19 Gmail Features You Should Be Using

19 Gmail Features You Should Be Using
Image: Gizmodo Australia

Almost everyone is using Gmail these days, but how many of those users know all the tricks and features Google has dropped into its email platform over the last 18 years? How many neat options on the web and mobile remain undiscovered by the Gmail masses?

Let us bring you right up to speed with the best Gmail features you might not have found yet.

1. Schedule emails

You’ve been able to schedule emails to be sent tomorrow morning, tomorrow afternoon or whenever you like for a while now, but not many people know about this feature. Google says is intended to “be considerate of everyone’s downtime”. When you’re composing an email, you’ll see a drop-down menu next to the Send button. You can then select the date and time you want your email to be sent. Super handy if you’re still working from home and want to appear active while you’re sleeping.

Gmail features

2. Do more with a right-click

Gmail actually lets you do more with a right-click on a conversation thread (or Ctrl+click on a Mac)… as in, a lot more. Move emails across tabs, snooze emails, mute conversations, open emails in a new window, find messages from a specific sender and do just about everything you could want to do from the main Gmail view on the web.

3. Get Google’s AI to compose your emails

Gmail rolled out Smart Compose back in 2018 and is continually upgrading it to appear on more devices and adapt itself more to the way you write.

If you want to switch it on, go to Settings, All Settings, General, and tick the Writing suggestions on box next to Smart Compose. You can even provide feedback on Smart Compose, allowing you to review recent suggestions it’s provided and teach it why it stuffed up.

4. Set an expiry time

Confidential mode rolled out a little while ago, letting you limit message copying and downloading, and adding an optional expiry time: Find it via the menu button (three dots) on mobile or the padlock symbol on the web when composing an email. It works seamlessly inside Gmail, and in other clients will link to your original email on the web.

Gmail features

5. Get notifications for certain emails

You don’t necessarily have to get buried under a mountain of notifications from the Gmail mobile apps: On iOS or Android, go into the Gmail app settings, select your email address, then choose Notifications. You can set alerts to appear for “high priority” emails only, and this works separately to the notification settings configured at the Android or iOS level.

6. Use Gmail offline

The way that offline Gmail works has changed down the years, but right now you can type “mail.google.com” into a Chrome tab to get at a cached version of your inbox even when there’s no connectivity. You do have to enable the feature under the Offline tab of Gmail’s settings on the web first though, and you can choose how much email gets synced locally.

7. Mix up your email stars

You don’t have to settle for the standard yellow stars when it comes to highlighting emails, because plenty more colours and symbols are available. Go to General and Stars in the Gmail settings pane on the web to see what’s on offer: You can find stars with searches like “has:green-star” on the web, though all star types get lumped together in the mobile apps. Simply click on the star until you find the colour you want.

19 Gmail Features You Should Be Using

8. Enable the preview pane

By default Gmail on the web just shows you a long list of your conversations, but if you prefer a more desktop client-style look to your inbox, you can enable a preview pane. Click the arrow next to the Toggle split pane mode icon (top right), and make your choice — you can view individual emails to the right or underneath the conversation list in your browser.

9. Gmailify your other email addresses

Add another email address to Gmail via Add an email account under Accounts and Import in the online settings, and during the setup process you can opt to “Gmailify” it — giving you the same spam protection and auto-sorting for your other accounts as well as your Google one. It’s available when linking accounts on Android and iOS too.

10. Save to Google Drive

Any attachment that shows up in your inbox can be saved to Google Drive with a tap or a click—perfect if you spend a lot of your digital life inside Drive and don’t want to clutter up your local computer with files. The Drive icon appears on top of attachments when viewed on the web or inside the Android app, and when you open attachments in the iOS app.

19 Gmail Features You Should Be Using

11. Open the side panel

Have you found the side panel that Google has pushed out to live alongside Gmail on the web? If you can’t see the Google Calendar, Google Keep, and Google Tasks icons on the right, click the arrow down in the lower right-hand corner. It’s the perfect way of using two Google apps in tandem together, especially if you’re working on a widescreen monitor.

12. Find by date

This is one of the oldest and most useful Gmail tricks, but a lot of people remain oblivious to it (based on our friends and family at least). You can type “before:2019/1/1″ into the Gmail search box to see all messages from before 2019, or “after:2019/1/1″ to see messages from this year, or mix and match the two (change the dates as required).

13. Translate your emails

Google Translate is built right into Gmail, if you hadn’t realised: Open a message on the web and if you don’t see the translate bar, click the menu button (three dots, top right) and choose Translate message — you’ll then be able to select the source language (if it isn’t detected automatically), and then the language you want the message translated into.

Gmail features

14. Auto-advance through your inbox

A neat feature called auto-advance shows the next message in your list automatically when you archive or delete the current one.

You can enable auto-advance from the Advanced tab in Gmail Settings on the web, or from the Auto-advance entry in General settings in the Gmail Settings for mobile.

15. Organise email with sub-labels

Many of us are using labels to keep our Gmail inboxes well organised and in order, but did you know you can create sub-labels too? You have to be on the web to create them, but they can then be accessed from anywhere: Click the three dots next to any label in the navigation pane on the left of the Gmail inbox, then choose Add sub-label to do just that.

16. Sync up your emails

The Gmail apps will sync 30 days of emails to your phone by default, but if you want to save space or make more messages available on your local device, you can change this. On iOS (pick Sync settings from your email settings), the available range is 1-30 days; on Android (pick Days of emails to sync from your email settings), the range is 1-999 days.

17. Bookmark your emails

If you use Gmail on the web a lot, you might want to think about bookmarking some of the most useful URLs to get around your inbox faster: You can link directly to your drafts, your sent emails, and all of your messages. When you run searches in your inbox and highlight specific labels, you can bookmark those URLs in your browser for easier access as well.

18. Give yourself more time to bring back sent emails

If you’re forever bringing back sent emails in Gmail, you can give yourself a longer time to recover your errors… although half a minute is the maximum.

In the Settings pane for Gmail on the web, you can set the undo send delay to between 5 and 30 seconds under the General tab, and that change is then applied across the web and the mobile apps.

19. Change the look of Gmail

Gmail has a theme option which lets you drastically change the look of the email client in your browser—it’s like using a whole new app (almost). Click the settings cog in the top right-hand corner then choose Themes to pick something new.

If you aren’t taken with any of the options Google gives you, click the My photos link to create something yourself.

This article has been updated since it was first published.