Have you ever wanted to become a Gmail “power user?” Someone who always knows all the Gmail tricks, like the best time to email, whose email is on point, and who spends far less time on email—yet sees better results than everyone around them? Of course you have. Email eats up a huge chunk of your day, whether you realize it or not.
The average employee receives about 121 emails every day, which means a 1-minute loss on every email would result in a cumulative loss of 2 hours every day! If you’re a glass half-full type, that means if you can shave a minute off every email you send, whether that means eliminating the email entirely, writing it faster, or organizing it better, you’ll save yourself 2 hours a day. Power users understand this, and have dozens—actually, 101—Gmail tricks, hacks, and habits that make them perfectly oiled emailing machines.
Are you ready to become a Gmail Jedi Master yet? Read on. I’ll be taking you on a tour through the ins and outs of Gmail, including some features you may have heard of (but haven’t fully utilized), features you haven’t heard of, apps and extensions to help you make the most of the Gmail experience, and of course, Gmail tricks and hacks that will make your email productivity and effectiveness better than they’ve ever been before.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Markups and Organization
This first cluster of Gmail hacks revolve around markups and organization. Essentially, they’re useful features and tools that will help you stay organized, leaving emails exactly where you want them, filtering out certain types of emails, and overall making your Gmail experience more intuitive:
1. Create labels.
First, you can create and start using specific labels. On the left-hand side of your web app, you’ll find an option to “create new label.” From there, you can provide a custom name for your label and potentially “nest” the label under an already-existing label (like a subcategory). For example, you might create labels for emails associated with specific clients, or ones for messages of different levels of priority.
2. Utilize “read and unread messages” functionality.
To the average Gmail user, “read” and “unread” messages are automatic distinctions that occur when a new message comes in, and when you actually click on that message. But to the Gmail power user, this is an opportunity for organization. Under the “More” category, you’ll find an option to mark specifically selected (or all) emails as “read” or “unread” as you choose. That way, you can highlight emails you haven’t yet gotten to, or decrease the priority of emails you know aren’t worth reading.
3. Utilize automatic sorting filtering.
You probably have emails that you often receive from the same sender or with the same subject line that you don’t want to mark as spam, or unsubscribe from, but you don’t need it to go to your inbox. You can use Filters to automatically sort them into certain categories, labels, forward them, archive them, delete them, or even ensure they are never sent to your spam folder. From Settings, navigate to your “Filters and Blocked Addresses” tab and then click “Create new filter.”
4. Utilize stars and markers.
You’ve probably noticed the square, star, and rectangle-ish figures to the left of each of your emails. You can use these to mark conversations as “important” (the default nomenclature for starred or marked emails). And because there are two options (to start—more details to come later), you can use them to denote anything you want, including the urgency, priority level, or importance of the email’s content.
5. Start using tasks.
Did you know there’s built-in Task functionality in Gmail? Click on the arrow next to Gmail in the upper-left corner, and click on Tasks. You’ll open a small window that allows you to create new tasks in a concise, basic list, then cross them off as you accomplish them. You can even use the Actions menu at the bottom to introduce more sophisticated formatting, set due dates, and manage your tasks. Under the More menu, you can also send marked emails to your task list automatically.
6. Create events from emails.
If you use Google Calendar, you can use a Gmail message as a basis for the creation of a new event. Open up the message in question and check out the More menu. You’ll see a Create Event button that allows you to use the subject line of the email to create a new event on your calendar. It’s super useful for setting new meetings or putting events of interest on your horizon.
7. Mute conversations.
Have you ever been CC’d on what seems to be a never-ending email thread, with people constantly sending messages that have no relevance to you? You can stop the chain of interruptions by muting the conversation. Mark the thread in question and click on Mute under the More menu. You’ll no longer receive notifications from new messages in this chain.
8. Archive what you aren’t using.
Are there emails taking up space in your Inbox that you want to keep, but aren’t referring to regularly? Consider archiving them, using the box-with-arrow symbol. The archive feature will store your emails away from your Inbox, but unlike Spam and Trash folders, they’ll never be automatically deleted. Do keep in mind that archived messages will still count toward your upper storage limit.
9. Learn power search operators.
Search is easy in Gmail—you just search, right? Well, of course, power users have a few additional tricks for Gmail up their sleeves. Gmail search supports several search operators, which modify how you’re searching to get you the messages you’re looking for faster. For example, you can type “from:” to specify a sender, use “-” to remove messages from your result, or search for messages with an attachment using “has: attachment.” Make sure to check out the link to get a full list of the operators available.
