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. Wouldn’t it be nice to know some time-saving Gmail hacks you can put to use every day?
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, learning how to make Gmail faster, or organizing it better, you’ll save yourself 2 hours a day. Power users understand this, and have dozens of Gmail tricks, Gmail hacks, and productivity 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 Gmail tricks, Gmail hacks, and some features you may have heard of (but haven’t fully utilized) and features you probably haven’t heard of to help make your email productivity better than ever before.
Let’s get started.
Table of Contents
Gmail Tricks and Hacks: 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 Gmail 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, which can help you avoid the dreaded question of how to recover deleted emails. Do keep in mind that archived messages will still count toward your upper storage limit. If you reach your storage limit, see our guide on how to delete Gmail emails in bulk.
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. This is one of my favorite Gmail hacks!
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. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to change your Gmail background!
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.
Gmail Hacks: Individual Email Features
Now, we’re going to shift our attention to Gmail tricks and Gmail 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.
Gmail Tricks and Hacks: Advanced Settings
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 Gmail 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 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 our feature post on Gmail keyboard shortcuts.
29. Get better ads.
This is a Gmail hack to help make ads less annoying. 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. Be sure to see our post on out of office message examples for help crafting the perfect message!
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. Don’t miss our post on how to find unread emails in Gmail and Outlook!
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.
This is one of the most useful Gmail hacks for maintaining productivity because it enables you to keep working even when you don’t have an internet connection. Did you notice that there’s an Offline tab in Settings? 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.
This is one of our favorite Gmail hacks because it essentially enables you to use a single email address to sign up for anything multiple times — perfect for testing or getting around cumbersome limits. The trick is 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 [email protected], you can use combinations like [email protected], [email protected], or even g.m+a.i+++lpo…[email protected], 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.
Gmail Hacks: Gmail Labs
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. See our full guide on using Gmail email templates.
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.
One of the best Gmail hacks is reading emails without actually opening them. 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.
Congratulations! You made it to the end of this list of Gmail tricks and Gmail hacks. If you’re looking for more ways to improve productivity with Gmail, see our posts on Gmail plugins and Gmail apps, add-ons, and extensions. Also, don’t miss our big list of Gmail tips and tricks.
If you really want to be a Gmail power user, implementing these Gmail hacks is a good place to start, but you also need to understand how you’re currently emailing—and why that’s good or bad. EmailAnalytics was created to give users this insight. If you sign up today, you’ll get a free, 14-day trial so you can gauge your own email habits and start working smarter!
Gmail hacks FAQ
How do I maximize my productivity in Gmail?
There are numerous Gmail hacks and tricks that you can use to boost your productivity in Gmail. Examples include learning Gmail hotkeys and search operators, using automatic filtering, muting conversations, and using the built-in 'tasks' functionality.
What is the best way to use Gmail?
Gmail can be used as a task manager, sales CRM, calendar, or simply as an email management platform. The 'best' way to use Gmail depends on what your goals are. However you use Gmail, there are always ways you can do so more efficiently, and this list of Gmail hacks and tricks aims to help.
What are the best Gmail hacks to know?
The best Gmail hacks vary depending on what your goals are when using Gmail. In general, some of the most useful Gmail hacks for most purposes include utilizing automatic sorting by labels, Gmail search operators, enabling 'undo sent email', and Gmail email templates.
Jayson is a long-time columnist for Forbes, Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc.com, and various other major media publications, where he has authored over 1,000 articles since 2012, covering technology, marketing, and entrepreneurship. He keynoted the 2013 MarketingProfs University, and won the “Entrepreneur Blogger of the Year” award in 2015 from the Oxford Center for Entrepreneurs. In 2010, he founded a marketing agency that appeared on the Inc. 5000 before exiting it in January of 2019, and he is now the CEO of EmailAnalytics, and co-host of the podcast The Entrepreneur Cast.