7 Keys to Unlock Your Full Gmail Potential

These tips will make you the master of your inbox

Do unread messages make your skin crawl? Does the thought of setting up email filters make you break into a cold sweat? Did accidentally hitting ‘reply all’ send you into a mental tailspin? If you replied ‘YES!’ to any (or maybe all) of the above, you’re not alone.

With nearly 1 billion active users around the world, it’s safe to say that Gmail is one of the most popular email services out there. Google’s email powerhouse is relied upon by businesses, universities and everyday people. What is the reason for such widespread popularity you ask? With a killer mobile app and sensational plugins, features and settings, Gmail allows users to create an inbox experience that is unique to them. But true Gmail masters are few and far between. Such a feat takes years of careful practice, preparation and a borderline obsessive amount of labeling. No matter if you’re looking to become a Gmail deity or just looking to add a little extra productivity to your day, here are a few tips to help you tackle your inbox.

Labels and Filters

The cornerstone to any all-star Gmail inbox is a solid filter and label game. Unlike other email suites, Gmail does not use the traditional “folder” option to sort incoming mail. Instead, you can create “filters” to group messages from certain people or about certain subjects and then designate a “label” where they are collected. The process goes like this:

Open a message from or about the person/subject you’d like to create a filter for. Click the drop down menu next to the “Reply” button. Then select “Filter Messages Like This” from the list.

The first step is to find a message containing the criteria you would like to fllter

Then select “Create Filter With This Search” and determine how you would like Gmail to handle messages in this group. You can have them automatically marked as read, deleted, starred, forwarded to another address— the possibilities are endless! If you want to have them placed in a label (Gmail’s version of a “folder”) simply check “Apply the label” and either select or create a label for your messages.

Pro Tip: If you want certain messages to go straight to your label folders, make sure to check “Skip Inbox” and select your label.

Undo Send

We’ve all done it: hit the “Send” button before our email was proofread. Or maybe you accidently pressed “Reply All” on an email containing some top secret information. Don’t worry young Gmail padawan, there is an easy solution!

Turn on undo send through Gmail's settings page

Simply open the “Settings” page, scroll down to “Undo Send” and click enable. It’s that easy! You can choose a cancellation period of anywhere from 10 to 30 seconds, depending on your preference.

When the time comes to undo a sending mistake, you can select “Undo” from the yellow banner that usually displays a sent message confirmation. If pressed, the email will be cancelled, saving you the embarrassment of having to follow up with a “Well, what happened was” message.

The undo message appears after sending the email

Gmail's mute prevents messages from entering inbox

There always seems to be that one email thread that just won’t quiet. Just when you think everything is said and done, another message barrels into your already crowded inbox. In situations like this, it’s a good idea to make friends with the mute button. All you have to do is open the mile-long conversation, click “More” and then select “Mute.” The messages will now skip your inbox and instead travel directly to your “All Mail” label. Vioala, you can now enjoy some inbox peace and quiet.

If you find yourself in need of returning to the conversation, repeat the process in reverse order by going to “All Mail,” opening the conversation, and pressing “Unmute” from the “More” dropdown button.

Boomerang for Gmail

So, you have a great idea you want to share with the team but there’s a problem. It’s 2:30am and you really don’t want to look like a crazy person populating your coworker’s inboxes in the middle of the night. The solution? Boomerang for Gmail. This magical plugin allows you to write emails and responses then schedule them to be sent at a later date, even if you’re offline. There are also follow-up reminder features so you never forget to respond to those “kind of important, but I’ll get back to it later” type messages.

*Pro Tip: if you’re feeling like a true Gmail zen master, you can incorporate labels and filters into Boomerang to help delay incoming messages and keep you inbox peaceful and organized.*

One address, many names

Ever need a spare email address for an online sign-up or registration? You’ve got one (if not many). One of the coolest features of Gmail addresses are that periods and plus signs are not recognized. That means that an email sent to Grant.Chirpus@gmail.com  will end up in the same inbox as GrantChirpus@gmail.com and Grant+Chirpus@gmail.com. This way, if you’re ever in need of an extra address to sign up for a newsletter, online raffle or account, use one of your aliases. Think of the possibilities!

*Pro-Tip: you can also add “+twitter” or “+facebook” to you address when signing up for social media accounts (ex. Grant.Chirpus+twitter@gmail.com). This way you can keep track of where mail is coming from and manage spam more accurately.*

Google Calendar Add-On

Optimize your home screen by adding a Google Calendar preview to your inbox! This great little gizmo is still part of Google’s labs, a collection of features available to users on an opt-in basis, but is a lifesaver when it comes to keeping on schedule. To add it, simply open “Settings,” find the “Labs” tab and enable the Google Calendar gadget. You’ll now be able to see your upcoming events on the left hand side of your inbox and get reminders prior to start time.

BONUS TIP: Big Comfy InboxGmail's inbox layout can be changed

Gmail offers three different inbox layout options with various sizing and spacing, all of which can be selected from the gear drop down menu on the homepage. If you want to optimize space and see as much as possible try out the “Compact” setting. If you favor a more relaxed feel, try out the “Cozy” or “Comfortable” options.

Lost Documents

With a huge number of emails, it can be difficult to find specific attachments and files sent to you. But when it comes time to locate that spreadsheet Jim from accounting sent you three weeks ago, scrolling through hundreds of archived messages just isn’t going to cut it. Luckily, there’s an easier way. Simply type “has:attachment filename:______._____” replacing the spaces with the file name you’re in search of and the file type.

Repetitive Responses Are Repetitive

Feel like you’re repeating yourself? If you send similar messages on a regular basis, you may want to consider Gmail’s Canned Responses feature that allows you to create preset messages that you can easily send without retyping or copy/pasting. Similar to the Google Calendar feature this is also a lab gadget and can be enabled by heading to the “Settings/Labs” page. However, users beware, no one likes robo-emails.
When it comes to tools, features, and gadgets to make you life easier, Gmail has got you covered! With these tips and tricks you can finally start controlling your inbox, instead of letting it control you.

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