10. Change the display density.
Do you prefer seeing as many emails as possible, browsing through your Inbox high-level, or restricting your few to a few emails at a time, so you can truly take in the details? It turns out, you have the option to switch. Under settings, you’ll see Display Density as the top option—toggle between Comfortable, Cozy, and Compact to find the ideal density for your working style.
11. Rearrange – or remove – your tabs.
By default, your Gmail account probably has three tabs up at the top—Primary, Social, and Promotions. But did you know you can rearrange and customize how these tabs are displayed? Click Configure Inbox in the Settings menu and you’ll be able to select new tabs to be filtered out of your Inbox or deselect default tabs to be let back into your Inbox. Other tab options include Updates and Forums.
12. Pick a theme you love.
We’re headed back to the Settings menu to check out Themes, which will give you a selection of pre-made photos and background colors you can use to create a more personal Gmail experience. You can even upload your own photo to serve as a background image. Will this make your emails more concise or better-written? Probably not. But it will put a smile on your face every time you open your Inbox.
13. Take advantage of drafts.
If you’ve ever accidentally closed out your Gmail tab while writing an email, you’ve been coincidentally saved by the automatic Draft feature in Gmail. Gmail will save whatever emails you’re working on in a designated Drafts folder, for your future editing and perusing needs. You can utilize this Draft system for anything, from working on future emails you’ll need to send to saving some of your work in a format that’s instantly ready to convert to email.
14. Mark emails specifically so Google can learn.
By default, Google will use your past behavior to learn your preferences; it may notice that you typically star emails that contain certain keywords or are addressed to you in a specific way. You can toggle this feature off in Settings, but it’s there to help you. Marking your emails in a consistent fashion will help “train” Google to automatically mark and sort your emails according to your own standards and wishes.
Individual email features
Now, we’re going to shift our attention to Gmail tricks and hacks meant to help you draft individual emails. These are functional tidbits you might not have noticed within Gmail—later on, I’ll dive into habits and techniques you can use when drafting your email content. For now, open up a New Message by clicking the Compose button. It’s in this window that we’ll find the following features—which only power users tend to take advantage of:
15. Integrate with Drive.
Are you currently using Google Drive? If so, there’s a convenient little button at the bottom of your draft that allows you to insert any file you have in storage. It makes it easy to search for and find exactly the file you’re looking for, and saves you the step of opening Drive separately.
16. Send and receive money.
If you use Google Payments, you can also take advantage of a handy in-email feature to send or receive money. The dollar sign in your email brings up a menu that allows you to send a user a specific dollar amount (with or without a memo attached) or request money from your recipient.
17. Learn to format your email.
You may have never noticed all the formatting options along the bottom edge of your New Message box, but they can be incredibly useful. You have your choice of 11 different fonts by default, along with bold, italic, and underline options you can use to emphasize certain portions of your text. You can also change your text alignment, font size, and coloration. Perhaps most importantly, you can use ordered or unordered list options and indents to highlight key points in the body of your message.
18. Quote other emails.
Have you ever wanted to quote another email directly, and make it clear you were quoting another email? Click on the quotation marks along the formatting bar, and you’ll get your chance. Just copy any text (it doesn’t have to be from another email) and you’ll be able to format your email cleanly. That vertical gray line can spare you from a serious misunderstanding.
19. Check your spelling.
You probably didn’t get far in your Gmail-using career before encountering that humiliating red underline that tells you how you messed up a word. But it’s still a good idea to run a spell check, clicking on the lower-right arrow to conduct the test, which will then highlight any spelling or grammatical errors it finds (defaulting to English, but available for several languages).
20. Use plain-text.
I just taught you how to use several different formatting options, but there are instances where a plain-text email is better. You can use that bottom-right arrow to switch to “plain text” mode, which will remove any formatting you currently have in your message, and hide the formatting bar so you aren’t tempted to add any more.
Think you’re ready for advanced Gmail hacks? Don’t worry—these features and options aren’t too complicated. They’re just harder to find than the surface-level features to which you’ve grown accustomed.
21. Try basic mode.
It’s a twist of irony that our first “advanced” feature is actually Gmail’s Basic mode. If you’re using an obscure browser, or if you have a weak or unreliable internet connection, the basic HTML version is faster and more reliable. Just use this link to switch to basic mode, but be warned—you’ll lose some potentially important features, such as chat, spell check, keyboard shortcuts, rich formatting, and custom “from” addresses.
