The Best Gmail Tips and Tricks [Updated 2020]

It's been a long time since Gmail completely changed their interface. As this blog post was originally dedicated to this news, now we're updating it to re-check what features remained the same and what has been updated.

via GIPHY

Best way to organize Gmail interface

There is nothing like a nicely organized Gmail inbox to take the stress and worry out of your life. Now let’s get started.

  • Hide the sidebar

If you want a little more space, click the three-line menu icon and the left-of-screen panel will be collapsed. Hover over it if you need it back.

hide the sidebar

  • Show or hide attachments in the list

Check out the attached files right from your inbox without even opening a message. Gmail shows the attachment directly below the email's subject line. Handy!

hide attachmetts

  • Quick actions

Want to archive the email, move it to trash, mark it as read/unread, or snooze it quickly (we'll discuss this option in more detail soon)? Hover the mouse pointer over an email in your inbox and you'll see a series of quick-access actions mentioned above. Very convenient!

quick actions

  • Get rid of tabs

If you need to hide the emails tabs you never use, go to Settings -> Labels and select which ones you want to be displayed.

Get rid of categories

  • View your messages side by side with the message list

gmail side

Sometimes it is enough to look at the subject line to find out what an email message is about. Sometimes it's not. But have you ever wanted to read messages without opening them? Well, you can do that in Gmail. Just go to Settings -> Advanced. Scroll down to Preview Pane, and turn it on. Then go back to the inbox and look for a new toggle button in the upper right corner. Select a vertical, horizontal, or no preview pane.

  • Set up priority

I'm sure you are familiar with Gmail’s small stars next to each message. Once you click on the star, it turns yellow. This way you mark important messages. But what if you have five important messages and two of them are super important? With the help of colored stars (in six different colors plus other colorful symbols like an exclamation point or a tick), you can better organize important emails you received. To access this option, you need to go to Settings -> General and look for “Stars.” Once you saved the changes, you can mark a message with the star or the symbol you prefer by the number of times you click the star next to the message. You might use a blue star for messages you need to read again later and a red exclamation mark for messages on which you need to follow up. To see all your starred messages, click the “Starred” label on the sidebar on the left.

Enable stars in Gmail

You might want to go even further and turn on the Priority Inbox option. To do so, click on “Settings” -> “Inbox” -> “Inbox Type” and select the “Inbox Priority” type. Priority inbox finds the important emails and sorts them for you based on which email you read and which of them you reply to. This will allow you to know which messages to read first. If you think the sorting is not exactly accurate, mark the messages as less important and more important to improve the result.

Enable priority inbox in Gmail

  • See more unread emails

Unread email first in Gmail inbox

If you want to see more unread messages and have them all on the top, open “Settings,” select the “Inbox” tab, then choose the “Unread first” option in the Inbox Type drop-down menu. Then you will see two inbox sections, “Unread” and “Everything else.” You can force Gmail to display up to 5, 10, 25, or 50 unread emails at once. Make sure you saved the changes, and enjoy.

Enable unread emails first in Gmail

  • Hide snippets

Gmail gives you a preview of your emails providing you with such information as the name of the sender, the subject line, and a few lines of that email. If you don't want this information to be shown for some reason, go to Settings -> General and scroll to the Snippets section. After you disable the use of snippets, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the Save Changes button.

Snippets feature in Gmail

  • Download message

Gmail also allows you to download messages. To do so, click three dots in the right corner of any email and choose "Download message".

Download messages in Gmail

Gmail productivity tips

To improve your productivity with Gmail, be sure to use the new Gmail functions presented below.

  • Set up desktop Gmail notifier

After enabling desktop notifications for Gmail, you will see a nice pop-up window when you receive an email even if you are not viewing your inbox. To get started, go to Settings -> General and scroll down to the Desktop Notification section. There you will see three notification options. The default option is usually set to OFF, but you can also turn on notifications for new mail, or if you don’t want to receive too many of these, you can select “Important mail notifications on.”

