ali-news@protonmail.com, if that address is available, or news@alicejones.com, if she owns that domain name.

With a free ProtonMail account, you can use +aliases to receive and reply to mail.

You don’t need to take any extra steps to receive mail using a ProtonMail +alias. Just think of a new address with a plus in the format above and give it out. Any mail sent to that address will arrive in your usual ProtonMail inbox.

Unlike most other email services, when you reply to mail sent to a +alias in ProtonMail, the alias automatically appears as the default From address. You don’t have to tweak any settings.

If you upgrade to a paid ProtonMail plan, you can also create additional addresses with a ProtonMail domain (like @protonmail.com) or a custom domain (@yourname.com):

1. Sign in to your account at ProtonMail.

2. In the top right, select SettingsGo to Settings → Identity & addresses → My addresses → Add address.

Showing box to add an email alias in ProtonMail.

3. Add a new username and choose a ProtonMail domain or custom domain from the dropdown menu.

4. Add a name in the Display name field (optional).

5. Click Save address.

After you’ve created your addresses, you can use any one of them to sign in to your Proton account. There’s no need to designate a “primary” address. And you can make any one of them your default sending address.

Learn more about types of email addresses and aliases in ProtonMail and how to create and use aliases.

How to create an alias in Gmail, Outlook, and iCloud?

In free Gmail accounts, you can create +aliases to receive mail, as in ProtonMail. You can also create aliases by adding periods to your username. For example, if you had the address abjones@gmail.com, you could make aliases like a.b.jones@gmail.com or ab.jones@gmail.com. However, to send emails from Gmail aliases, you’ll need to add them in Settings.

With a free Outlook account, you can make +aliases to receive email, but you can’t send or reply from +aliases. Any replies you send will show your primary email address in the From field. But you can add up to 10 new addresses (@outlook.com) as aliases in Settings to send and receive mail.

With a free iCloud account, you can receive mail at +aliases, but you can send from them only if you add them in Settings. You can also add up to three new addresses (@icloud.com) as aliases to send and receive mail.

Whichever service you use, you’ll need to upgrade to a paid plan to create aliases with your own domain (@yourdomain.com).

How to organize your inbox with aliases?

One of the most useful ways to use aliases is to sort your mail. By using filters or rules, you can automatically sort your incoming emails into folders, or apply a label or star/flag, so you can easily find them later.

For example, let’s say you’re Alice Jones with the email address alicejones@email.com. To organize your inbox, you could create aliases and filters to automatically sort your mail as follows:

  • alice+shop@email.com (for online shopping and receipts): Mail is sent to a folder called “Shopping”.
  • alice+news@email.com (for news updates and newsletters): Mail is sent to the “News” folder.
  • alice+soccer@email.com (for updates from your soccer club): Mail is sent to the “Sport” folder and labeled “soccer”.
  • ali-subs@email.com (for mail relating to subscriptions): Mail is labeled “subscriptions”.

Learn more about how to use filters with folders and labels in ProtonMail.

How to send an email from an alias?

Once you’ve created an alias, it’s easy to send mail from that address. In the composer window, simply click on the From field and choose which email address you want to use.

For example, in ProtonMail:

Showing how to use an email alias to send mail by selecting it in the From field.

Alternatively, you can make an alias your default sending address, so it will automatically appear in the From field when you start a new message.

In most email services, you can also change the name and signature for mail sent from each address.

Learn how to customize your display name and signature in ProtonMail.

How can aliases help your business?

Aliases are not just for personal use. They’re a great way to organize your work inbox, especially if you’re running a small business or club and playing more than one role.

Suppose you’re Alice Jones again and you run a bakery (AJ Cakes). You could use aliases like sales@ajcakes.com, marketing@ajcakes.com, or feedback@ajcakes.com for customers to get in touch.

You could assign the addresses to anyone in your business. And if the employee changes jobs, you can simply transfer the alias to the email account of whoever takes over that role.

Or you could use an alias for a particular sales campaign, like marvelousmuffins@ajcakes.com. That makes it easy to track the mail for that campaign, and when it’s over, you can just delete or disable the alias.

Aliases for privacy and productivity

To sum up, aliases can help keep your email address private and protect it from spam. Remember, though, that it’s easy to figure out your primary address from a +alias. If you want to be more private, you’ll need to create aliases with a completely new username.

Aliases can also make your online life easier. Whether you want a couple for your personal mail or a whole series for a project or business, aliases are a great way to take control of your inbox.

If you’d like to try aliases with our end-to-end encrypted email, sign up for a free ProtonMail account. You can experiment with +aliases and filters, though you can only activate one filter at a time.

If you’d like to create completely new additional addresses, including with your own domain name, sign up for a paid plan. You’ll not only get more features; you’ll also be supporting our mission to create a more secure and private internet for all.

About the Author

Harry Bone

Harry studied Arabic, Spanish and Russian and worked as a translator and writer in a range of industries, including a stint in Moscow monitoring the Russian media for the BBC. A long-standing Proton fan, he joined the company to help build an internet that serves the interests of people, not governments and Big Tech.