22. Change conversations and contacts per page.
Head into the full Settings menu, and one of your first options in the General tab will be the number of conversations and contacts you see per page. By default, you’ll be working with 50 conversations and 250 contacts per page, but you can update these to make them fit your work style.
23. Undo sent emails.
Of all the hacks on this list, this is the one I wish I’d known about sooner. In the same General menu within Settings, you’ll see an option to “Enable Undo Send,” and yes, this gives you the God-like power you think it does. Once enabled, any email you send will give you a brief period of time during which you can recover, or cancel sending the email. This is vital if you are, at any point, clumsy, impulsive, or error prone—in other words, if you’re a part of the human race. You can set delay periods for 5, 10, 20, or 30 seconds. I’ve got mine set at 30. For a more comprehensive post covering this awesome Gmail hack, see our post on How to Unsend an Email in Gmail.
24. Choose how your emails are grouped.
If you’re used to Outlook or another email manager, you might be surprised to see your Gmail conversation threads grouped together. This is the default mode, but you can switch it to turn “Conversation View” off. If you like to keep your threads all together, you’ll want to keep it the same, but if you like working with individual messages, make the change.
25. Send and archive simultaneously.
If you frequently find yourself closing out conversations that are no longer relevant with a “Thanks!” or a “Got it!”, consider turning on the Send and Archive button in the General Settings menu. This button will allow you to automatically archive any conversation once you’ve sent the final message.
26. Turn on notifications.
If you’re like most Gmail users, you’ve got Gmail open in one browser tab while you work in other tabs. By default, you won’t get a notification that you’ve received a new message, but you can turn on notifications to change that. You can even choose to get notifications for all new messages, or just the ones you’ve already marked as important.
27. Use different colored stars.
I alluded to this point earlier, when I covered the use of stars. Right now, your Inbox is probably loaded up with exactly one, boring-colored star. But in the General Settings menu, you have the option of adding more stars and icons, in a range of colors, so you can mark your emails not only based on whether they’re important or not, but based on what type or level of importance they are. I use mine like the Homeland Security Advisory System.
28. Start using keyboard shortcuts.
If you’re like me, you’re not exactly “lazy,” but you’re not going to do any more work than you have to, even on a micro level. The creator of Gmail keyboard shortcuts probably had the same mentality. In General Settings, you can turn on keyboard shortcuts, so you can send emails with CTRL + Enter, or delete a message with #, or add a conversation to your task list with Shift + t. There’s a list of several dozen shortcuts to check out, so make sure you visit Google’s page on them.
29. Get better ads.
You may have noticed some ads at the top of your various tab pages. For the average user, these are either white noise to be ignored or valuable pieces of information. If you click the “X” to dismiss the ad on the right, you can give Google feedback about why the ad isn’t relevant to you, or you can visit your Google account’s ad personalization settings to dig deeper; here, you can describe your personal profile and list all the topics you’re interested in, or ones you don’t like. Google will then customize ads based on those specs.
30. Flag messages from a mailing list.
By default, you won’t have any visual markers that tell you whether the message you received was sent to you individually or to an entire mailing list. In the General Settings menu, you’ll be able to “show indicators,” which will mark messages sent to you from a mailing list with a > symbol. It’s helpful if you get marketing messages that seem personal in nature.
31. Toggle snippets.
While you’re there, you can change the display settings for “snippets”—the brief chunks of body content that appear near the subject line of each email on your list. This option is on by default, but you can toggle it off to focus purely on the subject lines in your inbox.
32. Set up a vacation auto-responder.
If you’re on vacation, you shouldn’t be responding to emails—but you still want your email senders to know why you aren’t responding to them. That’s where Gmail’s vacation settings come in. You can set the time period for your vacation, and customize a message that gets sent automatically to anyone who tries to reach you during that time. You can even set it to appear only to people in your Contacts list.
33. Rearrange your Inbox.
Under the Inbox tab within settings, you can reorganize your default sorting so that your most important messages appear first. For example, you can list unread first, starred first, or “important” messages first. You can also switch your inbox tabs around so that your most important categories are most accessible. Personally, I use the “Unread first” inbox so that all my unread emails are at the top. I treat my unread emails like a personal to-do list; I don’t mark them as read until whatever task they’re associated with has been completed.
