There’s no doubt that Gmail is a great, free email service. Used by millions, it has a number of useful features. (In fact, we listed Gmail as one of the very best free email services out there). But did you know there’s even more to Gmail lurking behind the scenes? There are hidden hacks, tips, and shortcuts that can make your Gmail inbox that much more powerful and efficient. Ready to become an email master? Read on for all the secrets!
Please note: Google is rolling out a new version of its email in the next couple of weeks. While everyone’s accounts will make the shift soon, you can update to the new version right away if you’re ready to make the transition. All screenshots and step-by-step instructions in this guide will apply to the “new” Gmail. So, here are 5 Amazing Gmail Hacks that Will Change Your Email Life:
1. You can set up and use standard responses.
Do you get a lot of similar emails in your inbox? Maybe you’re a small business owner who is constantly receiving offers from advertisers, web designers, or other service providers. It can grow tiresome to respond to these identical emails every day, especially when your response is nearly always the same. While you could simply delete such messages and move on, perhaps you want to follow up at a later date with the sender, or simply send a polite reply.
Meet your first Gmail hack: Canned Responses.
Tucked away inside the Advanced section of your Gmail settings, Canned Responses (Templates) are a lifesaver. Previously, these advanced options were known as “Labs,” and they are experimental features on Gmail that you can sample whenever you choose. Canned Responses is one of the most useful. Once you’ve set up your most vital responses using this feature, you’ll have more free time and checking your inbox will be so much easier.
Here’s how to set them up.
- Click settings (the gear icon).
- Select Advanced.
- Find Canned Responses and select ‘Enabled.’
- When composing an email, click the 3 dots in the bottom right corner. You’ll see a menu appear, where you can access all of your Canned Responses, inserting existing ones into your email or creating new ones for the future.
2. Use Gmail filters to organise your mail
A messy, cluttered inbox can be stress-inducing. But it’s difficult to make time to manually clear out your messages each day. Instead,avoid becoming overwhelmed by setting up some of the built-in Gmail filters.
These settings help you avoid having to look at every incoming message by automatically filtering and sorting emails based upon given ‘rules.’ Just imagine the time you’ll save by not having to rifle through email newsletters, advertisements, and other minutiae.
You can set up the filters to function how you’d prefer by navigating to Settings and then clicking on Filters and Blocked Addresses. From here, you can create new filters.
There are heaps of options. You could opt to have all messages containing certain words go straight into your trash can. This is ideal for avoiding annoying ads or other spammy-type emails. You can also help prioritise certain things based on keywords, sender, and more. For instance, you could elect to have all email messages from you mum marked as “Important.” That way, you’ll never miss an email from your dear sweet mother.
Setting up filters involves choosing the parameters (sender, keyword, etc) and then selecting the options or destinations for these specific messages.
3. Unsend a message (and avoid catastrophe)
Who among us has not mistakenly sent an email too soon? Perhaps we sent it to the wrong respondent, or suddenly realised we’d misspelled a crucial word. These snafus can be embarrassing, but they are generally harmless. In more dire circumstances, however, some individuals have sent emails that cost them their jobs.
It’s worth being careful whenever sending an email (especially if the contents are of a confidential or sensitive nature), but Gmail also has a feature that can help bring you back from the brink of disaster. This is the “Undo Send” feature, and it’s a welcome element for many users.
To get this beneficial feature set up, click on the gear icon in the upper right-hand corner. Select "Settings" from the menu and navigate to the General tab. (This should be the default open tab). Scroll down to find the section for Undo Send. It is set to 5 seconds by default, however, you’ll likely want to set the count to 30 seconds, which is the maximum. Most of us don’t realise right away if we’ve sent an email in error, so half a minute is ample time to take back your sent email, if necessary.
4. Help your inbox help YOU.
Some of the best Gmail hacks involve Gmail in combination with other clever services and add-ons.
Boomerang calls itself “the ultimate Gmail productivity tool,” and it’s quite possibly true. Boomerang works right alongside your Gmail inbox to help skyrocket your productivity in intuitive, amazing ways.
Schedule emails ahead of time, to be sent at a predetermined hour.
Right from the Compose box, you can schedule the specific time for your message to be sent. Perfect if you want an email to go out first thing in the morning or even next week.
Have a message return to your inbox if you haven’t received a response.
Once you’ve replied to an email, Boomerang allows you to remove it from the inbox---until a specified time. You’ll then be reminded at that hour.
Remind you to follow up to a message.
Sometimes, it’s important to follow up to a message you’ve sent, but it’s far too easy to forget to do this. Boomerang can help with that. You can choose to receive a reminder if you have not yet received a response, or regardless of whether or not a response has been received. Never miss the opportunity to follow up again.
Help you write better emails that are more likely to get a response
Boomerang has a unique feature that uses AI to scan your email draft and let you know in real time how effective it is. With this “Responsable” feature, you’ll be writing more actionable messages every day.
Pause your inbox
Perhaps best of all, Boomerang can pause your inbox as needed. If you’re the type of person who can’t stop checking their inbox, this feature could be ideal for you, allowing you the freedom to focus on the task at hand. When you’re ready, your email messages can start flowing in again.
5. Colour code your life.
You may have noticed that Gmail allows you to “star” messages that you deem important, or want to highlight for later. This is quite helpful, but having stars or labels of varying colours would be even better. Many of us stay organised best by visual means. Colour coding an inbox can be an excellent way to keep emails sorted and easy to find.
So how can you colour code Gmail?
First things first, you’ll want to find the hidden rainbow of stars. It’s not that well hidden; it’s actually just stuck within the settings. Click Settings and scroll down until you spot the “Stars” section. From there, it’s simple to enable all the colourful star options, plus the other alert icons. Don’t forget to save your changes at the bottom to ensure the stars are fully engaged!
Now, when you’re in your inbox, or in an individual email, you can click on the white star icon. The first to appear will be the standard yellow star, but keep clicking and you’ll cycle through the whole array of colours and icons.
This is a super-simple way to label and organise your emails. You’ll have to decide what each colour or icon will stand for, but then you’ll be able to see---at a glance---which emails you’re looking for.
To take this colourful organisation to the next level, you can create coloured labels as well.
Creating labels starts in Settings, under the Labels tab. On this screen, you’ll see your current Labels listed, plus a button inviting you to “Create a New Label.” Go ahead and start creating. Short names work best, and you’ll probably want to keep a reasonable number of categories, but a half dozen or so will likely be suitable for most Gmail users.
While you’ve got this screen open, scroll down the sidebar on the left side of your screen. The labels you’ve created will appear here, near the bottom. To assign each label a colour, click on the three dots located to the right of the label name. Select Label Colour and then pick your hue. (You can also use custom colours, perhaps if you want to stick with a certain branding look in your inbox).
Pro tip: You can hide the list of labels from your left-hand sidebar if you’d prefer. This can make for a cleaner, more streamlined inbox. Simply head to the labels section of your settings, and for each label, under the heading “Show in label list” you can select Show or Hide. You can also select “Show if Unread,” which is a great approach for generating reminders when an email of a specific topic is in your inbox.
Give the Google Hacks a Try!
One amazing thing about these Gmail hacks is that you can combine many of them together. When you spend some time poking around in your settings, you can quickly discover how Gmail’s features have been designed to work in tandem. For instance, you can colour code your labels AND set up filters for relevant emails. Thus, new messages will automatically be categorised and sent into their perfect folder---or wherever you’ve chosen to send them.
Keep experimenting and let us know what amazing Gmail hack YOU discover!