Have you ever accidentally sent a damning email to someone that you intended to save for the rest of time as a draft? Or made a friend audibly gasp at the sight of thousands of unread email notifications on your phone?
Perhaps you’ve run out of storage space on your drive entirely and are paying actual money for more. If so, you’re not alone, but you do need some major Gmail guidance.
The first step to mastering Gmail is admitting you’re not that great at it. You’re here reading this so you’ve done that already. Good. The second step is studying this handy list of Gmail tips, tricks, and hacks that I’ve complied just for you. Easy.
These six tips will teach you the ins and outs of un-sending messages, customizing your account, staying in the loop on the latest updates, and more. You’ll be a Gmail show-off making the most of your account before you know it.
1. Save some valuable space
There are two types of people in this world: those with zero un-read messages in their inbox and those with thousands.
If you’re a member of the latter group maybe that works for you, or perhaps you’ve simply lost control of your inbox and are now on the verge of losing sleep at night, just praying that an easy way to free up space in your Gmail account existed.
Okay, let’s not get dramatic. Decluttering that mess might seem impossible but it’s doable. We promise.
Search and delete
Gmail search allows you to specifically filter your messages to locate and delete by sender, file size, attachments, YouTube videos, or other links. Simply type a command into the search bar followed by the key words you’re looking for (ex: “from:mashable”) and Gmail will locate all related emails for you to review and potentially delete.
To start, you might consider searching for larger MP3 or video files to delete — but even if you don’t have any specifics in mind definitely make use of the file size search operator. You can type in “larger:3m” to search files over 3MB and so on and so forth. You can also wipe messages by date range. Typing “older_than:5y” will show all messages older than five years ago, which you can then select, trash at once, and pretend they never existed. ? Perfect.
If manual search operators aren’t your thing there’s always the more advanced drop-down search menu.
You can find Gmail’s full list of search operators here, along with search methods that may not have even crossed your mind.
2. Enable ‘Undo Send’ and breathe a sigh of relief
Gmail’s potentially life-saving “Undo Send” feature was introduced in 2015 so you’ve probably heard of it, but if you’re not sure how to enable it it’ll unfortunately be useless to you.
To do so, simply click on the settings gear in the upper right-hand corner of your Gmail account. Select “Settings” from the drop-down menu and check the box labeled “Enable Undo Send.” You’re then given the option to set a “send cancellation period” of either 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.
Obviously choose 30 seconds, you know, because not everyone always realizes they made a horrible mistake RIGHT AWAY. (Why does a five second option even exist?)
3. Organize your inbox for maximum efficiency
Are you an email hoarder who refuses to delete messages? That’s okay, but if you’re going to keep thousands of emails you might want to organize them to make things less hectic. Labels and categories are your friends, but they each serve different purposes. Here’s the deal:
Labels are sort of like folders, but the good thing is you can add multiple labels to a single email. To choose or create new labels open an email and click the label tab next to the “More” option above the message.
Once selected the labels will show up beside the email subject. Clicking on them will allow you to see all messages with that same label.
Once new labels are made they’ll show up in the menu list on the left-hand side of you account where you can edit and color-code them for extra customization.
If you want to separate your emails before you open Gmail take advantage of inbox category tabs. These will sort your emails based on subject matter like “Social” or “Promotions,” so not every message shows up on the homepage.
To enable inbox categories go to Settings > Inbox and select “Default” inbox type. Then you can choose which categories you want to use, but be aware you’ll have to have less than 250,000 emails in your inbox for it to work.
4. Personalize your account
While you’re staring at Gmail for hours at work don’t you ever wish it would better reflect your personality? Email is boring as hell, so for the love of your tired, strained eyes please take some time to add flair and color to your account.
⭐ All the stars ⭐
In the email world a yellow star generally signifies a message is important, but by utilizing all the stars and symbols Gmail offers you can use the shapes to organize emails into groups.
To choose which stars you have at your disposal go to the Stars section in the Settings tab. You can choose to use one, four, or all 12 symbols. (Don’t forget to save your settings changes at the bottom of the page.)
Starring an email highlights it and includes it in the “Starred” label, but enabling different colored stars makes it even easier to perform specific searches. For example, if you’re looking for emails with purple stars you can type “has:purple-star” in the search bar and voila.
To access the different colored symbols simply continue clicking the yellow star until you reach the one you want.
Anyone who’s ever been to a themed party knows themes are a blast, and in this case they have the power to transform an otherwise dull but very necessary communication tool into a low-key enjoyable thing to look at. To choose a theme you can browse some of the lovely options under the drop-down settings gear (island getaway, crunchy leaves, light blue, etc.) or upload your own photo to get even more personal.
5. Reclaim your time
No one wants to spend their day navigating Gmail, so here are some hot time-saving tips that will let you get back to Twitter, Facebook, and uh, work, I guess, sooner.
Send personalized mass emails
Ain’t nobody got time to individually personalize the exact same email for multiple people… until now. Thanks to a nifty Chrome extension called Mail Merge for Gmail you can send personalized emails to a mass group of recipients at one time.
After downloading the add-on simply create a spreadsheet in Google Drive, then go to Add-ons > Mail Merge and Scheduler > Create Merge Template to make the spreadsheet merge-able. To add recipients either import from your Google Contacts on input the info manually.
Learn more about using Mail Merge here.
Schedule emails like a magician
Another great thing about Mail Merge is it has a built-in scheduler that you can use to send out emails at later dates or times.
Boomerang for Gmail is another service that lets you schedule emails to send ahead of time, and is especially great if you want to get a jump-start on work or simply want to ensure you don’t forget to send something. You can also set reminders for yourself to follow up on messages, which is something everyone could benefit from.
Learn those sweet sweet keyboard shortcuts
Hotkeys have the potential to change your Gmail life, but before you master them make sure they’re all turned on by going to Settings > Keyboard Shortcuts > On.
Once that’s done you’ll have access to dozens of helpful key combinations that will make formatting text, chatting, navigating your account, participating in Hangouts, and much more seem like a breeze.
Google has a complete list of keyboard shortcuts, but you can also type a “?” when Gmail is open to make another list appear.
6. Stay up to date on Gmail news
Gmail is always improving and changing, so one of the best ways to keep up is to test new features while they’re still in beta.
You may be unaware of Gmail Labs, which allows you to do just that. It’s the hub for all things in the experimental stage, which can occasionally become permanent parts of the mailing system. You can test out and enable all sorts of fun features by visiting the Labs tab in Settings. Just don’t get too attached because they could wind up disappearing on you.
And if you’re really afraid of getting Gmail FOMO you can follow Gmail’s official blog for the latest news and updates. (Also, maybe consider closing your laptop and hanging out with some friends IRL because Gmail FOMO should not be a ~thing~).