Like most small business owners, processing email probably takes a good chunk of your day. What if you could process your email messages faster and still deal with each message appropriately?
Guess what? If you know the right Gmail tips, tricks, and secrets you can.
If you use Gmail, you're already using a powerful platform with many productivity-enhancing features. The trouble is that most of us use only a small percentage of the actual Gmail features that are available. That's because finding and learning Gmail's most useful tricks can take time. As a small business owner, who has the extra time?
In this article, I've done the legwork for you. I've rounded up over two dozen of the best Gmail tips and tricks so you can start using them right away.
1. Use Undo Send to Recall a Message
Did you ever wish you could unsend a Gmail message? If we're honest, I think most of us have sent a message we wish we could take back.
Yet many readers don't realize that Gmail has a feature that gives you a small window of time to recall a sent message. To use this Gmail trick you must first activate Undo Send before you can use it. And you have to act quickly to recall your message, but this handy feature can save you from embarrassment.
For detailed instructions on how to activate and use Gmail's Undo Send feature, read through this tutorial:
2. Check Gmail Labs for New Features
You may be unaware of Gmail Labs. If so, you're missing out on some great Gmail tricks.
Gmail Labs is where Gmail tests features before making them a permanent part of Gmail. Many of these features are incredibly useful. The main drawback to using these feature is that Google could drop them. Google also points out that Labs features could change or break at any time.
Despite the warnings from Google, many of the lab features are worth checking into. I've included a few specific lab features in this post.
You'll find the Gmail Labs option on the Settings screen:
3. Save Time With Canned Responses (Gmail Labs)
Are you tired of answering the same questions over and over through email?
Not only is repeating yourself annoying, it also wastes time. Gmail has a solution to this problem with the Canned Responses feature. Canned Responses allows you to save and re-use any email you send as a Canned Response, which works like an email template.
Canned Responses saves a huge amount of time, especially if you are in a field that requires a lot of customer interaction. Enable the Canned Responses option from the Gmail Labs screen:
4. Scan Messages Quickly With the Preview Pane (Gmail Labs)
View and respond to your email messages without leaving your inbox. Use the Preview Pane from Gmail labs to view the contents of your email messages as you scroll through them.
Enabling Preview Pane adds a toggle button that lets you choose between a vertical preview pane (pictured above), a horizontal preview pane, or no preview pane. Interact with each message in the preview pane by replying to it or forwarding it.
5. Listen to Google Voice Messages From Email (Gmail Labs)
If you use Google Voice with your Google account, your notifications are probably set up to go to your Gmail account. When someone leaves a Google Voice message, you get an email notification with a message transcript.
With Google Voice Player from Google Labs, listen to each voice mail message from within Gmail.
6. See Your Google Calendar From Email (Gmail Labs)
Have you ever been so wrapped up reading or responding to emails that you missed an appointment or a meeting?
Since processing email takes up a lot of time for many small business owners, it's not unusual to lose track of time. This is especially true since you typically must exit email to view your Google Calendar.
There's a quick Gmail trick to solve this issue. With Google Calendar from Email from Gmail Labs, your appointments and meetings are right in front of you as you work with your messages. When you use this Gmail secret, a Google Calendar Gadget displays within your inbox.
7. Receive Email From Other Email Platforms on Gmail
If you use more than one email account, you know how time-consuming checking them all can be. You have to log in to each email account individually and look for new messages. If that's what you've been doing, there's a better way with Gmail.
With Gmail, you can create a single, unified inbox where you receive all your emails. If you respond to an email, choose which email address you want the response to come from. There's no need to log into any platform other than Gmail to get your messages.
For step-by-step instructions on how to combine your email accounts, review this tutorial:
8. Mute Noisy Conversations in Gmail
If you've ever been in a group discussion, you know it's annoying when you're copied in on messages you don't need.
You can mute a noisy conversation in Gmail. When you mute a conversation, future messages from that thread go straight to your archives—skipping your inbox. To start seeing those messages again, simply unmute the conversation.
For more Gmail tips on how to work with conversation threads, including instructions on how to mute and unmute conversations, study this tutorial guide:
9. Use Multiple Gmail Accounts at Once
If you use more than one Gmail account, did you know that you can be logged in to more than one Gmail account at the same time? There's no need to log out of one account to check the messages in another.
This Gmail tip will let you have several accounts open at the same time in different tabs. Here's how to do it: Log in to your first Gmail account. Click your profile icon in the upper right corner. This popup displays:
Click the Add account button. Type the second Gmail account you want to open and the password for the account.
The second Gmail account opens in a new tab. The first Gmail is still open in the first tab. To check each account, simply switch between the tabs.
Continue the process for as many Gmail accounts as you want to open.