34. Send and Receive emails from another email account in your main Gmail inbox.
Chances are, your Gmail address isn’t the only email account you’re using. Fortunately, Google has you covered. You can send mail from another email address using your primary Gmail account (in case you wanted to put those aliases to work), and check mail from other accounts regularly using the Gmail interface. Just head to the Accounts and Import tab, and find the “Send mail as” and “Check mail from other accounts”.
35. Customize your filters.
Gmail relies on a series of filters to categorize and “understand” your email before it reaches your eyes, but you can customize these filters so they work even better for you. Under the Inbox tab, you can choose to override existing filters, to get messages that might otherwise get flagged as spam. Under Filters and Blocked Addresses, you can also create filters of your own, based on keywords and other information, or manage your blocked email addresses, so you only get mail from the people you want.
36. Check Gmail offline.
Did you notice that there’s an Offline tab in Settings? It’s there to help you get certain Gmail features even when you don’t have a reliable internet connection. You’ll have to install Gmail Offline, a free Chrome app, but once you do, you’ll be able to read messages, draft new messages, and get messages ready to send when you reconnect to the internet.
37. Import contacts from other addresses.
Under the Accounts and Import tab of Settings, you’ll have the option to import your mail and contacts from almost any account, including those from Yahoo!, Hotmail, AOL, and anything that uses webmail or POP3. This is extremely valuable if you want to keep all your contacts in one place, or consolidate two email addresses you used for different purposes.
38. Delegate your Gmail account.
If you want to give temporary access to your Gmail account to someone else, such as a friend or colleague, without giving them your account password, you can set them as a delegate on your account. Delegates can read, send, and delete messages for you, but they can’t change your password or chat with anyone for you. This can be useful if you want to have a personal assistant go through your inbox for you, or if you’re going on an extended vacation and need someone to manage your inbox while you’re out. You can find instructions on how to add or remove account delegates here.
39. Open different Gmail accounts in separate tabs – in the same browser window.
If you’re like me, you have a personal email address, and a work email address. But what if you want to keep both open in the same browser window? It took me a while to figure this one out, but it’s simple and awesome. Start by opening Gmail in one browser tab. Then, click your profile photo in the upper right, and then click the “Add account” button. You’ll be prompted to login with the second Gmail account. Do so, and voila – you’ll have both inboxes open in separate tabs in the same browser window.
40. Take advantage of dots and plus signs.
Gmail Jedi Masters know that any combination of dots (.) and plus signs (+) in the main part of your email address are negligible; they’re essentially ignored by Gmail. That means if your email address is firstname.lastname@example.org, you can use combinations like email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, or even g.m+a.i+++lpo…email@example.com, and still get email at your correct address. Why is this useful? For starters, you can create filters to automatically sort incoming messages with a signature variant of your main email address, so you can get to your most relevant messages faster. You can also use these variants to sign up for multiple accounts elsewhere, such as on social media, where your identity is tied to an email address.
Google engineers have a mad scientist streak; it’s how they come up with their most innovative projects. You can find all these features by accessing Settings and clicking on the Labs tab. From there, you can enable or disable whichever individual features you want. Note that these features haven’t been fully developed, and may still be buggy when you first use them—but they sure can be useful:
The auto-advance feature is helpful for people who get hundreds of emails or conversation threads per day, and like to go through them all at once. With this feature enabled, you’ll automatically move to the next email or conversation in sequential order whenever you delete, archive, or mute the one currently in view.
42. Canned responses.
Do you ever find yourself writing what is, essentially, the same message over and over, such as “Thanks! I’ll review this as soon as I can,” or “I’m not sure, boss, it was like that when I got here”? In Labs, you’ll get a submenu in the New Message menu that allows you to create canned responses you can then call up whenever you need them.
43. Create your own shortcuts.
You were probably impressed by the number of pre-formatted keyboard shortcuts Google offered in hack #27, but thanks to those crazy Google engineers, you can also create your own shortcuts. If you enable this feature, you’ll get a new tab in Settings where you can map new combinations of keyboard inputs to a ton of different functions, so you can make your Inbox experience faster and more intuitive.
44. Integrate Google Calendar.
Google Calendar and Gmail are pretty friendly with each other already, but you probably wish there was a way to get both in one package. With the Google Calendar gadget, you’ll get a sneak peek of your upcoming Calendar events in a small box in the left-hand column of the Gmail layout you’re used to.
