Tricky little issue in Gmail – how do you find the original sender of a forward?

DSCN9755 I ran across a confusing issue in Gmail and I’d like to share what I did to resolve it.  It seems that Gmail won’t show you the original sender of a forwarded email by default in many cases.  Here’s how I found the issue and what I did to correct it.

My wife and I have a shared blog that automatically sends out updates to subscribers via Feedburner.  Feedburner is a great service if you have a blog, and you can use it to subscribe to my feed and get updates when I write on this blog as well.

When friends and family reply to an email from Feedburner, it goes to my email address and I need to forward it to my wife so she can read it too.  I use Mozilla Thunderbird as my email client so it’s easy to set up a filter to do it automatically (look under Tools –> Message Filters).  But when the forwarded email showed up in my wife’s Gmail inbox, it showed only me as the sender – with no mention of the original sender, so she couldn’t tell who was replying to our blog.

Gmail does let you see the original full text of the message – there’s a little down arrow next to Reply with a menu that includes “show original.”  Email headers are hardly user-friendly, though, so that’s not a very good solution.

It turns out that Gmail shows the name of the forwarder, not the name of the original sender, on forwards that are sent as an attachment.  If the forward was sent inline it’s easy to see the original sender in the body of the mail.  By default, Thunderbird sends forwards as attachments and I think Outlook has a similar default… in any event this is pretty common behavior.

To fix it from my end I went in Thunderbird, to Tools-> Options and selected the Composition icon.  Under the General tab, I changed Forward Messages to “Inline.”  This does the trick.

It would be nice, however, if Gmail made this a little more apparent in the user interface.  Maybe saying something like “[forwarder name] forwarding from [original sender name].”  Or it could be worked into the way conversations are viewed as threads.

This may not be a very common issue, so it might not warrant a change to Gmail, but it’s a small enough usability tweak that it might be worth it.  Hopefully you found this post helpful.

2 thoughts on “Tricky little issue in Gmail – how do you find the original sender of a forward?

  1. I ran into this exact issue, when I set up my one consolidated gmail account something like 6 months ago and now I went hunting down a solution for this.
    I forward messages from a couple of my accounts, for which POP3 is not available (or only via VPN… making it impossible for Gmail to connect to them)
    Have you found a reliable way to show the original sender in case the sender of the forwarded messages is one of your own adresses?


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