If you have the Chrome browser, there is an added Gmail secret tip. All the Gmail accounts you are currently logged into display on the popup window above. Click an account from the popup window to open a tab to view that account's Gmail messages.
10. Track Who Sold Your Email Address
If your Gmail address ends with @gmail.com, periods (.) in the address don't make any difference. The following Gmail addresses will end up in the same inbox:
It's a little known Gmail secret that it ignores these periods.
This can be a great way to track whether someone has sold your email address.
For example, if you normally use email@example.com but suspect that your email address will be sold, insert a period somewhere in the email address when you give it out. Later if you get a message addressed with the period in the same place, you'll know that your email address was sold and who sold it.
Note: This tip does not work for Gmail addresses that don't end in @gmail.com. If your Gmail is through an organization such as your work or school, the periods in your email address do make a difference.
11. Filter Messages From Email Subscriptions
Gmail also ignores characters after the plus (+) symbol in an email address. The following email addresses go to the same Gmail inbox:
Knowing this can be a great way to filter messages from your subscriptions. Add a plus symbol and the name of the subscription after the first part of your email address when you sign up for a subscription.
Next, set up a filter in Gmail to send all messages with the plus symbol and the name of the subscription to a specific label (folder).
12. Learn to Use Gmail Search Operators
Do you really know how to use Google's Gmail search function?
Even if you understand the Gmail Advanced Search Box, you've probably never explored Gmail search operators. Gmail has over 20 search operators that can be used to find messages or create filters. And search operators can be combined so that you can be very specific.
Do you need to find a message from a specific sender that has an attachment that was sent after a certain date? No problem, search operators can help you find exactly what you need.
For example, the following search operator string finds all messages sent from Envato Tuts+ after January 15, 2016:
For a complete tutorial on Gmail Search functions, including the Gmail Advanced Search Box and Gmail search operators, look at:
13. Turn Off Gmail's Inbox Tabs
Gmail comes with five tabs automatically defined and enabled:
But the five-tab system isn't for everyone. If you don't take part in social media or forums, for example, why would you want those tabs to appear in your inbox? Also, you may want a tab-less email inbox.
This Gmail tip is quick to implement. You can turn off those extra tabs using the Settings > Inbox > Categories option.
For more step-by-step instructions on various methods to set up your Gmail inbox, study the following tutorial:
14. Use Hangouts From Within Gmail
Email messages are great, but you often must wait for a reply. Did you ever wish you could get a quicker response? You can with this Gmail tip.
If both you and the contact you are trying to reach have a Google account (and you are both online), use Google Hangouts from within Gmail to get fast responses. It works like instant messaging.
To use Hangouts, click the Hangouts icon (it looks like a quotation mark) in the lower left corner of your inbox. Click the name of the person you want to invite to the Hangout. A Hangout dialog box appears on the right side of your inbox. Now you can chat with your contact in real time.
15. Change the Star Setting to Rank Email Messages
You've probably noticed the little stars next to each message. Click the star, it turns yellow. The star is a great way to mark an important message. Wouldn't it be great if you could differentiate between your important messages by marking them with different colors?
A little-known Gmail secret is that you can change the star settings in Gmail with the Settings > General > Stars option. There's a total of twelve star options available, including different colored stars and other symbols such as exclamation points and even a question mark.
Choose to use a single star, four stars, or all the stars. Once your options are changed, mark a message with the symbol of your choice by the number of times you click the star next to the message. Click the star once, it turns yellow. Click it twice, it turns the next color on the list. Click it three times, and the star changes to the third color ... and so on.
16. Use Google Drive to Send Large Attachments
Gmail allows you to send an attachment of up to 25 Mb with your message. While that file size is large enough for most situations, there may be times when you want to attach a larger file.
For example, what if you want to send an entire manuscript, complete with images, for editing? Or, what if you need to send a zip file of an entire photo shoot for review?
If you use Google Drive with your Google account, you can send larger files through Gmail.
First, copy the large file you want to send to your Google Drive. Next, click Compose in Gmail and type your message. When you are ready to attach the large file to your message, click the Google Drive icon (next to the Attachment icon that looks like a paper clip). Insert the files you want to attach and send your message.
17. Give Your Assistant Access to Your Gmail
You're busy. Checking email takes a lot of time. You want to delegate this responsibility to someone else to save time. Good news! With Gmail, you can. Gmail gives you the ability to give someone else access to your account.
Here's how to set this up: Use the Settings > Accounts and Import > Grant access to your account option to allow someone else to read and reply to your messages. Use the Leave conversation unread when opened by others toggle to see which messages you haven't personally read.
