Gmail is one of the
best email services around and not just because it’s free. Ok, so by using it, you’re effectively allowing Google to scrape yet more data together about you, but for many people – me included – the trade-off is worth it.
However, most people barely scratch the surface of Gmail’s powerful features, many of which include being able to find the email you want quickly and easily. There are other filtering and sorting tools, along with optional features that can save even more time and, occasionally, face.
Gmail is always being updated and now, by default, it will warn you if you’ve mentioned an attachment in the text but failed to actually attach a file.
Here are six Gmail tips to manage your email better. (Note that we’re primarily dealing with the web interface here, but some tips also apply to the Android and iOS apps.)
Gmail tips: 1. Learn to search your inbox properly.
Google is the king of search and this means Gmail has immense power when it comes to finding emails. But if you’re only entering simple phrases into the search box, you’re not even using half of the available power.
Here are some ways to use the search box more productively.
From:firstname.lastname@example.org – lists all emails from this email address
Is:unread – lists all the emails you’ve yet to open
Has:attachment – displays only emails with attachments
In:sent Cyprus – Shows all emails containing the word “cyprus” but only in your sent folder
You can even combine them so you could type:
To find attachments from a certain person.
Gmail tips: 2. Use shortcuts
Do you use the mouse for everything? If so, you’re wasting more time that you realise.
Gmail is full of shortcuts such as these:
When reading a conversation, press n and p to move between emails in that thread. You’ll see the cursor moving up and down the left-hand side and you can press enter to open a message or expand messages which are shown as a collapsed view in the middle.
In the Compose window you can use the following:
Ctrl + Enter sends an email
Ctrl + Shift + C takes you to the cc field (even if it’s hidden) so you can add recipients
You can enable extra shortcuts if these tickle your fancy by clicking the gear icon, going to settings and then going to the Keyboard shortcuts section.
C – compose a new message
D – compose a message in a new tab
/ – puts the cursor in the search box
S – marks the message or conversation as special (the star icon)
+ – marks as important (if you use Priority inbox)
full list can be found here
Gmail tips: 3. Use tabs
A feature added last year is multiple inbox tabs. By default these are Primary, Social, Promotions and Forums.
Gmail automatically filters emails into these tabs so you can ignore stuff that’s less important and focus on what is. The automatic filtering is excellent and rarely gets it wrong, so emails from friends, family or important services arrive in your Primary inbox where you’re most likely to see them.
Messages and alerts from social channels including Facebook and Twitter go into Social, while newsletters, offers and other promotional emails filter into Promotions.
A small + at the right-hand side lets you create more tabs, and you can customise all the tabs in the settings.
Gmail tips: 4. Quick action buttons
More recently, Google added quick action buttons, which you might not have even noticed. These let you do things without having to open the email and click a link. For example, you can check the details or progress of an online order by clicking the View Order or Track Package button.
Other actions include rating a restaurant you visited, or modifying a booking.
Gmail tips: 5. Arrange email your way
By default email is shown in chronological order, so the most recent is at the top of the list. You might prefer another order, though. If you click on the cog icon, then Settings, then click on the Inbox link, there’s a drop-down menu with options for Important First, Unread First, Starred First or Priority Inbox. You can try any of these to see if you like it – if not, change it back to Default.
Gmail tips: 6. Get a preview pane
If you’re an Outlook or Thunderbird fan, switching to the standard Gmail web interface can be unsettling. Fortunately there’s a way to get a preview pane as you can in Gmail on an iPad alongside the list of emails.
To do it, click the cog icon, then Settings and click on Labs at the top. Search for Preview Pane, and click the ‘Enabled’ radio button, and then the Save Changes button.
Gmail will reload and you’ll see a new icon at the top to the left of the cog icon. Click it to choose where your preview pane appears.
Gmail tips: 6. Get Whatsapp-style open and read notifications
Whatsapp is great for many reasons, one being that you know both when a message has been delivered and read. Email – even Gmail – feels a bit backward in that respect as the only notification is when you get get a new email. Thanks to Chrome Extensions you can fix this. MailTrack.io brings the ‘double-tick’ to your Gmail inbox, but obviously you’ll need to access your email via the Chrome web browser for it to work. A Firefox extension is in the works, as is a mobile version.
To add it, go to the Chrome Web Store and search for MailTrack.
If you’ve got any other brilliant Gmail tips, let us know in the comments below.