45. Mark read emails with a single button.
The Mark as Read button isn’t the most exciting option to enable, but if you find yourself marking most of your messages this way, it’s a time-saving feature you can’t afford to skip. This standalone button saves you the step of navigating to a submenu every time you want to mark something as “read.”
46. Manage Multiple Inboxes.
The Multiple Inboxes feature is somewhat misleadingly named. With it, you’ll be creating new shortcuts in the left-hand column, which you can use to quickly and easily sort your messages into different groupings. In Settings, you’ll have multiple slots you can use to establish search parameters or filtering options, which will then be automatically applied when you click the new panel.
47. Preview emails.
If you’re tired of clicking each conversation to view the latest message, the Preview Pane will be your new best friend. This Labs feature adds a display to the right of your existing conversations, helping you read and sort through your messages faster than ever.
48. Add a right-side chat.
This one is purely preferential, but is still important to understand. By default, your chat menu is on the left side. This one moves it to the right. Will this be the feature that saves you hours every week? I doubt it. But it’s there for those of you who care.
49. Get an unread message icon.
If you have Gmail open in a tab, take a look at the tab icon that’s there (or look at the example below). In Labs, you can turn on an unread message icon so a number is added to this symbol—that number represents the number of unread emails in your inbox, so you can monitor your account for incoming messages while browsing the web for other tasks.
You should also note that the Labs lineup is always changing. One of your favorite features might disappear overnight, so don’t get too used to it—but on the bright side, new features are added all the time, so check back regularly for new toys.
Are you concerned about the security of your email account? You should be. Hundreds of millions of Gmail accounts have already been hacked, and hundreds of millions more will be hacked in the future. The only way to protect yourself is through ongoing education, and adherence to these important tips and tricks for Gmail. Be sure to check out our in-depth blog posts on Gmail security and email security best practices, too!
50. Choose a strong password.
You don’t have to be a Gmail power user to know the value of choosing a strong password, but if you want to make sure your account is secure, you better put that knowledge to good use. You can read up on best practices here if you need a refresher, but you should know the standards—use lots of characters, including upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols, and try not to include any patterns or easy-to-guess configurations (like your birthday, or the dreaded 1234 sequence).
51. Update your backup information.
In the Accounts and Import section of the Settings menu, you can “Change password recovery options” to update your backup information. Here, you’ll give Google a backup email address and phone number where they can send you information if you forget key login details. Keep this information up-to-date; you never know when you’ll need it.
52. See when your account was last used.
In the bottom-right of your desktop window, you’ll see a short snippet that reveals the last time your account was accessed. It’s a good habit to check this every time you log in, so you can notice if there’s any suspicious activity on your account. You can also click “details” to get a more detailed view of how and when your account was used—and on which devices.
53. Change your password regularly.
While we’re on the subject of security, don’t forget to change your password regularly—as in twice a year, minimum, and preferably every quarter. Changing your password will keep you protected if your information is compromised, though you will be faced with the task of constantly committing your new passwords to memory.
54. Enable two-factor authentication.
Google has a specific landing page set up for enabling two-factor authentication. In case you aren’t familiar, two-factor authentication requires you to verify your identity using not only your password, but a personal device connected to your account. It will take you a few extra seconds to log in, but will practically ensure that no one can access your account without your permission. If you decide to disable it, see our guide on how to turn off 2 step verification in Gmail.
Add-Ons and Plugins
Now for the juicy bits. We’ve gone over some of the most important features, settings, and options in Gmail itself, but you should know there are dozens, if not hundreds of third parties developing software (including both standalone apps and web browser plugins) to make your Gmail experience even better. They’re easy to install, and most of them are either free or offer a free trial, so they’re worth considering if you want to improve your Gmail performance:
You’re reading this article on the EmailAnalytics blog, so you deserve to know about the functionality it offers. EmailAnalytics is a standalone analytics app meant to provide you more transparency into how you write, read, and exchange emails. You can dig into your history and learn how long it takes you to write up emails, how long it takes you to respond, and the average length of your email threads. You can use this information to see where your weak points are, and hopefully improve so you can email faster and more efficiently.
56. Simple Gmail Notes.
Simple Gmail Notes is exactly what it sounds like, and the perfect browser add-on for beginners. It allows you to write up, save, and manage notes about your messages and conversations, so you can remember key items or remind yourself to do things in the future.
Virtru is an add-on meant to make your email data more secure. If you find yourself frequently sending confidential, proprietary, or other types of sensitive information, this is a must-have. Virtru encrypts your data, and allows you to set your messages to expire or revoke them entirely.