Turn on Gmail notifications

  • Snooze email

This option temporarily removes emails from your inbox. To bring them back, just let Gmail know when you want them to reappear. Simply hover on the email you want to snooze and click on the little clock.

Snooze emails in Gmail

  • Mute email threads

Sometimes you become part of an email thread or conversation just because your name appears on the CC. If you can’t deal with it right now, you can mute the conversation. Open the email you want to mute, click More on the top of the page, select Mute, and you are done. You are not notified of those messages anymore. If you want to unmute the conversation, the easiest way to do this is to search for “is:muted” from the search bar at the top of Gmail. Then open the email you want to unmute, go to More -> Unmute.

Mute conversations in Gmail

 

unmute

  • Get reminders to attach files

Did you know that Gmail has a built-in feature that reminds a sender to add an attachment before they hit “Send”? To get an alert, be sure to promise a file in your message. For example, “I have attached,” “I have included,” etc.

File attach reminder in Gmail

  • Use templates

If you have things you have to write over and over again, you probably want to reduce the time you spend writing such emails. In Gmail, you can save email templates to quickly fill out emails and send them to people. Let's see how it works. Go to Settings, select the tab Advanced and enable the Templates option. As usual, do not forget to save changes.

Enable Templates feature in Gmail settings

Once you’ve done that, in your compose window you will have a new option. To access Templatese, click on the More button in the bottom right-hand corner. Then write one message you will need to share with multiple people in the future, click “Save draft as template” and save it. So when one day somebody will send you an email asking to provide them with, for instance, all of the resources from the recent webinar, you will be able to do that very quickly with so little effort.

Save email Template in Gmail

You cannot directly create more than one email signature for Gmail, by Templates feature can help you with it. If you need to use different email signatures for various occasions, save each of them as a Template and then switch whenever you need.

Use email signature as a Template in Gmail

  • Get reminders to follow up and reply

Imagine that you sent an email some time ago but haven't heard from the recipient yet. Wouldn't it be good to be reminded of the follow-up? Well, that is what Gmail can do for you if you enable this reminder. Another excellent feature is a reminder to reply to emails you received. You can enable both reminders by going to Settings and clicking on the General tab. Scroll down to the Nudges section.

Nudges setting in Gmail

  • Set up multiple inboxes

This option will allow you to divide your inbox into multiple sections. They can be based on priority (respond, read, etc.), label (starred, important, etc.) departments (marketing department, QA department, etc.), and so on. To start using this feature, follow the below procedure:

1) Go to Settings 2) Select the Advanced tab 3) Enable Multiple Inboxes 4) Save the changes. 

Use multiple inboxes in Gmail

Then go to Settings again. There you will see a new tab called “Multiple Inboxes.” From this tab, you can configure your inboxes.

multi 2

  • Use search operators and Gmail search filters

You can use search operators to find important messages among tones of emails. For example, an easy way to get through piles of spam is to enter the "is:important" command in the search bar. Google's algorithms automatically determine the importance of messages by how often you respond to their senders. And you will get a list of all the emails marked as important. If you need to find pictures, try the command filename:[file format]. For example, "filename:jpg" or "filename:png". See a list of search operators you can use with Gmail here.

Gmail security tips

  • Use double step verification.

Although two-factor authentication is one of the most effective security features of Google, only 10% of users have it enabled. To improve the security of your account, go to the Google 2-Step Verification Page. Once you enable this feature, you will need to enter your password plus a code sent to your phone to sign in.

  • Self-destruct emails

The new confidential mode lets us send emails that contain sensitive information and make them disappear in a day/a week/a few weeks/a month/etc. Also, recipients of such messages won’t be able to forward, copy, download or print them. When you start composing a new message, you will notice an icon with a lock and a clock in the bottom right-hand corner. Click on that icon to turn on or turn off confidential mode.

self-destruct emails

  • Unsend sent emails

It is one of the most useful Gmail improvements. You can enable it by going to Settings -> General. In the Undo Send section, it is possible to set the cancellation period as 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds. Next time when you send an email, use the “Undo” option which will appear below the search bar.

