It may be hard to believe, but at the time of this writing, Gmail is over 15 years old! And while you may not remember when you opened your Gmail account, there's a pretty good chance that you rely on it dearly.
In the last decade, Gmail's received a number of updates. From canned responses to color labels, Gmail's new look has made it easier to use. While most people may not want much out of Gmail, there are those who spend their days in the tool and want to be able to do more.
Gmail Hacks to Streamline Your Day
If you belong to the latter group and want to level-up your Gmail proficiency, stay tuned. In this blog post, we share 11 Gmail hacks that will help you get more done faster.
1. Use Keyboard Shortcuts
Keyboard shortcuts are probably not the first Gmail hack you'd expect, but they're likely to be a hack you'll implement immediately and use daily.
Like all other keyboard shortcuts, Gmail has an extensive list of options. In fact, you have access to a set of 67 shortcuts.
Here are a few of many you're likely to use frequently:
- Compose: "c"
- Compose in a tab: "d"
- Mute conversation: "m"
- Search mail: "/"
- Forward: "f"
To set up keyboard shortcuts in Gmail, go to the gear icon > Settings > click on the Advance tab > scroll to Custom keyboard shortcuts and enable the feature. Next, scroll to the bottom of the page and click on the Save Changes button.
Once saved, go back to the Settings page (gear icon > Settings) and you'll see the Keyboard Shortcuts tab next to Themes on your far right. Click on Keyboard Settings and you'll be presented with a complete list of 67 shortcuts with the option to add alternate or customer shortcuts of your own.
2. Block Unwanted Email
Spam and other forms of unwanted email is serious business. It's escalated over the years as spammers have turned to more sophisticated methods. Today, spam can contain ransomware or send you to a fake website that's almost indistinguishable from the original, all with the goal of financial gain for the spammer.
While Gmail comes with a built-in spam filter, spam sometimes gets through. And because spammers have been known to change tactics to avoid Gmail's spam filter, more and more spam finds its way to inboxes daily.
Try Block Sender. It's a powerful Chrome Browser extension that integrates with Gmail. It allows you to block unwanted emails in 8 different ways, and also comes with very handy bounce-back notifications for spammers or email stalkers.
3. Use Tasks in Gmail
If you've been looking for a way to manage more than just email, there's a really good chance that you've tried one or more task-tracking app.
It's also likely that you've wanted something that fits perfectly with the rest of Google's apps.
Enter Google Tasks.
It's a feature that's available in Gmail. Previously, Tasks wasn't a tool most were aware of or easily found. Recent updates have seen this handy tool placed in a more accessible position towards the right of your browser window.
You can add emails to tasks, making it easier to organize, tackle, and complete more related tasks in one go.
4. Create a Filter
Filters can be timesavers. They were designed to be used in various ways, from automatically archiving certain emails to assigning labels to specific messages.
Filters are also useful for helping prioritize emails. For example, if you want to respond immediately to all email queries submitted from an online form on your website, but struggle to spot them in your inbox, creating a filter will help. Your filter can be set to always label emails sent with a specific subject line from your web form.
As Gmail also offers color labels, you can assign a color to all web form emails. Labels appear in the left-hand menu where you'll have easy access to all web form emails going forward.
Read How to Block Emails in Gmail for steps on how to create filters.
5. Speed up Email Creation with Canned Response
Canned responses are the quintessential solution to dealing with repetitive email requests that you send or need to reply to. Enabled from the Advanced tab (gear icon > Settings > Advanced), they allow you to create templated emails that can be used for common requests.
For example, say you often receive a specific question from your client base. Instead of copying text from a document, or typing up a reply each time, simply use a canned response.Image: TechRepublic
6. Use Smart Compose
You may have already seen Smart Compose in action, but if you haven't, it's worth giving it a go. Smart Compose is a predictive text feature in Gmail. It makes it easier to reply to emails by predicting the rest of your sentence.
