As posted on Twelve ways to make yourself a Gmail genius
Show me what I want to see
Want to see more of your inbox at a glance? Click the cog-wheel at the upper right of the Gmail web interface, then select “compact” to reduce the spacing between items (you can also choose “comfortable” for a more relaxed view). You can also view more conversations per page: click the cog, then select “settings” to open Gmail’s configuration page. Under “general”, you’ll see a setting for “maximum page size”: increase to 100 and you won’t need to keep flipping through pages to browse recent messages. If you don’t like the way email exchanges are bundled into threads, you can also disable conversation view, to make Gmail list each email individually. Click “save changes” at the bottom to apply your preferences.
Customise your sending options
Like to keep your inbox uncluttered? Under general settings, enable “show ‘send & archive’ button in reply”. Now, when you reply to an incoming email, you’ll see a new button to send your response and archive the conversation with one click. Archived conversations vanish from your inbox but still appear in search results, and in Gmail’s “all mail” view. If someone replies to an archived message, it pops back into your inbox. You can also switch “default reply behaviour” to “reply all”: when dealing with group emails, this ensures you won’t accidentally reply only to one person. Of course, it raises the risk that you’ll accidentally share a private sentiment with the world, so use it with caution.
Remind me about this email later
Emails have a knack of arriving at unhelpful moments. The free Boomerang extension lets you postpone incoming messages, so they vanish from your inbox, then reappear after a specified interval. You can also delay outgoing messages, to ensure they arrive at the right time. The free service only works on the web, but a $5 a month subscription adds support for mobile clients.
On the subject of delaying emails, a Gmail option that’s saved many careers is “undo send”; this gives you a grace period after you hit send – 20 seconds by default – during which you can change your mind and edit (or abandon) your message. You can enable this option in the main settings page, under “general”.
Organise your incoming mail
By default, Gmail sorts messages into primary, social, promotions and so forth. If you want to set up your own filters, simply select or open a message, then click the “more” button and select “Filter messages like these”. You’ll now see a window that lets you specify a sender, keywords, message size and so forth; enter your parameters, then click “create filter with this search”. Then, tick the boxes to tell Gmail what to do with new messages that match these terms, such as applying a specific label.
You can also extend Gmail’s labelling options by enabling multi-coloured stars on the general settings page. With this option activated, click repeatedly on the star icon next to an email to cycle through available colours.
Use Google Drive to get around attachment limits
Gmail supports attachments of up to 25MB per email. But large messages waste space, and may be rejected by other email services. The answer? Don’t send large files; simply provide links to them. In Google Drive you can do this by clicking the little drive icon at the bottom of the compose window and selecting a file to share. With Dropbox, right-click on a shared file to copy a download link. If it’s photos, try using the free Google Photos app for Android and iOS: any pictures you take on your phone are automatically uploaded to Google’s servers, and can be directly inserted into your email messages via Gmail’s insert photo icon.
Brush up your security
Worried you’ve left yourself logged into Gmail on a work laptop or a friend’s PC? Check for forgotten sessions by scrolling to the bottom of your inbox and clicking the tiny “details” link. This will show you a breakdown of recent activity, and provides a button to instantly sign you out from any other locations.
To keep intruders out of your account, it’s a good idea to enable two-step verification, so that new log-ins have to be approved from your smartphone. To access this and other important security settings, click on your account icon at the top-right of the Gmail page, then click the blue “my account” button. On the page that opens you’ll find a complete set of sign-in and security options.
Master Gmail’s search capabilities
Gmail lets you store a huge archive of email, but hunting for a specific message can be tricky. The trick is to use Gmail’s advanced search. When you click into search bar at the top of the inbox view, a drop-down arrow appears at the right of the text field. Click it and you’ll see options to narrow down your search to messages from a certain sender, of a certain size, within a certain date range and more.
Advanced users can also use keywords to narrow down searches: for example, you can search for “subject:dinner newer_than:7d” to find all emails about dinner from the past week. These keywords work in Android and iOS too: you’ll find a list here.
Create calendar appointments
Gmail does its best to recognise when you’re booking an event or a journey, and automatically copies the details into your Google Calendar (too creepy? You can disable this in the calendar settings). If you need to make a calendar entry yourself, just click the “more” dropdown while reading an email and select “create event”. You’ll be taken straight to the relevant page in Google Calendar, with the text of the email already pasted into place: just confirm the right date and time, then click save. You can also select “add to tasks” to add the email contents to your Google task list. To view the list, click the Gmail dropdown at the top left of the main Gmail interface and select tasks.
Never mind the chit-chat – send money
Gmail isn’t just about electronic messages: it can be used to send hard cash to anyone in the UK or US. To use this feature, click the pound sign at the bottom of the “compose” window. Your payment options will appear in a dropdown – if you haven’t linked a credit card or a PayPal account, you can set this up now. Enter an amount to send, then click “review” followed by “attach” to embed a payment link in your email. The recipient has 14 days to click the link and claim the money, which can be immediately transferred into their bank account. You can also use Google Wallet to request money, by creating a link that the recipient can then click to send you an agreed sum.
Why email when you can eyeball?
Everyone knows about Gmail’s built-in chat client (known as Google Hangouts); not everyone realises that, as well as regular instant messaging, it supports live voice and video calls. To initiate a call from the Gmail web interface, hover the mouse pointer over a contact, then click the video camera icon. A new window will open showing the view from your camera (assuming your computer has one) and asking you if you want to invite anyone else – you can have up to 25 people in a video call. If you want to go audio-only, click the camera icon at the bottom to disable it; click the microphone icon to mute the line (and again to unmute it). You’ll find full instructions for Hangouts video calls here.
Use IFTTT to broaden Gmail’s horizons
IFTTT – If This Then That – is an ingenious online system that acts as an interface between your Gmail account and dozens of other apps and services. For example, you can use it to automatically save all incoming email attachments to Dropbox, or forward a copy of any photos you take on your phone directly to your Gmail account. IFTTT can also connect to smart home devices – so you could get an email from your thermostat if the temperature drops below a certain threshold, or blink your houselights when a critical email comes in from a specific address. The service is completely free: sign up at ifttt.com to browse through hundreds of “applets” that can add a new dimension of usefulness to Gmail.
Switch to Inbox for a clutter-free existence
The “inbox zero” philosophy holds that your inbox should be empty at all times. If that’s your view too, try out Google’s alternative interface to Gmail, called simply Inbox. This gives you a stripped-down overview of incoming emails, with key information pulled out so you can see it at a glance. If you need to read an email in full, you can expand it within the message list; once you mark it as “done”, it disappears from the default view. You can also snooze messages for a set period, and set reminders to appear in your inbox alongside incoming messages. Intrigued? Give it a spin at inbox.google.com, or download the mobile app; you can switch back to classic Gmail at any time.