12 Cool Gmail Hacks: Did You Know You Could Do That?

Reading time: 7 minutes.
“Email, instant messaging, and cell phones give us fabulous communication ability, but because we live and work in our own little worlds, that communication is totally disorganized”  – Marilyn vos Savant

Which email provider do you use?

Are you among the 900 million people that use Gmail?

If not, I’d like to know why. Seriously. Stop reading, send me an email and tell me why you don’t use Gmail.

I remember when I was in college and I was on AOL … dial-up. If you’re not a child of the 80’s or earlier, you’re not about that throwback dial-up life.

Lucky you.

Moment of silence for the 3 minutes and 42 seconds that it used to take us to get online.

I’m thinking I won’t get many emails because most of you use Gmail, so with that, let’s proceed with some pretty cool things you may not be taking advantage of in your inbox.

Hopefully, there is at least one thing on this list that is new to you – if not, enjoy anyway!


Gmail hack # 1: Filters & Labels – the epitome of email organization

You probably know that you can use labels and filters to organize your emails – but are you actually using them?

Label it up! And it’s your email, name everything what you want. “Sucky Subscriptions”, “Awesome Blogs”, what.ever.

If your mom sends you too many forwards or emails you too much about coming to visit, then create a folder and have her emails ushered into it automatically. Check it when you want. Boom.

How do you set up filters?

There are a couple different ways to do this in Gmail. While composing a message (there’s an option in that bottom drop menu) and most commonly, while reading a message. At the top of the email, there is a “more” tab. That’s where you’ll find something that says “filter messages like these”.

Easy enough.

Click it and configure the options.

To create labels, click the button at the top that looks like a gift label. Name it something relevant and you’re done. In a later post, maybe I’ll go into more specifics on how you can use the filters, folders, labels, stars, priority inboxes, etc., etc., etc.

You can edit or delete your filters in the settings under the “filters and blocked addresses” tab. You can also choose which labels you want to show in your left sidebar by going to the labels tab.

Gmail hack # 2: Undo send – do not write an email without it

One of my favorite Gmail hacks – the undo send. Enable it and it allows you to undo the sending of any message within a specified chosen time frame.

You’ll find this in your settings (click the gear icon) under the general tab. Click the checkbox to toggle it on and then set it to either 5, 10, 20 or 30 seconds.

You can undo the sending of your last email as long as you 1) stay on the same page (it’ll give you the option to undo at the top of the page once your email has been sent), 2) are within the preset time limit, or 3) until the person on the other end reads the email.

Undo send

Gmail hack # 3: Create a calendar event from an email – with the click of a button

During schedule planning and calendaring you may have to add the final agreed upon date and time on the calendar. One way to do this is to open the Google calendar app, select the date/time, copy and paste the information from the email and then add the attending parties.

The alternate way is to choose the “create event” option from the “more” drop-down list.

What does this do?

It automatically opens the calendar with an event created for you – all of the email info will be populated for you (no copy/paste necessary!).

The event title will be the title of the email (which can be easily changed) and the people on the email thread are also populated.



Gmail hack # 4: Create tasks from your emails

In the same way that you can create an event, you can create a task from your emails as well.

For those of you that use the Gmail task list feature, this is a pretty cool shortcut.

Find it in the same drop-down list as the previous tip.

Once you click it, it creates a task that you can check off. You can edit it from there by changing the title, adding due dates, etc.Add tasksCreate tasks


Gmail hack # 5: Plain text formatting

You ever copy/paste something into your email and it keeps the formatting exactly as it was?

Yep, that’s how Gmail does it.

Rather than trying to match it with your default text by choosing the font and text size, just highlight the part you want to change and click the Tx in the bottom right-hand corner.

Plain text formatting

Gmail hack # 6: Split thread

As you know, Gmail “threads” messages so that instead of a whole new email popping up in your inbox (and making it super crowded), it adds it to the original email and kind of compresses the messages.

Sometimes those messages may get really long and on a completely different topic, so you may want to take it out of that original thread and start a new one. Change the subject while you’re at it so you don’t get confused.

You’ll find this option in the drop-down triangle to the right of the message (next to the reply arrow). The very bottom has the option to “Split Message from Thread”. When you click it, it will give you the option to add any other messages to the newly separated thread.

Note: You can’t add it back to the original thread, so make sure you want to split it out first (you’ll see the message below).

“The selected messages will be removed from the current thread and placed into a new thread together. Please note that this cannot be undone.”


