Have you upgraded to the latest version of Gmail? If not, you could be missing out on some amazing new Gmail features.
Gmail is one of Google’s most popular tools, passing more than a billion users back in 2016, and part of its popularity is due to the Google team’s commitment to making ongoing improvements to an already-great platform. This year, they released some major updates to the core Gmail system; some G Suite customers got early access back in April, but now the update is available for all users (be sure to see our detailed comparison of G Suite vs Gmail).
So what are the new features in Gmail? And which new Gmail features are the most important to master?
Accessing New Gmail Features: How to Upgrade to the New Gmail
If you haven’t yet manually upgraded your Gmail account, you’ll be working with the old system by default, and you won’t be able to use the new features in Gmail. Fortunately, upgrading is simple; click on the Settings icon in the upper-right, and select “Try the new Gmail.”
Gmail will then ask you to choose between “Default,” “Comfortable,” and “Compact” views, but don’t worry—you can always change this later in the Settings menu. Immediately, you’ll notice a design change, though the core functionality has remained more or less the same. If you end up preferring the old version of Gmail, you can always revert back in the Settings menu.
The New Gmail Features You Need to Know
There’s a lot to explore in this redesign, so let’s walk through some of the most important new Gmail features to note:
1. Hover-based email organization.
As you scroll through your inbox, the first thing you’re likely to notice is the flash of icons that appears whenever you highlight a line of your inbox. You’re probably familiar with these icons already, but in case you aren’t, from left to right these are Archive, Delete, Mark as (Read/Unread, depending on the current status of the email), and Snooze (more on Snooze later). These one-click functions replace the need to highlight individual emails and manually take the action once highlighted, or to open the email first.
(Image Source: Google)
I mentioned Snooze in the last point, because it appears as an in-line option for any email in your inbox. Once you click Snooze, you’ll have the option to delay your receipt of the email until a later date; Google will recommend some times to you, or you can pick a date and time of your own.
Once you choose a date and time, Google will take the email out of your Inbox, and resend it to you on that date and time. If you’re worried about losing information in the meantime (like if you decide to take action on the email sooner), don’t fret: you can access all your Snoozed emails at any time by clicking on Snoozed in the left column. You can even see what time you’re set to receive each email!
3. Suggested replies.
Do you ever find yourself stuck on what to say to an incoming email? Or do you feel like you say the same things over and over again? Gmail’s new “suggested replies” might be ideal for you. At the bottom of certain emails, Google may suggest various clips of text to you, prompting your initial response to the email. For example, if someone makes a suggestion or belays an instruction in an email, you might see responses like these:
If you click on any one of these, you’ll start an email draft with the selected text. And don’t worry—you’ll have the ability to edit the message further however you see fit.
If you have an email that you haven’t responded to in a few days, and Google’s algorithm thinks the email warrants a response, you might see it move to the top of your inbox, with a brief reminder to reply or follow up to the message. It’s a handy new form of Gmail reminders that many users will welcome.
(Image Source: Google)
If you find Nudges to be more annoying than helpful, you can turn them off. Just head to Settings, and you’ll find Nudges with their own section under the General tab; you can even toggle on/off emails to “reply to” and “follow up on” separately.
5. New display densities.
You were able to change the display density of your Inbox in the old Gmail, but the new Gmail offers new designs that may alter your core preference. Head to Settings, and one of the first options you’ll see is “Display density.” There, you can quickly alter between Default, Comfortable, and Compact (like you were first prompted).
6. Expand or hide the menu.
The menu on the left, by default, appears similar to how it did in the old Gmail. But if you click the hamburger-menu icon in the upper-left, you’ll see it quickly collapse to a narrow column of icons, giving you more space to read your Inbox emails. You can see the full menu by hovering over these icons, or permanently restore the old menu by clicking the three horizontal lines at the top once again.
7. Integrate your Google Calendar.
On the right side of the screen, you’ll see several new icons, each of which represents a different new feature to help you be more productive. At the top is a Calendar icon you can use to integrate with Google Calendar. When enabled, you can quickly view all your scheduled events in line with your Inbox, and add new events at any time.
8. Use Keep.
Next on the list is a Google Keep icon, so you can take notes and keep your list of notes organized more efficiently. You can take new notes from any device, and see them all in one centrally organized list.
9. Make use of Tasks.
I maintain that “Tasks” were the most criminally underrated feature of the old Gmail; many people didn’t even know that you could create task lists within Gmail based on incoming emails or external responsibilities, then check off those responsibilities as you complete them. Now you can start them and organize them even more conveniently.
10. Get add-ons immediately.
You’ll also notice a “+” icon at the bottom of this list of integrations. Clicking it takes you to the G Suite Marketplace, where you can browse for more third-party extensions and add-ons. If you choose an add-on compatible with the new Gmail, you’ll see its icon emerge on this right-side bar.
11. Protect your most sensitive emails and documents.
When you turn on a feature known as “Confidential mode,” you’ll be able to better protect your most sensitive materials. Just click on the lock-and-clock icon on the bottom row of a new message you’re composing.
When turned on, Confidential mode prohibits your recipients from forwarding your email, copy/pasting the contents of your email, downloading any of your attachments, or printing anything in the email. You’ll also have the chance to set an expiration date in the future; when this date arrives, the email will be removed from your recipient’s Inbox.
You’ll also notice an option for an “SMS passcode.” If you choose to enable this feature, you’ll be able to enter your recipient’s phone number and send them a randomly generated, unique passcode. Your recipient will be required to enter that passcode to access the contents of your email. Think of it as message-specific two-factor authentication you can toggle on or off.
If you choose to remove access to a confidential email before the natural expiration date arrives, you can do that to—just head to the Sent menu and find the original email.
12. Add contacts in the body text.
Have you ever wanted to add a recipient to your email without leaving the body of your text? Now you can. Simply type “+” and start typing your contact’s name or email address, and Gmail will generate a list of options for you to add (similar to tagging people on social media).
13. New hovercards.
In Classic Gmail, you could hover over a contact’s name, email address, or photo, and see a handful of important pieces of information on that person. Now, you’ll also see convenient icons that allow you to quickly email them, schedule an event that includes them, start a Hangout conversation with them, or video chat with them. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to Gmail video call for more information.
Rumored New Features in Gmail
I expect the batch of Gmail features we currently have access to won’t be the limit of our capabilities for long. Google is rumored to have a handful of other new features they’re waiting to roll out until testing is finished (and of course, we’ll probably see another redesign eventually). In the near future, you can expect more thorough offline support for Gmail, as well as prominent “smart warnings” about suspicious emails—so you never fall for another phishing scam again.
There’s a lot of new features in Gmail to learn and master if you want to maximize your productivity within the new version of Gmail, but there’s still no built-in functionality to monitor that productivity, or guide you to make meaningful improvements in your daily email habits.
For that, you’ll need a platform like EmailAnalytics. With EmailAnalytics, you’ll be able to see exactly how many emails you send and receive, your most popular correspondents, the time it takes you to write and read emails, and more data points—all geared toward helping you make the most of your Gmail experience. Sign up for a 14-day free trial today!
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.