58. Batch Reply.
The aptly named Batch Reply extension is a variation on the “canned response” theme we explored in hack #42. With it, you can mark a group of messages in your inbox and reply to all of them with the same outgoing message. Just be careful not to send the same message too many times, or your coworkers are going to catch onto you.
One of my favorite apps in this section is Boomerang, which allows you to schedule emails to send later—which is ideal if you want to make it look like you’re working later than you are, or, you know, accomplish something more ethical, like sending emails while you’re in a meeting or during someone’s in-office hours. For more ways to do this, see our in-depth blog post on how to schedule an email to send later in Gmail. You can also set Boomerang up to give you automatic reminders to follow up on emails that haven’t yet gotten a response, so you never have any emails fall through the cracks.
60. Inbox Pause.
From the makers of Boomerang comes Inbox Pause, custom made for all those times you wish that constant flow of incoming emails would just stop. Intuitive as it gets, this add-on comes in the form of a giant blue pause button, which you can click to get an hour (or however long you want) to work on a project without interruptions.
Another add-on for added security is Digify, which helps you track attachments you send over the app and “unsend” them after a certain period of time. With it, you can also track who’s seen the document, and enable an auto-self-destruct sequence, which in the brand’s own words is “Mission Impossible style.”
If you ever get anxious to know if and when your recipients have seen your messages, Mailtrack is the perfect app for you. Each message you send with Mailtrack’s functionality gives you two checkmarks—one when the message is successfully sent and another when it’s read, with details on when and how it was read.
Gmail has a built-in task list, but for the task-oriented perfectionists in their user base, it doesn’t provide enough functionality. Todoist takes things a step further, giving you the ability to turn emails and conversations into a streamlined task list that helps you stay organized and focused on your highest priorities.
64. Strikethrough Etc.
When I covered the formatting options for individual Gmail messages, you might have noticed that there was no strikethrough functionality. Strikethrough, Etc. is a Chrome extension that can give it to you, along with additional options like upside-down text and arrows to enhance your text flavor.
If you’re used to the project management stylings of Trello, Sortd should look familiar to you. This add-on turns your Inbox into an interactive series of columns, which you can use as a card-based task management paradise—if anything in task management can be referred to as “paradise.”
Gmelius offers a few different interesting features, including post-dated scheduling, automatic reminders, to-do list integration, and even tracker detection. It’s an all-in-one platform, which is free to install—so it’s worth checking out.
If you’ve ever wanted more streamlined functionality to record video and send it in Gmail, BombBomb is the Chrome extension you’re looking for. Its PowerWheel allows you to easily record video, and embed that video in your email, then track the number of people who open that email and play the video.
Yesware’s main functionality is email tracking. Each email you attempt to send will have a “track” option. If checked, you’ll get a notification when your email is opened, so you can be sure that your messages are going through—and find out when they’re being read.
Remember all those keyboard shortcuts you either borrowed from Google or created on your own? There’s a learning curve to using them reliably and consistently. KeyRocket is a Chrome extension that alerts you when there’s an action you took that could have been done faster with a keyboard shortcut. It’s like having a live assistant to help you learn all the best Gmail tricks for saving time.
Gmail offers you the ability to create a custom email signature within the Settings menu, but if you really want your signature to pop, you’ll need WiseStamp. WiseStamp helps you build out a custom email signature, complete with a headshot and professional design, should you choose, so all your emails look spiffier (and you become easier to contact).
ActiveInbox is another app designed to convert your traditional Inbox into something more akin to a task management platform. Its ultimate intention is to help you, the Gmail user, track all your emails to true completion, and someday get to that fabled state of “inbox zero.”
Have you noticed how many of the tools on this list track when your emails are opened or read? That’s great for you, but you don’t want someone to do that with your emails, do you? That’s where PixelBlock comes in. It’s a Chrome extension that effectively blocks other people from tracking the emails you open or read, and informs you of the tracking attempts that have been blocked.
73. Checker Plus.
If you don’t want to open Gmail every time you get a new message, consider getting Checker Plus. Checker Plus exists as an icon in your top browser bar, which informs you when you get a new message, complete with a headshot of the sender and some brief information about the message. You can even have emails read aloud to you.
74. Just Not Sorry.
Just Not Sorry is an interesting Chrome extension that has the potential to make your Gmail messages more powerful. It automatically identifies linguistic cues that might undermine your message, such as “I’m sorry,” “I think,” or “I’m no expert.”