Undo send in Gmail

  • Grant access to your inbox to other people

We all know that checking emails sometimes takes too much time. To make your life easier, Gmail has an excellent feature that allows giving your assistant access to your Gmail. What I liked the most about this feature is that you don’t need to share your login data with anyone. All you need to do is to go to Settings -> Accounts -> Check mail from other accounts -> Add a mail account.

add account to gmail

Advanced hacks

  • Use "." and "+" to filter messages from different subscriptions.

To get greater control over your inbox, add a "+" sign and any word or number after your email address. For example, if your email address is paulzig@gmail.com, you could use paulzig+bank@gmail.com when you sign up for online banking or hikingfan+friends@gmail.com for personal communication. So, why would you use this? It will allow you to filter all incoming messages easily. It could also help you know if someone sold your address. You added "+car" when bought a new car once, and now when you see emails from other people to that address, you know how they got it. Solution: filtered to auto-delete.

Another funny detail about Gmail is that it ignores dots in email addresses, so paulzig@gmail.com is treated the same as paul.zig@gmail.com, and p.a.u.l.z.i.g@gmail.com. The benefit of this trick is mostly aesthetic. It also means that if a sender couldn't remember if your username has a dot in the middle or not, they can go with both versions, as the message will get delivered to you anyway.

  • Add Gmail signature

Personalize your messages by adding a professional signature to your Gmail account.

email signature example 1999

To do so, go to Settings -> General and scroll down to the Signature section. Read our article about the most popular ways to create an email signature.

 

Create Professional Email Signature

 

  • Insert photos directly to your email's body

Want images to appear along with your email text, not as attachments? No problem. Start composing a new message or click Reply, then drag and drop the image from its folder on your PC to the desired position in the email.

insert images

  • Remove large messages

Ran out of space on Gmail? Find very long emails that eat the space in your inbox easily and quickly. To do so, go to search and type “larger:5mb,” or “larger:10mb.”

  • Use inbox integrations and extensions

Make your Gmail even more powerful by using integrations and extensions. You can check out some cool Gmail extensions in the last paragraph of this article.

  • Use Gmail advanced filters

Easily create Gmail filters by choosing Settings, selecting the Filters and Blocked Addresses tab, and clicking the Create a new filter link. With the help of the filters, you can automatically archive or delete all marketing emails, archive, delete, or move emails from specific senders, automatically clean your spam folder, etc.

filters

Useful extensions

As I already mentioned, there is a variety of useful plugins for Gmail. Now let’s take a closer look at the most popular extensions you might take advantage of.

  • PixelBlock

pexelblock

PixelBlock is a great extension for Gmail that protects your email privacy. It not only blocks someone's email tracking attempts used against you to detect your email opens but also tells you who that person who spies on you is.

  • Simple Gmail Notes

simple gmail notes

This extension allows you to add sticky notes to any email for your reference.

  • Google Doc Converter

google doc converter

Want to have an email formatted like your Google Doc? Install this add-on and open any Google Doc in Gmail in one click.  

  • Digify

digify

With Digify, you can track and unsend emails you already sent. Also, you will be able to find out if the recipient read your message. By the way, it is possible to cancel ANY sent messages, not just those that have been sent in the last 30 seconds.

  • Unroll.Me

unrollme

Quickly clean up email from unwanted subscriptions.

  • Batch Reply

batch reply

Batch Reply allows you to reply to a set of emails on Gmail at one time.

  • Sortd

sortd

Sortd is an add-on for the Gmail mailbox, which completely transforms its interface. After installing it, you can sort messages by several lists, represented as separate vertical panels. By default, there are four such lists that have the names To-Do, Follow Up, List 1 and List 2. You can quickly change these names, delete or add additional task lists.

  • MailTrack

mailtrack

Helps to find out if your message has been seen.

Conclusion

Gmail belongs to one of the dominant email service providers with a wide range of features that enhance productivity. Although a lot of people around the world use it, only a few of us are aware of the advanced Gmail functions that are available. Many of them are hidden within your Gmail account in plain sight. Let’s try them out together!