Gmail hack # 7: G-Chat

Oh yeah, you can totally chat with your contacts while you are in your email. Think AOL Instant Messenger of the 90’s … only in your email browser. For everyone post-AOL, it’s comparable to Facebook messenger while in your Facebook web browser.

Your chat list is in the left sidebar – just under your tiny profile picture. You may already have some names under you. You can click on these people to chat with them if they are available and you can also search for contacts if they aren’t automatically showing up in your list.

When you hover over their name, the info card pops up and you’ll have the option to invite them to chat. Everything else is pretty self-explanatory. Play around with the features and test it out on a close friend or relative first.

Gmail hack # 8: Send and Request money

What? Yaassss!

Using Google Wallet, you can send or request money right from your Gmail. It works just like Paypal.

You ever notice that little dollar sign at the bottom of your draft email? That’s where the magic happens! You have to be in a country where it is permitted and they can draft it from a checking account or a credit/debit card. Go to Google Wallet to sign in and manage your payment accounts.

You can send money by replying to an email or when you compose an email and it looks like this:

Send and Request money 

Gmail hack # 9: Keyboard shortcuts

If you are a fast typer that is addicted to shortcuts, this one is for you.

Having to use the mouse can slow you down so an easy fix is to enable and customize your keyboard shortcuts.

Click the gear icon to get to the settings (I know – almost all of your Gmail problems can be solved here). You’ll find this tool in the labs tab. Enable it and save your changes at the bottom.

Your Gmail will refresh itself and now when you go into the settings area, you’ll see a new tab at the top labeled “Keyboard Shortcuts”.

Now you can use any of these active shortcuts (there are more than what’s pictured here) while in your Gmail browser and you can customize them to things that make more sense to you.

Keyboard shortcuts

Gmail hack # 10: Customize your email aliases

One cool thing about Gmail is that you can create numerous versions of your email (using + or . ) for any reason and they will all be delivered to your inbox.

For example, miranda+promotions@gmail.com, or miranda.recipes@gmail.com will all deliver to miranda@gmail.com (not my real email address, btw). You don’t even have to set anything up on the backend! Just create folders or labels for those emails and you can have them ushered directly where you want them to go.

Using my previous example of miranda.recipes@gmail.com, I might use this email every time I signed up on a recipe site. Then all emails related to food and recipes would get ushered into my recipe folder!

There are a couple of reasons to use this hack. One that I love is for filtering ‘junk’ email directly into a folder. If you don’t care to read emails from a particular site, but you need to use your email address to sign up, use the alias: username+junk@gmail.com. Then those get auto-filtered (see above to create a filter folder) so you never actually have to see or read them. Occasionally clean out the folder if ya want.

You can also use this like a marketing hack. If you are running a particular promotion and you want to know which of your email correspondence came from that promotion, then create an email for it. Like: username+couponpromo@gmail.com.

Go ahead, try it. compose a message to yourself with username+anyword@gmail.com. It will magically appear in your inbox in a minute or two.


Gmail hack # 11: Themes – change your look on the daily!

Don’t live your email life with the theme they gave ya – let your personality shine through!

There are quite a few choices you can make, so don’t settle for vanilla (although vanilla is cool – actually vanilla is delicious. You know what, if you like vanilla go ahead and stick with it).

But, if you want to dabble a little in the different theme options, go to the settings gear again and the themes tab is the last one on the list. Choose one, adjust the options if you’d like (like photo blur), and save your changes.

If you change your mind and want to go back to the regular Gmail, just go back into the themes tab and pick the theme that looks like a normal Gmail inbox (there are 2 actually, light and contrast, so pick the one you like best). 

Gmail hack # 12: Canned responses

Probably not relevant for most people, but if you offer customer service in your business or seem to answer the same frequently asked questions a lot, then canned responses will probably be convenient for you.

Also in the labs tab of your settings (just scroll down until you see it), you’ll need to enable it before you can use it. Don’t forget to save your changes.

Once enabled, canned responses will appear in the bottom drop menu of a composed message. You can create any email as a canned message and then you’ll be able to choose it from the list next time.

You can re-write the message and save as a previous canned message if you feel like you need to change the wording at some point. It’s also simple to delete them as well.

 Canned responses

If that’s not enough, visit Gmail Labs

Finally, if you still want to check out the rest of the interesting tidbits, visit the Google labs tab in the settings section.

Also, I would suggest that if you haven’t already, go into each settings tab (in your gear button) and make sure everything is set up to function how you want it. It will definitely make your life easier.

Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments.

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