Dittach is a free Gmail app that helps you quickly browse through all the files you send and receive, and search through the documents, PDFs, and even audio and video files that have been sent as attachments. It’s one of the fastest ways to find that message or attachment you swore you had seen a few minutes ago.
Back to the security side of things, FlowCrypt is a Gmail encryption extension that can help you secure your email. It’s free and simple to install, so it’s worth considering if you want a bit of extra protection.
Discoverly is a handy tool for salespeople, and anyone else who wants more detailed information on their email contacts. It automatically links to Facebook, Twitter, and other social media networks so you can learn more about the people emailing you—all without leaving Gmail.
78. FollowUp CC.
FollowUp CC was made for forgettable people, busy people, and anyone else who needs a reminder from time to time. With a click, you can set the app to automatically follow up with you on any email you send or receive. You’ll get to track whether your sent email is opened, and follow up after a specific interval, regardless of whether it is or isn’t opened. It’s one of the best ways to stay on top of your most important messages and tasks.
79. Rename Email.
Let’s face it. Your coworkers suck at coming up with good subject lines, and it’s dragging your team’s performance down. Fortunately, the Chrome extension Rename Email is here to help. With it, you can customize all the subject lines in your Inbox to your own personal taste, so you don’t have to be confused about what “Thursday??” means anymore.
80. Auto Text Expander.
If you find yourself taking too much time to draft emails, you might want to use Auto Text Expander. This app allows you to create your own custom keyboard shortcuts, but for words and phrases rather than app functionality. For example, you might tie a short snippet like “co.profile” to automatically turn into a paragraph-long description of your company. It could shave hours off your email drafting time each month.
We’re all subscribed to far more marketing and promotional lists than we want to be, but it’s so hard to manually unsubscribe from them all. Unroll.me makes it simple. You can link your account to the service and see which lists you’re subscribed to, then unsubscribe from everything at once. Those few seconds you spend manually deleting emails each day can really add up, so don’t miss this opportunity.
Habits and Best Practices
Finally, I’m going to share some of the most important Gmail tricks, habits, and best practices you can engage in to make your emails more meaningful, less time consuming, and ultimately more valuable for you and your organization:
82. Know that Gmail isn’t perfect for everything.
I’m an email lover. I think it’s one of the best communication mediums we have. But it isn’t perfect, and isn’t appropriate for all conversations and messages. Make sure to take advantage of instant chat for quick, back-and-forth conversations, or phone calls for more elaborate, difficult-to-communicate topics.
83. Stop subscribing to email lists.
I mentioned how Unroll.me can help you clean up the clutter of marketing lists you no longer wish to be subscribed to, but you can save time in the future by avoiding those subscriptions in the first place. There are some things you won’t be able to help, so make sure you tune up your email account regularly by filtering out your unwanted list subscriptions.
84. Turn off notifications.
No matter where you’re using Gmail, you probably have notifications turned on. Your phone buzzes when you get a new email, or your browser notifies you when you get a new message. This is helpful for responding to emails quickly, but it isn’t always the most productive path. These notifications can distract you, and it could take you 23 minutes or more to recover from that distraction. If you’re working on an intensive project, or just want to get more done during the day, turn those notifications off.
85. Keep a concise email signature.
Earlier in this list, you’ve learned how to create a custom signature in Gmail, or using a third-party app. However, it’s better to keep your email signature concise. It will help your messages load faster in recipients’ mailboxes, and will keep the attention focused on the body of your message.
86. Learn when to use exclamation points.
Exclamation points, when used correctly and sparingly, can add enthusiasm and color to your message. When used excessively or inappropriately, they can make your message seem immature, and cheapen your message entirely. Don’t underestimate the power that punctuation can have in making your message clear.
87. Use concise, clear subject lines.
Bad subject lines are annoying, and often counterproductive. Unclear subject lines make your message instantly confusing and hard to organize for all your recipients (and you, if the thread continues). Put some effort into your subject lines, opting for relatively short phrases that adeptly summarize your main purpose in sending the email. An improvement here can improve all your communications.
88. Only CC when necessary.
The CC field is one of the most abused features of any email platform, including Gmail. Originally intended as a way to keep important team members in the loop, the ease and lure of the CC field have turned it into an opportunity to add everyone on the team. Unfortunately, more thread participants usually means more complex thread interactions, and more clogged inboxes, so use CCs only when it’s truly necessary.
