Gmail tips and tricks: 10 buried settings and features to try
Email takes so much time. I have a rule: If I’m writing more than a few lines, I pick up the phone or do a quick Zoom call.
I have some other time-saving tactics that truly work, like the one-minute rule. Tap or click for my favorite inbox hacks.
For Gmail specifically, you have your privacy to consider, too. Tap or click to see exactly what Gmail collects about you. It is shocking to see it all laid out.
If you’re firmly in the Gmail camp, it’s easy to get lost in the maze of features. Keep reading for 10 ways to take your inbox to the next level.
1. Set up templates
Do you send a lot of emails with the same basic information? You can easily create a template in Gmail to save yourself valuable time.
Go into Settings (the cog icon) > See all settings > Advanced link. Scroll down to the section marked Templates and click the circle marked Enable.
Now you can create up to 50 unique templates. To create a template, click Compose, then write your email, including the subject line. Click the three dots at the bottom right-hand corner, then Templates. Choose Save draft as template.
To insert a template you’ve created, start a new email draft. Again, click the three-dot menu > Templates > and insert one of your templates.
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2. Create and manage labels
Are you a super-organized type? You probably already know Gmail uses labels, not folders, to sort your mail. Once you create a label, you can search for it in the search bar and find emails under the label name. You can assign multiple labels to an email, too, for easy cross-referencing.
To label a specific email:
• Open the email, then click on the Label icon under the search bag. It looks like a small tag.
• Choose from an existing label, if you already have some set up, or create a new one by typing in the name.
To create a label from your Inbox:
• Click the Settings cog > See all settings > Labels.
• From here, you can show, hide, remove and add labels.
• Note: Removing a label will have no impact on your emails themselves, so feel free to adjust as you see fit.
Before you go too crazy with labels, a warning: Categorizing every single thing might do more harm than good. Tap or click for one mistake you’re making with your email that hackers love.
3. Skip the inbox
I get a lot of email, and I bet you do too. Some you want to save for later or have a record of, but you don't need to see in your inbox every day. That's where filters come in.
Filters can be automatically applied to incoming emails so they automatically go where you want. Here’s how:
• In the search box at the top, click the Down arrow.
• Enter your search criteria. You may go by sender or choose keywords that will be in the emails you’re targeting. If you want to check that your search worked correctly, see what emails show up by clicking Search.
• At the bottom of the search window, click Create filter.
• Choose what you’d like the filter to do. Options include Skip the Inbox, Mark as read, Delete it or Forward it.
• Click Create filter.
Keep in mind this will only affect new emails that come to your inbox and won’t apply retroactively.
4. Add a snazzy image to your signature
In addition to text like your name and contact info, you can also add images to your Gmail signature. If you have a business logo, headshot, signature, or something else to share, add it to your email signature to be sent out automatically with every message.
To add an image to your signature:
Click the Settings cog > See all settings.
On the General tab, scroll down to Signature.
Click the button that says Create new, then create your custom signature.
Click the image icon to upload or drag a picture into your email signature.
5. Make an alias on the fly
This tip is the handiest privacy feature built into Gmail. You can easily create a new email address by simply making an alias. Just add a plus sign and a word after your user name to your email address, like this: "email@example.com.”
One handy use is associating all your recurring subscription services to one alias, like this: “firstname.lastname@example.org.” Then you can easily sort all the incoming mail to this email address or set up a filter (like in step 2) to automatically send them to one spot.
This is also a good way to see if a company is selling out your email address. If you get a strange message, see which email address of yours it was sent.
6. Unsend messages
Don’t panic if you sent an email you regret or that contained a typo or error. Gmail gives you the ability to recall messages completely – but you need to set this feature up in advance.
To enable Undo send:
• Click the Settings gear icon > See all settings.
• Next to Undo Send, select a Send cancellation period of 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds. I recommend 30 seconds, so you’ll have as long as possible to decide.
Now, after sending a message, in the bottom left corner, you’ll see “Message sent” and the option to “Undo” or “View message.” To cancel the send, click Undo.
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7. Easily find your unread emails
With so many emails coming in, messages can slip through the cracks. If you have multiple labels or complicated inbox configuration, it’s even harder to keep an eye on every correspondence.
To find unread emails, go to the search bar at the top of your Gmail account. Type “unread” into the search field and all unread messages will appear.
8. Schedule emails
Scheduling your emails allows you to compose messages on your own time and at your own pace. If you're getting some work done after work hours and want to save your reply for the morning, this is an easy way to do it.
• To schedule an email, compose your message as usual. Then instead of clicking the blue Send button, click the arrow right next to it.
• Click Schedule send, then choose one of the suggested days and times, or select your own.
9. Get organized
Some people swear by their favorite to-do list app. Others, myself included, prefer a paper notebook. If you want to keep your emails and your tasks in sync, try Gmail’s built-in list maker.
You can create a to-do list, organize tasks, and check off items once they are accomplished.
You’ll find the Tasks icon in the far-right control panel. If you don't see it, click the small arrow in the bottom right corner of the window to open the panel. Click the Tasks icon, which looks like a blue circle with a white and yellow checkmark.
From here, you can easily add and mark off your to-dos.
Is all the buzzing and beeping from your inbox driving you up the wall? Tap or click to stop annoying notifications for good.
10. Find the perfect layout
Gmail offers several different layouts you can use that change the priority of the messages you see. If you’d rather see only your most urgent messages first, you might want to adjust your layout. Here’s how:
• Click the Settings cog. You can select a new layout from this Quick settings menu.
• Choose your preferred density (how many emails show at once), inbox type, or reading pane view.
• Each of these will display your emails in a different order than simply date and time. And if you grow tired of a specific layout, you can always follow the same steps to change it back.
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Learn about all the latest technology on the Kim Komando Show, the nation's largest weekend radio talk show. Kim takes calls and dispenses advice on today's digital lifestyle, from smartphones and tablets to online privacy and data hacks. For her daily tips, free newsletters and more, visit her website at Komando.com.
The views and opinions expressed in this column are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of USA TODAY.