18. Find and Remove Large Messages
Here's a quick Gmail secret to keeping your account size down:
If you receive a lot of Gmail messages, over time you may find your inbox filling up. Messages with attachments can be a big part of that problem since they are larger than ordinary messages. You may remove those messages using the most memory and free up a lot of space in your Gmail account.
If you're looking for a specific file that you received as an attachment, you're in luck. Gmail allows you to search specifically for messages with attachments. You can narrow the Gmail search to look for file attachments larger than a certain size.
For detailed instruction on how to search for messages with attachments by size and other search capabilities, review the following tutorial:
19. Find Out If Someone Else Used Your Gmail
Computer security has been in the news a lot recently. Almost every day it seems like we read another news story about someone whose account was compromised. You may be worried that someone else has accessed your Gmail account. (Note: Your risk for this is higher if you've logged into your account using a public computer.)
There is a little-known Gmail trick that allows you to tell whether someone else has used your Gmail account. Google tracks your account usage and you can see the record. To access the record, look at the lower right corner of your computer screen to see when your Gmail account was last accessed.
Click the Details link to see a record of recent account activity including IP addresses.
If anything looks off in your account history, your account may have been accessed by someone else.
20. Use the Send and Archive Button
A Gmail trick that many users are unaware of allows you to reply to a message and archive them at the same time. When enabled, the Send & Archive button appears to the left on any messages you are sending or forwarding.
To enable this Gmail trick, click the Show "Send & Archive button in reply toggle from Settings > General. This Gmail secret helps de-clutter your inbox and is a quick time-saver.
21. Turn Gmail Notifications On
Notifications are a handy Gmail trick to ensure you never miss a message. When you enable Desktop Notifications, you'll receive a popup on your desktop when a new message arrives. You can choose to receive the notification pop-up for all new messages, or only for those flagged as important.
To activate Gmail notifications, click one of the "on" toggle buttons at Settings > General > Desktop Notifications. If you change your mind, de-activate the notifications by clicking the Mail notifications off toggle button.
22. Turn on Priority Inbox in Gmail
You may think that you're stuck with the way your Gmail looks. But what if you could organize your messages by their importance? Here's a quick Gmail tip—turn on Priority Inbox to do just that.
Gmail Priority inbox allows you to divide your email inbox into up to five sections. Your messages will display in this order:
- important and unread messages
- starred messages
- everything else
With priority inbox, it's easy to see what's important and what's not. Enable it from Settings > Inbox > Inbox Type.
For more information on various ways to arrange your Gmail inbox, review:
23. Place a Phone Call From Gmail
Another Gmail secret is that you can place a phone call to any of your contacts from within your Gmail inbox. This can be especially helpful if you need to respond to an urgent message and want to talk to the person right away.
You'll need a microphone and speakers (I used my headset). You'll also need to download the Google Talk plugin for hangouts. Most calls in the U.S. and Canada are free of charge.
To place your call, click the Make a call link in the lower left corner of your Gmail inbox. Type the number you wish to call and click on it.
Note: Your call will appear with No Caller Id.
24. Gmail Trick to See More Messages
Do you receive dozens of messages each day? If so, you may want to view more messages in your inbox so that you don't miss anything important.
The default is set at 50, but you can increase the number of visible messages in your inbox to 100. To do this go to Settings > General > Maximum page size.
While you're there, you can also change the number of contacts you can see on one page.
25. Follow the Gmail Blog for Timely Tips
Do you want to be in the know about the latest Gmail tips, tricks and secrets? One way to learn about Gmail features as they came out is to follow the official Gmail blog. The blog regularly covers new features as they become available as well as productivity hacks.
26. Use Gmvault.org to Backup Your Messages
If you need to back up or migrate your Gmail messages, this Gmail tip is for you. Gmvault is an open source project that provides a way to back up your Gmail messages. Create a backup of your entire Gmail directory or just for selected messages.
Then the email data is there for you if you need to restore or re-create your Gmail folders. You could also use this utility to migrate messages from one account to another.
27. Use Plugins to Expand Gmail
One Gmail secret that many users don't know is that you don't have to limit yourself to standard Gmail features. There are many Gmail plugins that expand Gmail's capabilities.
There are plugins to help you with task management, contact management, inbox management, and even security—to mention just a few of the areas that plugins can help with. For a list of some of the most popular Gmail Plugins, read:
28. Find More Great Gmail Features
Even many standard Gmail features are not well-known to users. Many of us make use of Gmail's most basic functions, but Gmail can do so much more.
It takes time to find and learn about everything that Gmail can do and to figure out how each feature can help you. We save you time by identifying some of Gmail's must useful features in this article:
Power user Gmail secrets don't need to be beyond your reach. You too can save time with these helpful Gmail tips and tricks. If you have a Gmail tip to share, or if we missed a Gmail secret you know about, leave a comment below.
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