89. Reply All only when 110% sure.
The Reply All button has been responsible for more lost jobs and embarrassing situations than any other misused Gmail feature. Be wary of its power. If you want to be on the safe side, start defaulting to hitting “Reply”; it’s better to reply to a solitary participant in error than it is to reply to the entire thread in error.
90. Always double check before sending.
While we’re on the subject of preventable mistakes, always take 30 seconds to double check the content of your email before sending it, including your spelling, subject line, and intended recipients. This isn’t a hack, per se, and some of the other hacks on this list are intended to automatically prevent catastrophic errors, but it’s still an important habit to get into.
91. Keep your sentences and paragraphs organized.
Imagine two emails, identical in content, except one of those emails has all its sentences clumped together in one wall of text, and the other has them arranged in short, one-or-two-sentence paragraphs. Which do you think will be faster to read and easier to comprehend? The simple step of breaking up your paragraphs to more understandable chunks can save your recipients hours of cumulative time, and improve the clarity of your messages.
92. Use bullet points and numbered lists.
Our brains find it easy to digest information that’s presented to us in list format (which is the main reason listicles like the one you’re reading are so popular). Lists break up bulky sections of text, and call out each of your points individually. Regardless of whether you use bullet points or numbered lists, these formatting options will make your emails easier to read—and will make your action items more obvious.
93. Recap action items or key points in long emails.
Speaking of action items, make sure you include them in your longer emails. It may be unclear to your recipients what their main takeaways are. It may take an extra minute to list the important deadlines or takeaways from your email, but it will ensure that the most important parts of your message get through.
94. Take advantage of bold, italics, and other formatting options.
The formatting options in hack #17 are there for a reason, so take advantage of them. Call out your most important points in bold or italics, or use bold to make the subheadings of your email more apparent. Recipients won’t always have time to read your email in detail, so these touches can help you draw their attention to the places it matters most.
95. Respond within 24 hours.
Make it a point to respond to emails within 24 hours, and faster when you can. This is especially important, considering about 50 percent of emails get responses within 2 hours. Turning off notifications temporarily is a good idea, 98. but only if you’re aware and focused enough to keep track of your messages and respond within an appropriate timeframe.
96. Open new threads for new topics.
If you have a new task to assign or a new project to go over, don’t reopen an old email thread. Doing so can interfere with your recipients’ email organization methods, and make it more confusing when you go to search for a specific comment you made, or specific information regarding a project. Instead, open a new thread.
97. Prevent threads from spiraling out of control.
Speaking of threads, work to keep your existing conversation threads from spiraling out of control. Off-topic messages, an overabundance of simple responses, and a lengthy chain of conversation can all make it nearly impossible to navigate the thread for meaningful information. If you start noticing this pattern of behavior, close the thread and start over.
98. Be thoughtful with attachments.
Be thoughtful when sending attachments over email. Large attachments can be bulky, interfering with ordinary email exchange protocols. Fortunately, Google Drive supports exchanges of files of up to 10 GB. Give recipients a heads-up before forwarding a large attachment, or use Drive to make things more seamless.
99. Train employees and partners on how to properly use Gmail.
You’ve learned a lot from this article, including better methods for constructing emails and tweaks you can make to your account to improve your productivity. Why not share those facts with your coworkers and employees? Teaching your most common senders and recipients these important hacks will make the whole team more unified, and improve the productivity and efficiency with which you can work.
100. Send fewer emails.
Every email you write takes time out of your day. Every email you send takes time out of someone else’s day. Make sure you’re using those opportunities wisely. If you reduce the number of emails you send by just 10 percent, you’re unlikely to lose any vital communications, but you might be able to shave hours off your time requirements each week. Better still, you’ll help keep all your recipients’ Inboxes cleaner and more organized too.
101. Ask for feedback.
Finally, ask for feedback about your emailing habits, from your employees, coworkers, clients, and other contacts you trust. You might not notice that your Gmail profile picture shows you with broccoli in your teeth, or that your email signature comes off as clunky and obsolete. Outside opinions can help you polish the appearance of your profile, introduce you to new techniques, and enlighten you to habits that might be compromising your effectiveness.
Congratulations! You made it to the end of this list of Gmail tricks and hacks. Odds are, you either meticulously researched and adopted each and every one of these Gmail tips and tricks, or you skimmed the list looking for some new information, and made a few notes to follow up on. If you’re intimidated by the size and breadth of this list, don’t worry—there’s a good place to start.
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