While it may look and feel a little creepy at first, once you start to use it, it grows on you.Image: Tech Advisor
To activate Smart Compose, go to Settings > General. Scroll down to Smart Compose and select the "Writing suggestions on" radio dial button.
7. Undo Send
While this may not seem like a Gmail hack immediately, it definitely is. Ever send an email in Gmail and realize that you left out important information or sent it to the wrong person? Ever wonder how to prevent that or recall the email?
Unlike Outlook and other email clients, Gmail doesn't come with an email recall feature. Instead, you can set a send cancellation period.
Send cancellation periods allow you a grace window in which you can cancel an email you've just sent. This saves you the time and hassle of resending another email with an apology, explanation, or correction.
The maximum window is 30 seconds which is about the right amount of time to realize any omissions or mistakes made with sending emails.
Note: While this feature is helpful, the option to cancel an email within the 30-second window is lost if you open a new email, click on a tab or select label.
To set your Undo Send window to 30 seconds, go to the gear icon > Settings > General. Go to Undo Send and select the 30-second duration from the dropdown menu.
8. Go Offline
Going offline may seem counter-intuitive, but it's one of the smarter email hacks out there. It's an effective way to block out time and interruptions (think social media and/or other notifications) that would otherwise keep you from dealing with email according to your set routine.
Once activated, you still have access to all the important email-related features you need. You can read, respond to, and search for emails.
To use Gmail offline, ensure your internet connection is on. Next, go to Settings > Offline tab.
Note: If you're a Google Business Apps user, you may need to ask your administrator to activate the feature for you if it's currently unavailable.
Once activated, you'll need to wait for your email and content to sync before going offline.
9. Write Better Emails Faster With Grammarly
We've all been there. You're in the zone and ready to tackle your inbox. But just before you hit send, you spot a typo. Then you see a spelling issue. You also begin to question whether you've used a certain word within the right context…
That's why Grammarly was built. It spots these and tons of other little mistakes people make on a daily basis, mistakes that could cost you credibility.
Using this nifty tool will help you pick up everything from typos to syntax and spelling errors. It highlights these with a red underline and all you need do is mouse-over the text and select the best replacement. This all leads to shorter proofreads and edits, lots of time saved, and you also get to save face.
Adding it to Gmail is easy. It's available for download as a free Chrome extension.
10. Gmail in Two Tabs
Ever try searching for an email or series of emails, then try compiling an email in Gmail at the same time? What about toggling between filters and labels while also trying to send email at the same time?
It's kind of a challenge.
Sure, Gmail allows you to compose emails in almost all views, but that can prove just a little too cluttered on a busy day.
The solution? Try using two tabs. One for searching, filters and labels, the other strictly to send email. Sounds a little weird, but give it a go. You'll experience a sense of order about your email experience as you apply this hack.
11. Go Inbox Zero
Email can control your day if you don't control it. That's why inbox zero has become such a strong productivity methodology. In a sentence, it's all about creating a routine for prioritizing and replying to emails daily.
Here are four tips on achieving inbox zero:
- Determine when you'll deal with emails. This can be at the top of each hour or second hour.
- Block unwanted emails. Blocking and getting rid of unwanted email is a big timesaver. With less clutter, you'll have more time to focus on what matters. You can block unwanted email with Block Sender's free Chrome Extension.
- Prioritize email. Segment email into two categories. The first includes those that can be handled in under two minutes (think answers to simple questions or those that should be passed onto people who are best suited to help). The second includes complex emails that require more than two minutes to reply to. You can also choose when to deal with each category. Inbox zero is all about structure. Batching email by completing quick emails first is a smart way to go.
- Label your emails. Label emails from each category accordingly in Gmail.
Read our full article Achieving Inbox Zero in Gmail.
While not an exhaustive list, these Gmail hacks are sure to save you loads of time. They'll help you access features faster, prevent unwanted email, prioritize messages, speed-up replies, and give you the flexibility to cancel sent emails and work offline.